Fleets need to learn to cope with extreme winters
Dubbed “Ploughing On”, the report says that councils and the Highways Agency actually responded well to the recent periods of snow and ice, and adds that changing weather patterns mean that drivers’ strategies will have to shift from one of trying to change the conditions to one of coping with them.
Written by Brian Smith, a former director of Environment and Transport at Cambridgeshire County Council and member of the government-commissioned Quarmby Winter Resilience Review in 2010, the report says that by and large the authorities have significantly upped their games in recent years.
It found there was no repeat of the shortage of salt seen in recent years and the report noted that at temperatures of -7C and below, the effectiveness of salt decreases and high winds mean snow drifts faster than it can be cleared.
It added that problems were exacerbated by the heavy rainfall of 2012 and highlighted that, despite common perceptions, much of continental Europe also suffers disruption from snow and ice.
The report did find however that drivers need to be better prepared, saying that they need more advice on the potential benefits of winter tyres and “add-ons” such as snow socks and snow chains. It added that drivers also need to be reminded of the importance of simple measures such as maintaining adequate tread depth on their normal tyres.
And it said that while there is evidence many drivers change their travel plans in the light of weather warnings, there are still many who do not.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘The reality is that the climate is an evolving beast. No longer can we regard periods of severe weather as isolated incidents. They seem to be getting more frequent and more extreme and the impact of one compounds the effects of another.
‘When we are warm and snug in our modern cars it is tempting to think we are immune from the elements and have the technological resources to deal with whatever nature might throw at us – but the experience is that we do not. We need to consider revising our view of what is “normal”. As the climate appears to change we should not confuse extreme weather with rare weather.
‘As ever there is a balance to be struck between need, expectations and expense. Councils could put a gritter and a snow plough round every corner if that is what the public desire but the trade off is greatly reduced expenditure on other essential services.’
The full report is available here: http://www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/ploughing_on_winter_resilience_review_smith_may_2013.pdf