What to do if you get stuck behind a gritter?

Grit-salt supplies were at critical levels this time last year, so you can bet that local authorities will have been stockpiling road salt on the run up to the winter period.

That means there’ll be plenty of gritter lorries out on the roads this winter – but what should you do if you get stuck behind one?

  • First of all, if you are behind a gritter, give yourself some space. The salt crystals are sprayed from the rear of the wagon at quite a force – being up close to the lorry’s tail could produce plenty of unwanted and expensive to repair stone chips on your bonnet.
  • Although local authorities grit roads to help melt ice and improve grip levels, be aware that driving behind a gritter truck with a high concentration of road salt being deployed could also reduce adhesion levels. The grit acts like ball bearings, meaning less of your tyres’ rubber is in contact with the road, reducing steering response and braking performance.
  • Be mindful that the truck’s salt sprayer is driven off its engine. That means as it pulls away from a junction the mass of salt that has collected in the dispenser will be thrown all over your car as it moves off. It’s even more important to leave extra room at a junction than in normal driving if you value your car’s paintwork.
  • There is a caveat, however. Gritters only generally distribute salt when their orange warning lights and ‘spreading’ signs are illuminated. If they aren’t, you’re generally safe to follow them at a normal distance. Be wary that they could begin scattering grit at any time though.
  • If a gritter wagon approaches you coming the other way, don’t swerve to try and avoid its spray pattern. Your car will get hit regardless – suddenly steering away from the truck’s path only increases your risk of crashing.
  • Finally, if an opportunity arises to overtake a gritter, don’t wait around. Make sure you pass quickly and safely, remaining within the speed limits and traffic laws at all times. Your car will likely get a splattering from the spreader as you move past, but it won’t be as bad as prolonged exposure to the constant stream of salt.

Unfortunately, these tips are only reactive measures. If you’re stuck behind a gritter, the only thing to do is be patient if you can’t pass. That way you won’t damage your car or put you and other road users at risk.