We're ready for autumn and winter weather

We start our autumn and winter operations at the start of October each year

We're ready for autumn and winter weather
"We spend five months during the warmer weather gearing up for seven months of operations covering the autumn and winter period, right up to 30 April"
Darren Clark, National Highways Severe Weather Resilience Manager

Although the weather may still be mild, you might be suprised to see gritter vehicles on our roads from the start of October.

This is because we officially switch over to autumn and winter operations on 1 October. Our drivers are making dummy runs without salt on board, familiarising themselves with their gritting routes and identifying any problems or obstacles as they go. 

From 1 October onward, we kick off an number of behind-the-scenes activities:

  • we monitor and assess detailed weather forecasts from the Met Office and other sources on a daily basis
  • our winter maintenance vehicles are on standby for action whenever the call comes
  • our drivers, who have been training throughout summer, move to their winter rosters together with our autumn and winter decision-makers
  • a team of Met Office forecasters work alongside our staff at our National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC), Birmingham. They support us with weather impact advice, daily national and regional briefings and severe weather alerts
  • we implement our 21 regional severe weather plans and update gritting routes

Why 1 October?

Although many local authorities for urban areas switch to autumn and winter operations in November, we have always switched over in October.

This is because our network is nationwide. It includes rural areas where road surfaces can be up to two degrees colder than in cities and built up areas, meaning we may need to spread salt earlier.  

When do we salt?

Air temperatures don't determine when roads are salted.

We only salt when there is a risk of ice forming on roads. This could be when the road surface temperatures are forecast to drop below +1°C or when moisture may be present that could form ice.

Precision road temperature forecasting

Our road temperature and weather forecast contracts with independent weather experts (DTN and Metdesk) run from October through to April. The information they provide complements Met Office forecasts, giving us precise detail about changing road surface temperatures.

For example, we receive route-by-route forecasts four times a day on each of our 40 salting routes in the South West. This helps us decide whether salt spreading is needed - down to an individual route.

Find out more

You'll find more information about driving in difficult conditions on our travelling in severe weather pages.

Visit the Met Office website for weather forecasts and warnings.

For up-to-date travel information, check our Travel updates.