Local highways weather resilience survey 2022

Local highways weather resilience survey 2022 publication cover
The survey was conducted by the Local Government Association’s Research and Information team in October-November 2022 to gather information about local authorities’ plans and preparations in case of severe weather, to help the LGA’s lobbying of central government and to highlight the scale of authorities’ efforts.

Introduction

The survey was conducted by the Local Government Association’s Research and Information team in October-November 2022 to gather information about local authorities’ plans and preparations in case of severe weather, to help the LGA’s lobbying of central government and to highlight the scale of authorities’ efforts. To reflect other pressures that councils are facing, the 2022 survey additionally asked about preparedness to deal with extreme summer weather, cost inflation, and driver shortages.

The survey was sent to all 152 highways authorities in England. The response rate was 25 per cent as shown in the table below:

Response rate by authority type & region

Type of authority & Region

Number

Per cent

Counties

8

33%

London boroughs

7

21%

Metropolitan districts

7

19%

Unitaries

16

27%

Total

38

25%

Region

 

 

East Midlands

3

30%

East of England

4

36%

London

7

21%

North East

4

33%

North West

5

22%

South East

5

26%

South West

2

13%

West Midlands

4

29%

Yorkshire & Humber

4

27%

Total

38

25%

 

Notes

1.  Given the response rate, the results should be taken as a snapshot of those authorities which responded and not necessarily as being representative of authorities as a whole. It should be borne in mind that response varied by type of authority and by region. Because of the actual number of respondents, results are not broken down by type of authority or region.

2.  Further to note 1, not all users answered, or were required to answer, every question, so the response to individual questions varies. In each table, the ‘Total’ row indicates the total number of respondents to the question, but note that this includes those who answered ‘don’t know’.

3.  The winter gritting season is taken to start on 1st October.

4.  Caution should be exercised when comparing results with previous surveys as the sample of responding authorities changes from year to year.

Summary

The main findings were as follows:

Salt stocks

  • 95 per cent of respondent authorities were planning to have the same amount of salt in stock for winter 2022/23 as they did for winter 2021/22, generally because they were at the limit of storage capacity, already at recommended levels, or had stocked up according to assessed need.
  • It is estimated that authorities aimed to have 1.4 million tonnes of salt in stock at October 2022. They had an estimated 1.4 million tonnes in stock at October 2021, ordered a further 0.6 million tonnes and used 0.9 million tonnes during winter 2021/22.

Resources

  • Respondents owned or leased, on average, eight full-sized gritters and three pieces of other gritting equipment, including snow blowers, tractors and quad bikes.
  • 97 per cent of respondents were planning to take action to reduce the risk of flooding on roads, most commonly the use of gully-emptying machines (94 per cent), sandbags (79 per cent), and pumps (52 per cent).

Innovative practice

  • 68 per cent of respondents were planning to share resources with other councils or emergency services during winter 2022/23. Fifty-eight per cent were planning to share salt, 42 per cent gritting machinery, 39 per cent staff, and 35 per cent gully-emptying machines.
  • 79 per cent of respondents were planning to use GPS to make the gritting process more efficient, 64 per cent were planning to equip street cleaners with salt, and 58 per cent were planning to use GPS on gully-emptying machines.
  • 91 per cent were planning to use community grit bins for the public, 58 per cent were planning to provide salt to other local groups, and 27 per cent were planning to use community flood wardens.

Summer resilience

  • 43 per cent of respondents had applied a treatment to roads in summer 2022 to avoid melting roads, and 53 per cent indicated that they would be taking measures to protect highways infrastructure in summer 2023 should the need arise.

Costs

  • Respondent authorities reported that, on average, the price of gritting salt had increased by 2.0 per cent between 2021 and 2022. Five authorities reported increases of more than 10 per cent. (Median average based on 25 respondents.)

Recruitment and retention

  • 63 per cent of respondents had experienced difficulties recruiting or retaining LGV/HGV drivers over the previous year or anticipated such difficulties.
  • The most common measures adopted to tackle difficulties were training existing staff (86 per cent) and the use of agency staff (55 per cent).

Survey findings

Salt stocks

All but two respondent authorities (95 per cent) were aiming to have the same amount of salt in stock for the 2022/23 winter season as they had for the 2021/22 season (Table 1).

Table 1: For the 2022/23 winter season, is your council aiming to have in stock more salt, less salt or the same amount of salt as last year’s winter season? 

 

Number

Per cent

More salt

1

3%

Less salt

1

3%

The same amount of salt

35

95%

Don’t know

0

0%

Total

37

100%

Table 2 summarises the reasons for respondents having more, less or the same amount of stock as the previous year. The main reasons given for having the same amount of salt in stock were already being at or above recommended levels (47 per cent of respondents in this category), at storage limits (41 per cent), or stock reflecting assessments of need (32 per cent).

Table 2: Please indicate the reason(s) for your council having more stock, less stock or the same amount of stock as last year's winter season

More salt (base=1)

Number

Per cent

To increase resilience

1

100%

More storage capacity

0

0%

Reduce need to re-stock later

0

0%

Other

0

0%

Less salt (base=1)

 

 

Re-assessed need since last season

0

0%

Other

1

100%

Same amount of salt (base=34)

 

 

Already at or above recommended levels

16

47%

At limit of storage capacity

14

41%

Stock reflects assessment of need for forthcoming season

11

32%

Other

1

3%

 
Authorities were asked to quantify salt stocks, and 29 did so (Table 3). The figures have been grossed to produce a national estimate by applying the ratio of salt stocks to total road length observed in respondents to all authorities, but should be treated with caution given the relatively small number of respondents. This was done for each type of authority and the results summed to produce national estimates (the same method as used in previous surveys). Changes from one year to the next can be affected by changes in the sample of authorities responding to the survey.

It is estimated that local authorities in England and Wales had 1.4 million tonnes of salt in stock at 1st October 2021, ordered a further 0.6 million tonnes, used 0.9 million tonnes during the 2021/22 winter season, and aimed to have 1.4 million tonnes in stock at 1st October 2022.

Table 3: Please state the amount of salt your council:

Salt (tonnes)

Respondents only

Grossed estimate

Had in stock at the start of the last winter gritting season (1st Oct 2021)

0.3 million

1.4 million

Ordered after the start of the last winter gritting season

0.1 million

0.6 million

Used across the whole of the last winter gritting season (2021/22)

0.2 million

0.9 million

Aims to have in stock at the start of this winter season (1st Oct 2022)

0.3 million

1.4 million

Base: 56 authorities

Resources

A total of between 18 and 31 respondents provided information about gritting equipment (Table 4). Across all this group, councils or their contractors owned or leased a total of 547 full-sized gritters (median of eight per council), 26 mini-gritters (zero), and 169 other pieces of gritting equipment (median of three). The latter included snow blowers, tractors, ploughs, quad bikes, footway spreaders, and hand gritters.

Table 4: How many of the following types of gritting machinery does your council/maintenance contractor currently own or lease? 

 Gritters/Equipment

Total

Average (median)

Full-sized gritters

547

8

Mini-gritters

26

0

Other equipment/machinery

169

3

Base: 31/31/18 authorities

All but one respondent (97 per cent) were planning to take action to reduce the risk of flooding on local roads (Table 5), most commonly using gully-emptying/cleansing machines (94 per cent), using sandbags or similar to contain floodwater (79 per cent) or using pumps (52 per cent).

Table 5: Which, if any, of the following is your council planning in order to reduce the risk of flooding on local roads over the winter season? 

Actions

Number

Per cent

Use of gully-emptying/cleansing machines

31

94%

Use of sandbags (or similar) to keep floodwater off roads

26

79%

Use of pumps

17

52%

Measures to reduce landslips

4

12%

Other

2

6%

None

1

3%

Total

33

100%

 

Innovative practice 

More than two-thirds of respondents (68 per cent) were planning to share resources with other councils and emergency services over the 2022/23 winter weather season (Table 6), most often salt stocks (58 per cent), gritting machinery (42 per cent), staff (39 per cent) or gully-emptying machines (35 per cent).

Table 6: Which, if any, of the following resources is your council planning to share with other councils and emergency services, if necessary, during this year's winter weather season?

 Resources

Number

Per cent

Salt stocks

18

58%

Gritting machinery

13

42%

Staff

12

39%

Gully-emptying/cleansing machines

11

35%

Pumps

8

26%

None of the above

10

32%

Total

31

100%

 

All but three of the 33 respondents were planning to implement at least one of the listed measures for the 2022/23 winter season, to be delivered both within the council or by local groups (Table 7).

Looking at measures within the council, just over three-quarters (79 per cent) were planning to use GPS technology on gritters, 64 per cent were planning to equip street cleaners with salt, and 58 per cent were planning to use GPS on gully-emptying machines. One in three (30 per cent) intended to use a variety of treatments on pavements other than salt, most commonly liquid de-icers.

Turning to measures within the local community, nine out of ten respondents (91 per cent) were planning to use community ‘grit bins’, 58 per cent were planning to provide other local groups with salt or equipment, and 27 per cent were planning to use community flood wardens.

Table 7: Which of the following measures, if any, does your council plan to implement for this year's winter weather season? 

 Within the council

Number

Per cent

Using GPS technology on gritters to manage gritting process

26

79%

Equipping street cleaners, or other staff, with salt to spread on pavements

21

64%

Using GPS on gully-emptying/cleansing machines to manage gully-cleaning process

19

58%

Using means other than salt to treat pavements (eg liquid de-icer)

10

30%

Within the local community

 

 

Using community 'grit bins' for members of the public to help themselves to salt

30

91%

Providing salt or equipment to other organisations and other persons, such as parish councils, community groups and snow wardens

19

58%

Using community flood wardens

9

27%

Total

33

100%

 

Summer resilience

Two out of five respondents (43 per cent) applied a treatment tor roads in summer 2022 in order to avoid roads melting while 51 per cent did not (Table 8).

Table 8: Did your council apply a treatment to roads in summer 2022 to avoid melting? 

 Treatment

Number

Per cent

Yes

15

43%

No

18

51%

Don't know

2

6%

Total

35

100%

Those authorities which did not apply a treatment to roads were asked why. Most (72 per cent) did not perceive a need for such treatment (Table 9).

Table 9: Please indicate why you did not apply a treatment to roads. 

 

Number

Per cent

No perceived need to act

13

72%

Other reason

6

33%

Total

18

100%

Around a half of respondent councils (53 per cent) intended to take measure to protect the highways infrastructure in summer 2023 if the need arose (Table 10). Around a third (32 per cent) were unable to say.

Measure which might be take included dusting of roads, monitoring of road temperatures, new weather stations, and a programme of resurfacing.

Table 10: Does your council intend to take measures, if necessary, to protect the resilience of your highways infrastructure for summer 2023?

 Resilience

Number

Per cent

Yes

18

53%

No

5

15%

Don't know

11

32%

Total

34

100%

 

Costs

Respondent authorities reported that, on average, the price of gritting salt had increased by 2.0 per cent between 2021 and 2022. Ten authorities reported no change while five reported increases of more than 10 per cent. (Median average based on 25 respondents).

Recruitment and retention

Almost two-thirds of respondents (63 per cent) had experienced difficulties recruiting or retaining LGV/HGV drivers over the previous year or anticipated such difficulties (Table 11).

Table 11: Has your council/contractor experienced difficulties over the last year, or do you anticipate difficulties, in recruiting or retaining LGV/HGV drivers for winter resilience activities?

 

Number

Per cent

Yes

22

63%

No

11

31%

Don't know

2

6%

Total

35

100%

 
Among those who had taken experienced recruitment or retention difficulties, the most common strategies to help were training existing staff (86 per cent of this subset of respondents), use of agency staff (55 per cent) and the provision of non-financial benefits (41 per cent) (Table 12).

Table 12: What measures, if any, has your council or your contractor adopted to help recruit and/or retain LGV/HGV drivers?

 Measures adopted

Number

Per cent

Training existing staff ('grow your own')

19

86%

Use of agency staff

12

55%

Non-financial benefits (e.g. working hours, development opportunities)

9

41%

Financial benefits (e.g. market supplements)

6

27%

None

1

5%

Don't know

0

0%

Total

22

100%