«An unpredictable season for a reliable rural workhorse»
The winter maintenance team at Lincolnshire County Council has tackled one of the strangest winter seasons on record. Thanks, in the main, to its deployment of Schmidt Stratos III spreaders fitted with route guidance and automated salting system, it’s nonetheless been one with maximum efficiency, improved safety and lower salt usage.
This winter has seen several bitterly cold spells followed by unseasonably mild conditions across the Council area which includes 9,000km of roads and stretches from the low-lying Fens in the east to the rolling hills of the Wolds in the North. That has made planning very difficult for Network Resilience Manager, Darrell Redford, who can count on 23 years of experience in winter maintenance on highways. “It’s been feast or famine in the oddest winter season I can recall,” said Redford who is responsible for a winter maintenance team that includes over 80 drivers and a growing fleet of Schmidt Stratos spreaders, with 43 units expected by this October, covering 43 different routes. Redford reports that in December and January, and again in March, there were periods when they were doing full salt runs across 3,000km of their roads and in between there were mild conditions when they haven’t had to go out at all. Even so, this winter season has been busier than last requiring the winter team to make 66 runs using 18,200 tons of salt, compared to 63 runs and 15,000 tons of salt in 2021/22, but with a six-figure saving in salting costs. The savings have come from two main sources: automated spreading using Route Assistant, Aebi Schmidt’s state-of-the-art, easy-to-use automated spreading system, and molasses-treated salt which sticks unerringly to road surfaces and cuts the volume of salt required.
The jewel in the Schmidt winter crown
The Route Assistant, first developed in the 1990s and formerly known as AutoLogic, employs GPS-guided navigational routing that guides the spreader driver along the route with the spreading settings occurring automatically. This enables the driver to fully concentrate on the prevailing traffic conditions without being distracted by the spreading process, thus increasing road safety. Full integration with Schmidt’s ES control panel makes its use very easy and straightforward for the driver. It is now rare to supply a Schmidt spreader that has not been fitted with the system. “Aebi Schmidt technicians work with us during the summer months to drive our routes which we then load directly into the control panel. All the driver has to do then is follow the pre-designated route so that lack of previous route knowledge no longer poses a problem when assigning drivers. This not only improves driver safety because they are fully concentrating on driving with both hands on the wheel without having to make route or spreading adjustments, but it allows maximum efficiency in only using salt where it is required using optimal spreading settings. However, the driver can override the system if the prevailing conditions change,” said Redford. Today the Route Assistant is fully integrated into Aebi Schmidt’s IntelliOPS platform which enables sophisticated route management and control further to the automated use of spreading parameters.
Reliable rural workhorse combines with new spreading approach
Redford has twinned the Route Assistant with the latest Stratos III spreaders which employ a larger 10cu metre hopper and allow greater spreading distances and longer periods to be driven. “We cover a lot of rural miles and the Stratos III is our rural workhorse, allowing us to go on longer runs and treat more mileages on each shift. We are also now using route-based weather forecasting to allow us to be more accurate in our spreading,” he said. However, the largest single factor in the winter team’s salt usage efficiency has been the use of molasses in treated salt, which the team now uses instead of brine or pre-wet and has done for the last 3-4 years. “Basically, this is dry salt that has been sprayed with molasses which we find sticks to the roads better and which has allowed us to use smaller, lighter granules. We have had very good feedback from residents regarding its use and typically it saves us around 3,500 tonnes of salt a year,” added Redford.
For Lincolnshire County Council, a combination of the latest Stratos III spreaders, Route Assistant and molasses all add up to the sweet smell of success!