Gritting and Gritters - Choosing a Road Gritter or Salt Spreader

Tractor-towed gritters with snowploughs
Tractor-towed gritters with snowploughs are a cost-effective alternative to front-line HGV gritters with much lower capital expense and maintenance cost.

In the UK, salt spreaders are also referred to as road gritters. Gritters have been used for many years in the UK to grit the all sorts of roads public highway. In recent years, salt spreaders, grit spreaders and gritters have proved essential winter maintenance tools for gritting car parks and hard standing on private property including supermarket car parks, retail parks, distribution centres and manufacturing plants.

Typically, gritters are attached to HGV lorries or trucks using the PTO system from the lorry to provide hydraulic power to the gritter. In many cases a bracket is also attached to the lorry to mount a snow plough, although care must be taken to ensure the plough is light enough so as not to overload the front axle of the lorry.

Recently, the use of tractors for gritting and winter maintenance has become much more common. The key change occurred in November 2013 when the law changed to allow tractors to grit roads and highways using red diesel. This was a significant change in legislation as, prior to that date, tractors had to laboriously drain their fuel tanks of cheaper, red diesel before filling with more expensive white diesel to use on roads or highways. This was a major barrier and meant that very few tractors were ever used for gritting, whereas today tractor mounted snow ploughs and tractor tow-behind (trailed/trailer) salt spreaders and road gritters are key elements of a planned winter maintenance regime.

The use of tractors for gritting is now commonplace during the winter when ice and snow would otherwise wreak havoc on the UK’s roads and highways. The use of tractors makes sense as there are 323,000 tractors registered for road use in the UK* and many are stood down during winter. This potential tractor availability, combined with ever-tightening council budgets, means that tractor gritters are a really cost-effective alternative to traditional gritting methods and should now form an essential part of every local authority winter maintenance plan. Tractor gritters are now used extensively to provide extra resilience to the front-line gritting HGV fleet. This includes the tractors from the grounds maintenance department of a local authority as well as local agricultural contractors and farmers who normally have spare labour and equipment available during the winter. Today, gritters can be fitted with sophisticated technology, as used on the HGV gritters, and be used as an alternative to the front-line HGV gritting service yet at a much lower capital expense and maintenance cost.

Tractors are ideal for use with gritters and grit spreaders. Tractors are fitted with a hydraulic PTO system as standard and are designed to be used with a whole range of different attachments from various manufacturers and suppliers. Tractors have universal mounting and towing brackets so that no bespoke brackets or frames are required. Most tractors are 4-wheel drive which makes them excellent for use in the ice and snow. Tractors also have a heavy-duty front axle allowing them to be fitted with heavy duty, well-made snow ploughs without the risk of overloading an axle. In contrast, many lorries need to have a PTO system retro fitted.

Image courtesy David Robertson.

* Information from the Agricultural Engineers Association