Gritter drivers ready for winter conditions

Winter controller and former gritter driver Mark Ullyott.
Winter controller and former gritter driver Mark Ullyott.

While most of us will be tucked up in bed on cold winter nights, spare a thought for the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s gritter drivers.

They will be out in their lorries on late nights and early mornings, braving freezing temperatures to keep the area’s roads clear and moving.

Every day the council’s winter team monitors the weather forecast and if freezing temperatures are forecast they will alert the on-duty gritter drivers to come into work.

The council has a team of 60 drivers who work on a rota basis to operate the council’s 21 gritting lorries.

Each gritter lorry is fitted with a high-tech system which not only directs the driver along their route, but also controls the spreading of the rock salt.

The high-tech system automatically calculates when to spread the salt and how much to spread, without the driver having to lift a finger.

Before the season arrives, the winter team drives along all 17 different gritting routes and pre-programmes the device with information about each location, including the width of the road.

Then, depending on that day’s weather conditions, it can be programmed to spread a certain amount of salt per metre.

The clever system frees the gritter drivers up so they can concentrate on driving in the difficult weather conditions.

The gritter drivers come from all walks of life. Some work for the council, but others have day jobs away from the authority.

Mark Ullyott worked as a gritter driver for the council for 11 years, despite his busy regular job as a farmer.

He has now become a winter controller, managing the out-of-hours winter operations, checking the weather and looking out for the drivers on the roads.

Mark said: “Being a gritter driver is a challenging job. You have to be very alert at all times, and it’s a big responsibility trying to make the roads as safe as we can.

“But we’re a resilient team and always step up to the plate whenever we’re needed.”

Councillor Mike Stathers, the council’s portfolio holder for enhancing communities, said: “Our winter team and all the gritter drivers do an amazing job to keep our road network open in such difficult conditions.”