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LGA - State-of-the-art technology being used by councils to help tackle the big chill

With the big chill gripping parts of the country, councils are using state-of-the-art technology including GPS location trackers, salt spreading monitors and thermal mapping to ensure roads are safe.

Forecasters are predicting sleet, snow, icy patches and scattered wintry showers this week across the country. Councils have stockpiled 1.2 million tonnes of salt to prepare for the cold. The Local Government Association's (LGA's) recent annual Winter Readiness Survey shows that about half are at the limit of storage capacity. Gritters will be out treating thousands of miles of roads whenever overnight temperatures drop below zero in the coming days.

Examples of councils using innovative new technology include:

SURREY Gritters, featuring location trackers and salt spreading monitors, are hitting the road after filling up from the council's 16,000-tonne stockpile of salt. Thermal maps of all Surrey's gritting routes show which roads are more at risk of icing up and 11 weather stations across the county offer updates on air and road temperature, rainfall and salt levels. Last winter, Surrey's gritters treated 67,000 miles of roads.

WORCESTERSHIRE All of the county council's gritting fleet is now equipped with on-board technology that can calculate the salt spread-rates based on the road temperatures. When snow falls crews are now able to more efficiently take roads 'back to black' thanks to new ploughs fitted on the front of vehicles. Salt spread from the back of the vehicle then goes to work more quickly.

BEDFORDSHIRE Gritting lorries have been fitted with GPS tracking systems so that people can see on the council website where the lorries are working during icy weather.

The LGA's survey also shows more than 80 per cent of councils have placed community grit bins for residents to access salt for pavements and side streets and 87 per cent are using state-of-the-art GPS technology on the gritting fleets.

Social media will also be a more important tool for councils communicating with residents, with 95 per cent of councils using Twitter accounts to keep people up-to-date with weather forecasts, road conditions and gritting activity.

Cllr Peter Box, LGA Environment spokesman, said:

"Councils are fully prepared to protect residents and minimise disruption as temperatures continue to drop this week. Increasingly, they are using state-of-the-art technology, such as location trackers, salt spreading monitors and thermal mapping to ensure gritting is as effective and efficient as possible.

"They are constantly monitoring up-to-the-minute weather reports to make sure they can stay one step ahead of the weather. We are well prepared for the cold with 1.2 million tonnes of salt stockpiled and a fleet of state-of-the-art gritters ready to be deployed.

"As well as gritting our roads and clearing snow, council teams are ready to be drafted in to help provide a variety of services to ensure we are looking out for the more vulnerable members of our communities, from carrying out emergency household repairs to delivering hot meals and portable heaters.

"But council staff can't be everywhere. They rely on community-spirited residents to look out for each other. Just a quick knock on the door of an elderly neighbour who's perhaps too proud or unable to ask for help can make all the difference. They may just need an extra blanket getting down from the loft or perhaps they didn't get out to collect their medicine this week. It takes no time to check in but could potentially save lives."


  • Cold Weather Plan for England
  • The LGA's Research and Information team conducted an online survey of all highways authorities in England and Wales who carry out winter weather gritting activities (all councils except districts). Findings are from fieldwork which took place between 12 October and 13 November 2015 with a response rate of 39 per cent (67 councils).
  • The LGA has an online resource called 'Winter watch' which aims to keep member councils, the public and the media abreast of the winter-related work going on in villages, towns and cities across the country. It contains a Q&A on winter issues, services and gritting, the latest LGA press releases, local case studies and other documents related to winter resilience. It can also act as a forum for people to share their views and ideas and is regularly updated.
  • Highways authorities (county, unitary, metropolitan and London borough councils) are responsible for nine out of every 10 miles of road – about 200,000 miles in England and Wales. The Highways Agency covers motorways and major A roads, while Transport for London covers arterial trunk roads in London.
  • Winter Weather report 2015

Case study links






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