AN increased team of drivers using new technology will keep Tameside’s main routes clear this winter.
The new recruits, including four local lads, will be out at all hours tackling the roads, encountering steep gradients and bends in sometimes extreme weather conditions.
They will be helped this year by new technology, including a combined route navigation and auto salting system, which is programmed to spread exactly the right amount of salt to cover the width of the road.
The lads qualified after a three-year apprenticeship and were given employment as mason paviours, working on Tameside’s road infrastructure.
They then successfully applied for additional gritting jobs after the council increased its team of LGV drivers to 15.
There are also four drivers licensed to drive 7.5 tonne vehicles that treat roads the larger vehicles cannot access.
The multi-skilled lads are trained to a high-standard and on a variety of vehicles, plant and machines, including the multi-lift skip wagons for their main jobs that are converted for gritting when required by means of the roll on roll off system.
They are now on a 24/7 call rota and can work up to 11 hours a day, including a maximum 10 driving.
Managers check weather forecasts from the met desk every day and will consider sending out a gritting team if the road surface temperature falls below 1°C, while also using other criteria to make their decision.
Cllr Allison Gwynne, Tameside Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “I’m delighted to welcome our new recruits and, supported by the new technology we’re using this winter, I’m sure they’ll do a superb job in keeping our main routes clear.
“It’s a difficult and daunting task being out in freezing and treacherous conditions and I wish all our gritting drivers the best as they battle to clear snow and ice so we can travel safely.”
Last year was a bad winter with the gritters turning out on 81 occasions, sometimes doing continuous treatments covering 121 routes. In an average year there are 55 turn outs.
All 350 grit bins have been stocked with 250 tonnes of salt and residents are asked to use them responsibly.
For the latest on the gritting teams, check Twitter @Tameside Council and @tmbc_highways.
The new recruits are:
• Tom Wray, 23, from Dukinfield, who has already been out gritting several times, including a whole week when temperatures dipped in October.
He said: “It was tiring but it was good. I applied for the role as it’s job progression and I wanted to do my bit to help keep the roads clear and Tameside residents safe.”
• Daniel Thieme, 28, from Dukinfield, who has also been out gritting several times and isn’t daunted by the prospect of battling heavy snow.
He said: “I got to know my route well within a few days and got quicker. I don’t find it daunting at all.
“It will be good to get out there when you have to plough on through the snow to make sure the streets are safe for everyone.”
• Sam Smith, 22, from Stalybridge, who is yet to tackle a route but can not wait to get started.
He said: “The first time you’re always going to be nervous but I’m looking forward to it.
“The gritting training was very good. I just want to experience it now and help keep people safe.”
• Jordan Cavanagh, 23, from Stalybridge, who drives one of the 7.5 tonne vehicles and has been out once so far.
He said: “I’m looking forward to getting out and helping keep the roads clear.
“The apprenticeship went really well and it’s something different and new to learn. I want to progress in the job and work my way up.”