A day in the life of a West Sussex gritter

AS TEMPERATURES are predicted to plummet as a cold snap bites, keeping the county’s roads safe is a major priority.

West Sussex County Council has released a video and question and answer session with one of its gritters based at the Drayton depot, named Carl Spann.

Carl, 27, is now an assistant quantity surveyor and explained what it was like to be part of the council’s winter maintenance operation.

Q. Describe a typical day?

A. Around midday you get a text message and notification of what time you will be on the road, what routes are going out from the depot and the amount of grams of salt you will be putting down for your run. From there you get into the depot and hour early from when you are wanted, so you can prepare your lorry, refuel, put the salt on the back.

Then you go out and do your route, which can range from two to three hours of the road. Then you come back, unload all the excess salt you are carrying, wash down the vehicle – and that’s your route done.

Q. What is the job like?

A. It can be tiring if you’ve got five or six consecutive evenings after a full day at work. But it’s pretty rewarding. You get a different change of scenery and although you’re concentrating on the road, you can clear your mind while you’re driving.

Q. What is the strangest thing to happen to you on a route?

A. There was one year when I was learning a new route with a colleague of mine. It was pitch black at night. We came around a bend and a load of cows had escaped from a field and were just there in front of us. We had to emergency stop and call our duty controller to explain that we had come to a standstill because of a dozen cows blocking the road. There was lot of beeping but not a lot we could do! Eventually they moved.

Q. What are the toughest conditions you faced on a job?

A. When snow that hasn’t been forecast comes down heavily. There is a hill on one of our routes and one year we tried getting up it, got to the brow and literally just stopped and started wheel spinning. If a gritter can’t get up a hill, there is not a lot else that will. That was a pretty intense 12 hour shift where everything was coming to a standstill. We had to keep doing continuous runs, switching between drivers, doing shifts putting grit down and getting rid of the snow using the plough. Eventually it stopped snowing so we could clear the road.

Q. How did you get to become a gritter driver?

A. I was offered an opportunity to gain my HGV licence and the winter maintenance cards that go with it – I couldn’t refuse it, so I decided to take the opportunity and get a position on the gritting roster.

Q. What did you do before?

I started as an apprentice and then became a general labourer. When I was old enough at 21 to drive an HGV they put me through to do it.

Q. As well as driving the gritter, are there other roles you do?

A. I’ve got an office based job during the day. This is just an added extra we do on top of that.

Q. Do you have a different role in the summer time?

A. There are different rosters you can go on, such as emergency call outs for roads maintenance, but other than that, winter maintenance is overtime.