Sweet taste of success for county's gritters

PUBLISHED: 12:08 13 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:51 06 May 2010

A SWEET-and-sour combination has been used on Herts roads this winter to melt ice during the recent big freeze. Amey, which is part of the Herts Highways partnership, has been using Safecote to replace untreated salt as the substance of choice for grittin

A SWEET-and-sour combination has been used on Herts roads this winter to melt ice during the recent big freeze.

Amey, which is part of the Herts Highways partnership, has been using Safecote to replace untreated salt as the substance of choice for gritting road surfaces in the county this winter.

And it means that less salt is needed to do the job and gritting fleets do not have to go out so often.

Safecote is essentially a sugar coating made from molasses - a by-product from the processing of sugar cane into sugar that produces a thick syrupy substance.

It has better adhesive qualities than untreated salt and sticks to the road surface more readily, especially as weather conditions deteriorate.

Consequently a lower volume needs to be spread on to the road surface each time and because Safecote outlasts untreated salt, the process needs to be applied less often.

Chris Martin, maintenance engineer with Amey, said: "The problems associated with using traditional salt for gritting are well known among road maintenance workers, despite the fact that its use remains widespread - indeed if you were to ask the average road user what we use to keep the roads safe during winter, I'm sure salt would be the first thing they would say.

"But there are significant disadvantages to using traditional salt that other forms are able to avoid. For a start the distribution of salt on our roads is not very environmentally friendly.

"It corrodes the actual road surface and causes harm to grass verges. It also has a tendency to solidify which causes problems not only for gritting machinery, such as tunnelling and blocking of the hopper, but also makes it difficult for members of the public to remove it from salt bins."

He added that by comparison, salt treated with Safecote was much easier to use and better for the environment. It was developed in the early 1990s and found to melt ice within minutes of application during extreme snow conditions common to North America.

Chris said that not only did Safecote-treated salt stick better to road surfaces but it also meant that less material was sprayed and blown on to the adjacent grass verges. It was also found to be more visible on the roads.

He added: "When we combined all these small efficiency benefits together, we soon realised that the improvements were significant. Because Safecote was easier to use, we needed less time to actually conduct the gritting work and were better able to control the distribution.

"And because Safecote actually performed better at dealing with ice conditions than salt, the number of instances where roads had to be gritted again was notably reduced.

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