When winter weather occurs, the impact on road conditions can be significant. It is important to minimise this impact in order that traffic can flow to and from our communities and that the impact to the local economy is mitigated.
When the temperatures start to fall and the ice and snow comes, it's understandable that local residents have questions about our gritting service and where and when gritting is going to take place.
We receive a significant number of calls over the winter months (mid-October to mid-April) from people keen to find out more about our gritting activities. Many callers are looking for the same information, so we've pulled together this guide to provide answers to the most common questions asked.
- How many grit bins does Falkirk Council have?
- Why do we have so many grit bins?
- How do you decide where to put grit bins?
- Who is responsible for keeping grit bins full in new housing estates?
- What are grit bins filled with and can I buy grit from the Council to use on my private property?
- How many gritters and winter vehicles do you have?
- How much grit can the vehicles hold?
- How much grit do you use during the winter months to treat roads in and around the Falkirk area?
- How do you decide where to grit?
- Who is responsible for gritting roads in new housing estates?
- What distance of roads do you cover when gritting?
- Why haven't I seen a gritter?
- I've spotted a gritter that's not moving, why is that?
- Why do gritters spend so much time in and around Grangemouth?
- When I drive behind a gritter they aren't always spreading grit/salt. Why is that?
- Why do we spread grit on our roads?
- How do vehicles help the process?
How many grit bins does Falkirk Council have?
We have around 1,200 grit bins, a large number for the size of the area.
These can be used by members of the public to treat public roads and footpaths. We aim to refill grit bins as required and have resources dedicated to this task in winter months.
You can report an empty grit bin online.
Why do we have so many grit bins?
The large number of bins (1,200) reflects our desire to encourage self-help in areas that have a lower priority including minor roads and lesser important routes.
How do you decide where to put grit bins?
Grit bins will be provided on non-priority 1 routes where:
- There are difficult bends, inclines, junctions and turning areas that are particularly prone to icing.
- They have been in place for a number of years for historic reasons or a special need has been recognised ie adapted housing, school crossing patrols, sheltered housing complexes, steps, and underpasses.
In areas that don't meet the above criteria a community grit bin may be provided at strategic locations agreed with community or resident's groups. We will consider installing up to 8 community grit bins per 1 sq kilometre.
Who is responsible for keeping grit bins full in new housing estates?
Housing developers are required as a condition of their Construction Consent to keep grit bins in networks that haven't been adopted by us.
Our interactive grit map highlights the grit bins we are responsible for.
What are grit bins filled with and can I buy grit from the Council to use on my private property?
Grit bins are filled with a mix of salt (rock salt) and grit that should be used on the public road network only and not on private areas like driveways etc.
We do not sell salt, however, you can buy it from DIY stores, builder's merchants and other local retailers.
How many gritters and winter vehicles do you have?
In our fleet we have:
- 8 main line gritters plus 4 substitutes to cope with services and breakdowns.
- Smaller gritters and other vehicles suitable for filling grit bins/hand gritting etc.
- Mini tractors that are used for treating footways.
- Additional vehicles are also available to support the fleet if required.
How much grit can the vehicles hold?
Capacity varies depending on the size of the vehicle. Our smallest vehicles hold around 1 tonne and our main line gritters can hold up to almost 9 tonnes.
How much grit do you use during the winter months to treat roads in and around the Falkirk area?
On average we use around 3,880 tonnes of grit during a normal winter.
This winter we have invested in an automated gritting system. By using GPS to identify where the gritter is and the road speed and width, the system automatically calculates and dispenses the right amount of salt ensuring none is wasted. This system makes it safer for the driver and will save us a significant amount of money year-on-year.
How do you decide where to grit?
Whenever there is bad weather we ensure priority 1 roads are gritted first and kept clear. These are main roads that are heavily used, bus routes, and roads essential to our emergency services.
Priority 1 roads include but are not limited routes to/from:
- Fire stations
- Police stations
- Ambulance depots
- Some clinics
- Larger care homes
- Larger schools
Priority 2 routes are of secondary importance. These routes are link roads and include main urban spine roads into housing and industrial areas where there are difficult bends or steep inclines and are particularly prone to icing.
We also initially treat and keep clear priority pavements where the heaviest footfall is, including town centres.
Please see our grit map for information, including priority 1 and 2 routes, in your area.
Who is responsible for gritting roads in new housing estates?
Housing developers are required as a condition of their Construction Consent to grit new roads that haven't been adopted by the Council. Our grit map highlights the roads the Council does grit.
What distance of roads do you cover when gritting?
The Falkirk Council area has over 613 miles of roads in total.
We concentrate on treating the routes most heavily used (priority 1) that make up around 201 miles of road or 32% of our overall network length. That means the roads not treated require extra care when the weather is bad.
Although gritting the roads will reduce ice, we cannot guarantee the routes that we do treat will always be ice free. To see our gritting routes visit our interactive grit map.
Note that the Highway Code suggests that people should drive with care, even if the roads have been treated.
Why haven't I seen a gritter?
On average it takes a gritter 3 hours to treat its allocated route. Our gritters normally start gritting before the forecast says the road surface temperatures will reach freezing point.
If it snows, snow ploughs are attached to each of our main line gritters and they will be out on the road continuously, but it can take 3 to 4 hours before they cover the same point twice as ploughing takes longer.
When we get heavy snowfall, the gritters will be on the road continuously, and we will focus on keeping our priority 1 routes clear.
I've spotted a gritter that's not moving, why is that?
Our drivers need to have a break from driving – it's the law – so if you do spot one of our gritters that has not moved for a period of time that's probably the reason why.
Another reason may be that the vehicle may have broken down and is awaiting recovery.
Why do gritters spend so much time in and around Grangemouth?
Our depot and salt dome – which holds up to 8k tonnes of salt - are both based in Grangemouth.
That means all our gritters have to set off, return to re-fuel, load up with more salt, and change drivers from the same area.
When I drive behind a gritter they aren't always spreading grit/salt. Why is that?
Each gritter has an allocated route to ensure the network is treated as efficiently as possible. Not all routes begin in Grangemouth (where our depot and salt dome is located) which means a gritter won't start spreading until it reaches the start of its allocated route.
From time to time a gritter may travel on a previously gritted route so the spinner will be switched off. Another reason may be that a gritter has used all its salt and is heading back to the depot for a refill.
It can also be deceptive. A driver can choose how the grit is targeted. Often grit is targeted to one side of a road then the other to ensure the whole carriage way is covered, so depending on where you are standing/looking it may look like grit isn't being dispensed when it is.
Why do we spread grit on our roads?
Although it is called grit it's actually rock salt, which lowers the freezing point of moisture on road surfaces and stops ice forming and causes existing ice or snow to melt.
Generally, on the roads, salt loses its effectiveness once the temperature falls below -7 degrees centigrade so pre-salting the road forms a separating layer, which means if snow falls it won't freeze on the road surface and can be ploughed/churned off by vehicular movements.
How do vehicles help the process?
Vehicular motion helps work the salt into the ice and frost.
When snow falls on top of salt it begins to melt the snow from beneath. Add in vehicular movement and the process speeds up. However the first vehicles over the snow will actually compress the snow into ice, much the same way as a snowball is created.
If there is little traffic, or very slow moving traffic, then a layer of ice may form on top of the road until the salt works its way up from below.
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