All you need to know about gritting

A Highway worker throwing grit on the roads

What is grit?

Rock salt (sodium chloride) is often referred to as grit. It is crushed into small pieces to be able to spread on the road surface.

What does it do?

The grit works by dissolving into a solution, lowering the freezing temperature of water, which prevents ice or frost forming on the road.

How does it work on ice?

For salt to work effectively it needs to be in a solution, so when you put salt onto ice that has already formed (it actually needs some moisture to start working) it takes longer to get to work on the ice to start lowering its freezing temperature and turning it back into water.

How does it work on snow?

It works in the same way as with ice, but simply putting salt on snow won't make it magically turn into water - it needs the action of traffic to mix the salt in and allow it to turn into a solution to start the cycle of lowering the freezing point and turning the snow back into water.

For grit to work most effectively it needs traffic to crush and spread it across the road. When it snows heavily at night, though a road is gritted, the snow will often still settle.

How do we decide when to grit?

We receive a specialised highway-focussed weather forecast every day and specially trained officers monitor the road surface temperature to determine whether to grit, which priority routes to grit and the optimum time to act.

How do we decide where to grit?

Our priority gritting routes are used by 90% of the district's traffic. 'Precautionary' (before the frost, ice, snow is formed) treatment is carried out on A and B roads, commuter routes, steep main roads to villages, housing or industrial estates, including roads leading to main hospitals and large schools.

A map of our priority gritting routes is available to view online.

What happens in heavy snow events?

In continuous or excessive snow conditions, the gritting teams will plough the routes as well, but this may mean the routes take longer to complete. In extreme situations, priority will be given to the main roads only and then extended to the remaining priority routes when resources are available.

When is the best time to grit?

Roads are treated with salt before the road surface temperature reaches zero degrees Celsius. In doing so, and once in solution, the salt lowers the temperature of any water present and stops it freezing.

When not to grit?

Difficulties can arise when rain is forecast to continue right up to the time of freezing or when the rain is forecast to turn to snow. When this happens, the gritters wait until the rain has stopped or the salt will be washed away.

How can you help us?

Please make sure your vehicle is parked in a safe place and not restricting access for our gritting vehicles. And please remember that when the vehicles are fitted with snow ploughs they need extra room to be able to access residential roads.

Residents can also volunteer to be Snow Wardens to clear pavements and local streets to help their neighbours and more vulnerable citizens who can't help themselves.

As a Snow Warden you will be equipped with a snow shovel, a fluorescent Snow Warden tabard and gloves and have access to salt.

What else do we do?

We have experts monitoring the weather and road conditions around the clock through winter months.

We also stock 340 grit bins throughout the district. The grit bins allow residents to treat the roads and footways in extreme winter weather.

Our gritting operations – the facts

  • 14 spreading vehicles
  • 22 drivers who work in rotas to provide 24 hour cover
  • 553 km of priority gritting route
  • Takes 2-3 hours for 12 spreading vehicles to treat the priority routes
  • 61 tonnes of grit used for each full treatment of all the priority routes
  • 4500 tonnes of salt in stock

Contact Us

Highways and Engineering PO Box 700 Wakefield One Burton Street Wakefield WF1 2EB

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