Winter Maintenance - FAQ
It is impossible to give a time frame for individual roads to be treated, other than to say that all roads will be treated in priority order from the main routes down to the minor roads / housing estate roads.
The council has over 1500km of adopted roads to maintain, so with our limited resource it is impossible for our gritting crews to be everywhere at once.
We operate a priority system in which we treat our Priority 1 (P1) routes first. These P1 routes, which cover 38% of our entire network, include those roads which provide the greatest benefit to the wider public, such as main roads between settlements or main distributors of traffic around our towns.
We aim to treat P1 routes before ice forms, and when it snows these routes also receive treatment first. Once the P1 routes have been completed will we move on to treat P2, then P3, and then P4 roads. It is often the case that while progressing through the priorities that the road surface temperatures recover or are forecasted to recover to such a point where gritting will be suspended as the ice would melt of its own accord. In severe snow events all available resources will remain focused on keeping P1 routes clear which will slow or prevent our progression on to the lower priorities.
It’s worth noting that the council is only responsible for adopted roads. If your road is not adopted then the land owner (housing estate developer, private business, homeowner) is responsible for arranging any winter treatment or grit bin provision.
Moray Council receive professional winter forecasting from our provider, MetDesk. These forecasts are more detailed than those that you will see on media outlets. A key difference is that the temperatures shown on media forecasts are typically air temperatures, as is the ambient temperature reading that you will see in your car, while the detailed forecast that we receive has more of a focus on road surface temperatures (RST). Our forecasts also include a wide range of other factors such as cloud cover, rainfall rates and dew point temperatures which all influence our winter treatment decision-making.
Our weather stations also provide information regarding residual salt levels i.e. salt that is already on the road surface from earlier treatments. This information is used in conjunction with the forecast data to make a decision on the winter treatment required to ensure both the safety of the road user and best value of to the council.
We also have to take our operational hours into consideration as we do not operate a 24hrs service. We often have to pre-treat the road well in advance of a forecast drop in temperature.
Moray Council do not operate a 24hr gritting service.
Our P1 Routes are maintained between 06:00 to 21:30 Monday to Sunday (including Public Holidays) with the expectation that routes will be complete within 2:30hrs from commencement.
When treatment on P2, P3 and P4 routes (Secondary Routes) is required this is normally carried out within the working day, and only after completion of P1 routes. Secondary Routes will only be treated from Monday to Saturday, and will not be treated on a Sunday or a Public Holiday.
Footways and Cycle Tracks
Pre-treatment of footways and cycle tracks will not be carried out.
P1 footway routes will normally commence as soon as practicable from the start of the working day at 07:45.
All other footways and cycle tracks in the Moray Council area will be considered to have a lower priority. These routes will be treated when it is clear that the conditions are expected to persist and are severe enough to prevent the passage of pedestrians for a considerable period of time.
Rural footways will not be treated.
Moray Council Operated Car Parks
Multi Story Car Parks will be treated when requested by the car park attendants. All other council operated car parks will be treated when resources allow.
Please note the council are not responsible for private car parks such as at supermarkets or retail parks. These are private maintained and it is the responsibility of the owners/operators of these car parks to provide a winter service.
There are limitations on the winter service that the council can deliver, and priority has to be given to roads that serve the greatest needs of the wider population of Moray, for example main routes and accesses to local amenities.
Housing estates, while important to the residents that live there, do not play a major role in the main traffic movements around Moray and are therefore given a lower priority, and treated when resources allow. Please check our priority map where you will see the higher priority roads in your area which will receive treatment first.
We would advise that all road users (driven, pedestrian and cyclist) take extra care when using non-P1 routes
If you live on P2, P3 or P4 road then you are less likely to see a gritter treat the road past your house for a number of reasons:-
- P1 routes are treated by pre-defined and timed routes, so you may have a friend or family member who lives on one of those and sees a gritter every morning around the same time. However, we quite often only treat P1 roads as by the time those routes are completed (approx. 8.30am) the ice/snow is thawing naturally making any continued gritting on lower priority routes unnecessary.
- As we operate a priority system we only progress on to lower priority roads, once the higher priority roads are complete. Therefore, if you live on a lower priority road the likelihood of spotting a gritter lessens the lower priority your road is.
- On lower priority routes we don’t follow predefined routes, therefore the order in which the roads are treated varies from day to day to provide a more equitable service overall rather than having predefined routes that would result in Street A always being first and Street Z always being last.
There are a number of reason you may see this :-
- The gritter may be driving on an already treated section of road, and just travelling to another road that requires treatment. Our P1 routes are planned to avoid this situation as much as possible.
- The gritter may be driving to the start of its route or returning following completion of its route. Not all routes can start and end at the depot gates.
- The gritter may have run out of salt, and is returning to the depot to reload.
- The gritter may have developed a fault, and is returning to the depot for repair.
- The vehicle may be trying to plough the road first to remove the snow, before returning to apply salt to the road surface.
Our gritting vehicles are equipped with controls that allow the driver to switch on/off the grit spreader depending on whether the section of road is to be treated or just driven. These controls also allow the driver to adjust the spreading width of the salt to ensure that wider areas such as stacking lanes are treated.
The driver can also monitor the output from the spreader (in-case of blockages or running out of salt) via sensors and rear facing cameras.
Our gritters are calibrated to spread at a targeted speed of 25mph, which ensures the appropriate amount of salt is spread from the rear of the vehicle. Attempting to treat any faster than this would cause excessive amounts of salt to bounce away from the road surface and becoming ineffective. In urban areas, the speed of the vehicle is further reduced to lessen the risk to pedestrians caused by flying salt from the spreader.
Please give our drivers appropriate space on the road. It is worth remembering that if the gritter is treating the road, then nobody has yet treated the road ahead so it would be wise to stay behind the gritter, at an appropriate distance so as to not be in the zone where salt is being spread.
Our drivers are expected to pull in where possible to let any long queues of traffic past safely
Roads and footpaths will not instantly become clear following treatment. Salt is spread so that it mixes with water to stop it from freezing (this works efficiently down to about -6˚c, after which salt becomes increasingly ineffective the colder it gets).
The salt work best when crushed by traffic so that it can form a salty solution which has a high de-icing capability. This is partially why main roads are usually clearer than rural “side roads” as some of the lower priority roads have very few vehicles using them per day.
Please note that a road or footpath which has been treated with salt can still be icy in parts, especially for un-trafficked areas or areas prone to standing water. Therefore, as always, it is advisable to use common sense and travel (or choose not to) when necessary.
Spreading salt on top of snow which has already fallen has limited benefits.
If snow is predicted, salt is spread in advance so that when the first snow falls it can start to mix with the salt to create a saline solution which can then reduce the build-up of snow and prevent the formation of ice.
During prolonged periods of snowfall the snow may fall at a rate which is faster than the salt can melt the snow, which means the snow may accumulate. Accumulated snow will have to be ploughed away, but this is made much easier by salt spread in advance of the snowfall as that reduces the likelihood of the snow freezing on the surface.
There can be a couple of reason for this :-
- The council may only be responsible for part of the road, the remaining section will be the responsibility of third parties (housing estate developers, private businesses, homeowners).
- Parked cars or other restrictions. Please try not to double park and/or park in turning areas. Gritters are large vehicles so need room to operate and turn when necessary. Gritter drivers will not attempt to treat some narrower sections in towns for fear of damaging cars.
This could be the case for a number of valid reasons :-
- As some of our routes are treated with uncovered (wet) salt, it is prudent to stop the vehicle at regular intervals to ensure that the hopper at the rear of the vehicles is working properly. Wet salt can clump together, and then needs to be broken up so that it can be spread properly.
- As with any employee in any workplace, gritter drivers are entitled to breaks throughout the day.
- The driving of a gritter is governed by the DVSA, and there are laws in regards to when and how often drivers have to take breaks.
We realise that all of the general public have a need to get out and about, but in doing so they must assess the current weather conditions and determine whether the journey they are about to make is really necessary and if it is safe to do so.
The council simply cannot be everywhere at once nor can we divert resources off our established priorities to suit the needs of individuals or businesses. To assist road users in making informed choices we publish information on our website (www.moray.gov.uk/winter). The information we publish includes
- Details of our P1 routes,
- A map showing where the P1 & P2 roads are
- An interactive map showing if and where treatments are planned for the P1 network.
If you do choose to travel please make yourself aware of our P1 routes and try to use these where possible.
If there is an emergency and a gritter is requested by the emergency services to assist them, we will liaise directly with the emergency services and provide assistance where we can.
The council gritters simply cannot be everywhere at once nor can we divert resources off our established priorities to suit the needs of individuals or businesses, regardless of the nature of the request.
While we understand the concerns you have, these should be discussed with your healthcare provider, as diverting gritters to accommodate all healthcare professionals is impracticable and would be to the detriment of the majority of road users.
If there is an emergency and a gritter is requested by the emergency services to assist them, we will liaise directly with the emergency services and provide assistance where we can.
The council gritters simply cannot be everywhere at once nor can we divert our resources off our established priorities to suit the needs of individuals or businesses.
Every road user, including delivery drivers need to make smart choices when choosing to travel in winter conditions, and we simply cannot alter our treatment plans to accommodate requests of this nature at the detriment of the majority of roads users.
Unfortunately this is a direct consequence of our attempts to keep roads open and usable. If we were to go back and clear driveways following a ploughing activity, this would slow down the clearing process considerably, and prevent us from reaching other roads. The only way of dealing with this build-up of snow is to clear it yourself, or seek help from an able neighbour, family member or friend.
It's impossible for the Council to treat everywhere at once, so we would encourage people to take responsibility for their own area and do what they can to help, especially for vulnerable neighbours, family member or friend.
Information on your nearest Grit Bin can be found here
Additional advice on this can be found here: -
Footways and cycle tracks do not receive pre-treatment, and it should not be expected that every footpath will be treated as a matter of course. As with roads, we follow a priority system for footway treatment with main footways that facilitate normal commuting or shopping within towns as our first priority and then we move onto other areas as resources allow.
Footways and cycle tracks are treated using small specialist tractors, therefore it can be impossible for us to treat some areas due to the footpaths either being too narrow, or restricted in width due to parked vehicles, wheelie bins etc. When we encounter these issues we have no other option but to stop treatment of the footpath, drive down the road and re-start treatment at the next accessible section.
Please note a road or pavement that has been treated with salt can still be icy in parts, this can be particular bad on footpaths that are shaded from the sun.
It is advisable to use common sense and travel (or choose not to) when necessary.
It is the responsibility of an individual to judge what the safest method of travel is, taking into account the prevailing and forecasted conditions.
Unfortunately with our limited resources we cannot designate all cycle tracks as part of the P1 footway network, this includes the majority of rural cycle paths between settlements, therefore ice / snow conditions may be experienced on them.
If you do choose to travel please make yourself of aware priority routes and try and use these if at all possible, but you should do so at your own personal judgement and you should take all necessary precautions to ensure your safety.
Before making a request for a new grit bin, we would first encourage you to find your nearest grit bin as there may already be one close to you.
We will only consider requests for grit bins to be located in urban locations and, if provided, the grit is for use on adopted roads and footpaths only (not for private driveways or paths).
Requests for a new grit bin can be made here: - Request a grit bin
On receipt of your request, we will ask you to discuss and agree a suitable location with your neighbours, as while you may be happy to have a grit bin at a particular location, your neighbour(s) may not. Once agreed, you will need to return our supplied map to us with the agreed location clearly marked.
On receipt of the agreed location we will endeavour to get a new grit bin installed as soon as possible, however during a winter event we may struggle to deal with these issues instantaneously as our resources will be fully deployed on gritting operations.
Unfortunately this is not possible, as our limited resources will be fully deployed on winter maintenance duties. By putting out grit bins we encourage people to take responsibility for their own area and do what they can to help, especially for vulnerable neighbours.
It worth noting that not all grit bins in Moray are our responsibility. The find your nearest grit bin page will show all grit bins that we are responsible for, and clicking any of these on the map will give you reporting options.
Other grit bins will normally be the responsibility of the relevant land owner, and any issues should be reported direct to them, for example, if you are reporting a grit bin with the grounds of a school, you should report this directly to the school.
Empty Grit Bins
At the start of every winter season we refill every grit bin that we are responsible for. This is normally enough to last the season, however this is very weather dependent, and should a bin require a refill please use the forms on the find your nearest grit bin page.
Damaged Grit Bins
Unfortunately some of grit bins can become damaged (including sadly when vandalised), sometimes this damage can be minor/cosmetic, however often the integrity of the bin can become compromised that will in-turn allow rain/snow into them, that will cause the grit to become hard packed and unusable.
Should you spot a grit bin that has been damaged please use the forms on the find your nearest grit bin page to report the damage to us.
Hard Packed Grit
Often the grit mixture in our grit bins can become hard packed. This can range from a crust forming at the top that can be broken with a spade or trowel to the entire bin becoming solid and unusable.
The grit mixture can become hard parked due to the bin being unused for a while, however a common reason is due to the lid being left open, exposing the mixture to the elements. Please remember to close the lid of a grit bin after use to ensure that it remains useable for longer.
When it is solid and unusable, please use the forms on the find your nearest grit bin page to report that to us.
Timescales for Dealing with Grit Bin Issues
On receipt of these requests we will endeavour to resolve the issue as soon as we can, however during a winter event we may struggle to deal with these issues instantaneously as our resources will be fully deployed on gritting operations.
Unfortunately we are not able to supply salt/grit from our depots.
Our depots are very busy places and we would ask members of the public not to come into our depots as it is not a safe environment for people to be walking around amongst the heavy plant and machinery.
The council is not permitted to sell salt to private parties, but you can buy salt/grit from most DIY stores as well as other retail establish. If you can’t get hold of salt/grit then you can also use sharp sand to aid with grip on icy paths and driveways.