Fears of chaotic scenes on the UK’s roads grew last month as it was announced the lorry driver shortages were hitting yet another sector – the gritters. Without enough staff to spread salt on the roads, it seemed commuters’ safety would be at stake this winter.
However, the UK’s largest manufacturer of road maintenance vehicles said new features in the gritters will ensure “there is salt on the road at least two hours prior to it due to freeze”.
The Local Government Association, the national body for councils in England and Wales, in November warned commuters could soon face troubles on their journeys.
They said: “Some councils may find gritting services are affected in the same way some waste collection services have been impacted.”
It came as households across countries saw their bins overflow, followed by the announcement of a bin collection “Christmas crisis” caused by drivers quitting their jobs for better-paid roles in the supermarket and food haulier industries.
The root issue is the HGV driver shortage, and it was thought the crisis could reach the gritter service front, too.
READ MORE: Cummings calls on Boris to ‘set aside’ Human Rights Act to sort out migrant crisis
But Econ Engineering, which produces more than 85 percent of the UK’s winter road maintenance vehicles and leases them to councils and highway authorities across the country, claims there are enough drivers for the winter.
Speaking of the potential shortages, Andrew Lupton, Sales and Managing Director at Econ, told Express.co.uk the difficulty is “a technical one” but that “British engineering has risen to the challenge”.
While there are enough drivers available to fill in the needed positions for the season, there is one barrier that needed breaking down.
Mr Lupton said: “There are drivers, the difficulty is that the drivers that are operating the gritters are not necessarily local to the area and therefore don’t have the knowledge.”
The solution, he explained, was “to provide more features”, such as “a very advanced GPS system” to enable staff “to operate the gritters without having the usual local knowledge”.
He said: “They just need to switch on the technology that we provide.
“The GPS system is able to adjust the settings on the gritter by its location on the road, so the driver doesn’t need a lot of local knowledge around the roads where they live.”
National Highways confirmed it has about 1,300 specially trained gritter drivers and was ready to roll out 120 new gritters this winter, with a total of 535 gritters available around the motorway and A-road network.
Duncan Smith, acting executive director of operations for National Highways, said: “The new vehicles are an impressive sight and this year’s roll-out once again demonstrates our commitment to keeping drivers safe throughout the winter months.
“When the wintry weather arrives our winter teams across the country will be ready to work around the clock to keep traffic moving.”
Mr Lupton explained the drivers’ contracts are set up in a way service is assured on a rolling basis, ready to adapt to the weather forecast.
‘Deadline passed’ UK blocked from £640m EU research project as scientists fear no ‘Plan B’ [INSIGHT]
Brexit blow for Boris as LEAVE voters say he is failing to ‘take back control’ [ANALYSIS]
Brexit: ‘We WILL use Article 16 ’ UK issues stern warning if EU refuse to budge [REPORT]
He said: “If any part of the designated network, typically at night, is going to freeze, the gritters will be out and targeted to make sure there is salt on the road at least two hours prior to the road due to freeze.”
Besides the new GPS technology, he added “nationwide training programmes” as well as online tutorials should prevent any chaos.
The UK’s traffic density, which Mr Lupton points out is far larger than the EU’s, poses an extra challenge.
He said: “We are often compared to what happens on the continent.
“We have got to bear in mind that we have far more road users than on the content, far more traffic, particularly through the nights, with more and more products being shipped online.
“It is increasingly important to make sure the road network is safe, the councils are invested in training and technology to do that.”
Econ’s boss emphasises challenging times “drive innovation and change”.
He said: “I think we’ve risen up to the challenges.
“I think we do ourselves down in Britain sometimes and we should be proud.
“British engineering has risen to the challenge.”