East Lothian Council

Winter road maintenance

Salting and gritting FAQs

Men gritting pavement

Why is it called gritting?

Although most of us call it gritting there is in fact often no grit involved. What we spread on the roads in East Lothian is 6mm crushed rock salt. We spread salt from the back of gritters which is why it’s commonly referred to as gritting.

In particularly harsh weather, we have used a salt/grit mix where we mix 6mm stones (grit) in with the salt, this helps with traction and to break up any thick ice.

How does the salt work?

Pre-cautionary salting or Pre-gritting is the term used when we go out and pre treat the primary routes with salt prior to the temperatures falling close to or below zero. Water freezes at 0ºC, but salt stops water from freezing until -6º to -8ºC.

How do gritters spread the salt?

Rock salt is spread out of the back of gritters. The rate and speed of spread is controlled by an electronic system in the cab of the gritter.

Where temperatures are to fall close to or below zero we would spread salt typically at 10 grams/sqm below this and if snow is forecast with accumulations or snow starts to fall and form we would spread salt between 20-40 grams/sqm

Our drivers are trained to use this system to adjust the width and the angle of delivery according to the kind of road and the conditions. A gritter will have the beacons flashing when it is spraying grit.

If you find yourself behind a gritter please keep well back, be patient and do not overtake unless necessary and safe to do so.

When do you start gritting the roads?

Our winter maintenance service starts at the end of October and runs through to end of March each year. This can be extended at short notice depending on weather conditions.

Why are the roads not gritted when I can see there has been a frost on my car?

We take action when road surface temperatures are at or below freezing. Roads retain heat and do not cool as quickly, so frost on a car or even air temperature can sometimes be misleading. Gritting will usually take place when temperatures are forecast to reach 0°C or below and there is likely to be water present to form ice.

Do you run a 24 hour service?

Yes, our team is on standby 24 hours a day during our winter maintenance period. During prolonged snow conditions our teams will undertake snow and ice clearing on a shift basis over a 24 hour period.

I’m not on the primary gritting route but have an emergency, can you come out and grit my road?

If we receive a request for assistance from a member of the public or from our colleagues in the emergency services we will assist as soon as practicable.

I past a gritter lorry and it was not gritting, why is that?

There are a number of reasons for this and these may include:

  • The lorry may have used up all its salt and is travelling back to the depot to get reloaded
  • It could be travelling to the start of a section of a route to be treated
  • It may just be ploughing to remove snow first before it then spreads salt
  • It could have a problem with the salt spreading equipment and be travelling back to the depot for repairs
  • In severe weather, once priority routes have been treated, gritters are often sent out again to patrol and salt as necessary

Why is my cul-de-sac not gritted regularly?

Residential areas, cul-de-sacs and other unclassified roads are priority three and will only be treated after primary and secondary routes, so it may be some time before these areas are cleared and gritted.

It took you ages to grit my street, I was told you were on your way, what caused the delay?

Parked vehicles may have stopped our large gritters from accessing your street. Remember, gritter drivers are normally alone, and may well be working in the dark and in very poor visibility. The gritters are large vehicles and cannot easily reverse and so vehicles are that are stuck or badly parked on roads can cause problems for access, resulting in some streets becoming inaccessible.

Delays may also occur if gritters become stuck in traffic during busy periods, such as morning and evening rush hours.

Is there anything I can do to help myself at home?

Be aware of the local forecast and road conditions by listening to the radio, watching the TV or using the internet. Take precautions to grit/clear your own paths/driveways where appropriate and clear snow from your car before using. If your drive is usually affected by snow and ice get some salt supplies in advance. We have over 900 grit bins and chances are there is one near you.

Environmental Services

Telephone: 01875 824305

Out of hours emergency contact

Telephone: 01875 612818

East Lothian Council, John Muir House Brewery Park Haddington East Lothian EH41 3HA.