Could high HGV wages cause problems for Suffolk gritters?

Suffolk gritters

Suffolk Highways says it will have enough drivers for its gritting lorries. - Credit: Suffolk Highways

Highways bosses in Suffolk are confident roads will be kept clear over the winter despite national fears that the lorry driver shortage could force some gritters to stay in the their depots.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils across the country, warned that with HGV licence holders being offered large salary rises, some gritter drivers could find more profitable work.

David Renard, transport spokesman for the LGA said: “While most councils have been able to keep services running, some may find that their gritting services are affected in the same way that some have seen waste collection services impacted.

“Councils are keen to work with Government and partners to support more training for these demand sectors, however this is a lengthy process and does not alleviate the short-term pressures on frontline services.

“Fast-inflating HGV driver salaries in the private sector risks exacerbating issues in the public sector, with the rises potentially creating a retention as well as a recruitment problem for councils and their contractors."

But a spokesman for Suffolk Highways said they had a similar number of gritter drivers as last year on their books - and a further 12 were currently being trained to get behind the wheel.

Although all gritter drivers have HGV licences and have had specialist training to drive on ice, many are not professional drivers in their normal working life and only get behind the wheel of these lorries when they are needed.

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Among staff who have been trained for the job is Communications Officer Gemma Allard who was trained to get behind the wheel of a gritter three years ago and is now ready for another winter season.

Gemma Allard gritter driver

Gemma Allard is a communications officer who has also trained as a gritter driver for the winter season. - Credit: Suffolk Highways

Paul West, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “As the cold weather approaches, we are preparing our salt barns, gritters and teams for the start of the winter season.

"We have been carefully planning our winter-related activities to ensure the roads across Suffolk can be treated and kept open, as and when road surface temperatures drop.

"Despite the challenges surrounding fuel, HGV drivers and COVID, we are absolutely ready for the start of this season and committed to keeping our residents safe and the roads moving."

The county has also received sufficient stocks of grit and salt - and more should be on the way during the winter.

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