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Gritting in Dorset - the facts, figures and statistics

Facts, figures and advice about how we work to keep the roads clear across the Dorset County Council area.

Questions and answers

Which roads will be gritted and cleared?

With more than 2,500 miles of road in the county, it would be impractical to treat each and every single mile. Therefore we focus on:

  • major roads - all A, B and well-used C class roads
  • services - links to hospitals, industrial estates, transport interchanges, emergency service (including manned Coastguard and RNLI) stations
  • schools - routes to all urban schools with more than 500 pupils and rural schools with more than 350 pupils
  • bus routes - (subject to on-going review)
  • communities - main routes through towns and villages with populations more than 750

*excludes roads in Poole, Bournemouth and trunk routes which are dealt with by the relevant administrations.

During heavy snowfall, it is not usually possible to keep the entire network open and ploughing/gritting will focus on major north-south and east-west routes first.

Request for gritting Request for snow clearance

How does gritting the road work?

Grit (salt) works by lowering the temperature at which the water freezes. It relies on the traction of vehicle tyres to crush the solid salt particles into a solution which prevents the moisture on the road from freezing. Roads will still freeze despite gritting the surface temperatures falls lower than -8 to minus ten degrees.

Rain or snow will wash the salt away leaving roads prone to re-icing. So grit needs to be spread after rainfall but before temperatures drop too low. Repeat gritting is sometimes necessary if forecasts suggest it is appropriate.

How is it decided which roads will be gritted?

From November to March, we operate a computerised ice prediction system which monitors road surface conditions in real-time, along with wind speed/direction, air temperature and rainfall from nine different weather stations located in strategic positions around the county. This data, together with third-party weather forecasts, we receive weather forecasts help us decide whether start gritting.

An instruction to salt is given whenever road conditions are damp and the road temperature is predicted to fall below 1 degree C. Specific timings are ordered so that the salt is applied before the road surface temperature reaches 0 degrees Celsius.

Are pavements gritted?

No, they are not routinely gritted. During snow events, if resources allow we will try to make sure that pavements in town centres and on approaches to schools and at bus stops are kept clear on a best endeavours basis.

How can I obtain a grit bin for my road?

The grit from a grit bin can only be used to treat the road and pavement and cannot be taken on to private property like driveways or garden paths.

If a community would like a salt bin to treat local roads and pavements that are not on the main salted network, the local borough, town or parish council, while not under any statutory obligation, may be able to purchase one or more depending on its policy and if it agrees that there is a need.

Request for new grit bin

The county council will fill all salt bins before the start of winter, usually before the end of October, however not all bins will be replenished through the winter free of charge. 'Community' salt bins (on lightly trafficked roads) can be refilled from a pre-ordered one tonne dumpy bag of 50/50 mix by the local town or parish councils, or by the county council, dependent on available resources, at a charge of £45 for large bins (over 150 litres) and £30 for small bins (up to 150 litres).

Request for grit bin refill

Can farmers also help keep the roads clear?

Yes and any new applications from farmers for snow ploughs should be made to  Dorset Highways .

Report and track road issues and enquiries

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