The need for councils to exploit dynamic datasets and new technologies in the provision of their winter roads service has further increased following a new challenge – a shortage of HGV drivers who are essential to salt deliveries and gritting services.

The Local Government Authority (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, last month warned that gritter services this winter could be impacted by the lorry driver shortage. It has been reported waste collection services have already been impacted in some areas.

The threat compounds the challenge around the effective management of resources and optimisation of gritter routes – already difficult in the light of tightened budgets and the impacts of the pandemic. Highways professionals say it also makes it even more imperative that asset managers exploit the rich roads data and analysis now available to them..

Decision making by Winter Duty Managers on when and how to treat the network has traditionally been based on Road Weather Information Systems which combine weather forecast data with road temperature and live weather data from static weather stations.

But a wave of innovation and the exploitation of new technologies is helping those responsible for the management of the network in winter weather conditions by providing them with better ways to plan and respond to the challenges they face.

New, dynamic data is now available and datasets which have been captured independently are being blended to significantly improve the richness of the available intelligence. These datasets deepen understanding of the network for winter service practitioners. The data enables them to better answer questions around road condition and will help to inform gritting schedules and salt stocks to support safe, reliable roads.

Gaist is partnering with winter service specialists Safecote and vehicle onboard analytics experts NIRA Dynamics in order to supply gigabytes of anonymized data from regular passenger vehicles to gather real-time road information and provide an unrivalled level of analysis to support those involved in winter maintenance.

The real time datasets consist of a combination of tyre-road friction readings, ambient temperature and windscreen wiper speed from passenger vehicles traversing the road network. These readings are all mapped using GPS and timestamped, providing clear information at all times.  This live data reduces the need for ad-hoc network patrols and feeds into strategic winter reviews, helping local authorities to manage resources effectively whilst reducing carbon outputs.

Steve Birdsall at Gaist, said: “The threat of disruption in supply chains and staff shortages is the latest challenge to those leading management of our roads in the critical winter period.’’

“To meet these challenges and to ensure the highest level of safety and reliability on the network, managing resources as efficiently as possible using the rich intelligence which is today available to us will be key over the coming months and ever more crucial as we look to the future”

To learn more about how Gaist are partnering to transform winter service delivery, contact christina.liassides@gaist.co.uk to find out more!

You can also see a live panel debate covering some of the issues raised here on our free-to-view, on demand webinar, ‘A joined-up approach to achieving net zero’. Click the link here to watch (you just need to register/sign in and it will be listed)-  Strictly Extra now available to watch On Demand – LCRIG