An increased team of drivers using new technology will be keeping Tameside’s main routes clear this winter.
They include four local lads who all started as apprentices in the trade of Mason Paviour and have earned their qualifications, gained full time employment and recently passed the LGV licence that has enabled them to apply and be successful in joining Tameside Council’s gritting team.
The new recruits will be out at all hours tackling the Borough’s roads, encountering steep gradients and bends in sometimes extreme weather conditions.
They’ll 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 the roads that the larger vehicles cannot access, such as width, height and weight restrictions, local access roads and narrow locations.
The multi-skilled lads are trained to a high-standard – including NVQ Level 2 qualifications and City and Guilds 6159 winter driver accreditation – and on a variety of vehicles, plant and machines, including the multilift skip wagons they use for their main jobs that are converted for gritting when required by means of the roll on roll off system during the winter period.
They’re now on a 24/7 call rota and can work up to 11 hours a day, including a maximum 10 hours of driving.
Managers check weather forecasts from the MetDesk 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.
Five LGV drivers and two 7.5 tonne vehicle drivers are then assigned one of the seven main routes in Tameside.
Cllr Allison Gwynne, Tameside Council’s Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “I’m delighted to welcome our four new recruits, who have all progressed from being apprentices, to the gritting team 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 in sometimes hilly areas and I wish all our gritting drivers the best as they battle to clear snow and ice so that 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. 5,600 tonnes of salt was spread over the network and totalled over 29,286kms of treated highway. 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 when the gritting teams are out, check the twitter feeds @Tameside Council and @tmbc_highways.
Meet the new recruits:
Tom Wray (23), from Dukinfield, 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, has also been out gritting several times and isn’t daunted by the prospect of battling through 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. I was really chuffed with passing my LGV Class 2 and I really enjoy working with the new gritting wagons.”
Sam Smith (22), from Stalybridge, is yet to tackle a route but can’t wait to get started. He said: “The first time you’re always going to be nervous but I’m looking forward to it. I enjoyed the apprenticeship and was really pleased when I was offered a contract. The gritting training was very good. I just want to experience it now and help keep people safe.”
Jordan Cavanagh (23), from Stalybridge, 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 in Tameside and work my way up.”
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