The frost report
By Ian Morehouse, Winter Maintenance Director
With long summer days still fresh in the memory, it might seem odd to be talking about snow and ice. But as the largest private gritting business in the UK, our preparations for the coming winter maintenance season are already well under way.
We have more than 200 field teams involved in gritting, and significantly more teams for when it snows, so the planning process for the coming year usually starts in April, just as the previous season comes to an end. In all, around 30 administration staff and more than 1000 operational people deliver our winter maintenance services to more than 10,000 of our customers’ sites around the country – from the tip of Cornwall to the far north of Scotland – so every year requires critical planning.
At the outset, we review our performance over the previous winter to ensure that, where there are valuable lessons to be learned, we
improve our processes. We then collaborate with our salt suppliers to make sure our storage facilities and field teams have enough stock for the coming season. Our teams also need to check and maintain their equipment and train their staff. And importantly, we review site plans, contact and access details with our service subscribers to update the data for each of their sites.
Customers include parcel and mail operations, supermarkets, retail parks, schools and logistics companies, all of which need to ensure the safety of their staff and customers in winter and reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls. Our aim is to apply salt or grit before a frost hits or when there is a risk of ice forming or snow settling. We do this proactively using the Met Office premium road surface temperature forecast to help predict where and when this is necessary.
One of the investments we’ve made in our technology for this coming season will make things easier for our people to deliver a better service. We have made a major upgrade to our winter app that our drivers use on our client’s sites. This app allows our teams to upload photographs showing conditions on-site and now will be able to provide enhanced GPS tracking on complex sites so we can better demonstrate the excellent quality of service provided. We also input information about whether there’s a gate code or a lock at the entrance, which is shown in the app, so when our teams arrive late at night, they have the necessary tools to deliver a high-quality service.
Over the next few weeks as the first frosts of the new winter season approach, we’ll be publishing a range of different perspectives around our Winter Maintenance team as they continue their preparations for the main event.
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