Councils across Hampshire promise HGV driver shortage won't affect gritting plans this winter

ONGOING shortages of HGV drivers should not affect road gritting this winter.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 2:28 pm
Portsmouth City Council's Cllr Lynne Stagg, with one of Colas' gritting trucks. Picture: Supplied

That is the message from local authorities across the Solent as we enter the colder months of the year.

A nationwide shortage of HGV drivers - believed to have been sparked by both Brexit and Covid-19 - have led to some shortages at supermarkets and petrol stations.

But councils insist that gritting operations will not be affected.

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Councillor Russell Oppenheimer, executive member for highways operations at Hampshire County Council, said: 'Clearly I am aware of the current national shortage of HGV drivers but fortunately, our highways service is already well resourced with 43 dedicated gritters and sufficient drivers, including to enable continuous operations when needed.

'They are all HGV qualified and trained for snow and icy conditions.

'Currently the county council’s service provider, Milestone Infrastructure, is actively recruiting and training new drivers in order to ensure that we can maintain our winter service when demand peaks or is prolonged, as well as provide additional resilience to cover for driver absence.'

Cllr Oppenheimer added that A roads, most B roads and other high traffic areas will be the top priorities for gritters this winter.

Top priority routes account for roughly 30 per cent of Hampshire's road network - 1,796 miles in total.

In Portsmouth, gritting is managed by Colas as part of the private finance initiative (PFI) with the city council, and the company is confident that the HGV driver shortage won't affect city gritting.

A spokeswoman for Colas said: 'Colas have four gritting lorries and eight qualified drivers including back-up.

'There will be no impact on local winter maintenance operations.'

The company added that the main priority roads are those with schools in, plus main transport links.

In Southampton, the highways are managed by Balfour Beatty, with four gritting lorries - the same as Portsmouth - and the council insists that they have enough drivers for the winter.

A spokesman for the council said: 'Our vehicle fleet is winter ready, and we have a full stock of salt and materials required to successfully deliver the service.

'While we are not currently experiencing any impact on our winter maintenance operation, we are continuing to monitor the situation closely and have contingency plans in place.'

National Highways has also introduced 120 new gritters across the country - although Hampshire has not received any of these.

This was due to the region receiving a previous year's batch of gritters, the agency said.

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