West Midlands-based Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council has invested in a fleet of nine Stratos III gritters from Aebi Schmidt to tackle whatever conditions this winter can throw at them.

The new outright purchased fleet replaces an ageing contract hired fleet and includes three 4×4 gritters, which will be more effective in hilly areas around the borough this winter, while the gritter bodies themselves are fitted on Mercedes Arocs chassis.

Sandwell Council has also specified that the new gritters come fitted with Aebi Schmidt’s automated GPS-guided spreading system, AutoLogic, and its Winter Report tracking software to ensure they were at the very forefront of gritting technology.

The new fleet is also fitted with Schmidt SNK blade ploughs, which are quick and easy to fit and remove and are easily controlled via a dashboard joystick for raising and lowering. When not in use, the new single blade ploughs can be stored safely and then quickly fitted when and where required.

“As a local authority, I would say we are now in possession of some of the best winter equipment available on the UK market today and, thanks to the technology and reliability of Schmidt, we are confident this will help ensure we continue to treat our roads with efficiency and precision,” said Amy Harhoff, Director of Regeneration and Growth, at Sandwell Council.

The new winter fleet, which can treat Sandwell’s roads with more than 55 tonnes of salt every time they leave the depot, will ensure the Council meets the requirements set out in its Winter Services Plan and the recommendations within the Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance to achieve a “well-maintained highway infrastructure”.

Amy Harhoff said that specification of both AutoLogic and Winter Report had been integral to the new fleet order.

“AutoLogic has saved the authority money in the past and we are certain will continue to do so in the future, as it enables us to use salt economically and effectively, benefitting us during a time of increased budget pressure as well as the environment.

“The system ensures the optimal amount of salt is spread by having programmed routes which have measured the borough’s exact road widths to enable the correct dosage, spreading width and symmetry, so that we spread the right amount of grit automatically.

“The use of GPS-guided and programmed navigation also makes driving the route much safer for our drivers, while any change in spread rates is automatically and seamlessly completed so that they can concentrate on the road ahead. This has proven valuable in the past in spells of particularly severe weather.

“We have also subscribed to Winter Report tracking software, which will not only allow us to monitor vehicles online but will also highlight areas where there has been a problem. It will also help us to robustly defend potential claims against the council, as we will be in a position where we can clearly say when, where and what our gritters were doing,” she added.

The new gritters have proved very popular with Sandwell’s drivers as they find the cab layout and instruments quick, reliable and easy to use.

“They are also backed by Schmidt’s ‘Total Lifetime Care’ which is a further added benefit,” said Amy Harhoff. “Schmidt’s customer care has so far proved faultless with their team in Peterborough responding quickly to any queries and questions both during and after the procurement process,” she said.

Sandwell’s investment in the new winter fleet followed a survey of residents, who overwhelmingly supported the council’s winter maintenance efforts and prioritised its funding above many other council services.

Amy Harhoff added: “Our winter service operations are generally well received by members of the public, and the team always works hard to provide the best possible service under whatever conditions we may be experiencing.

“Our new fleet will ensure our residents and visitors to the borough continue to receive the best possible service we can provide, and they can also rest assured that the council has a reliable and modern fleet that is capable of dealing with the various winter scenarios we may face.

“The added technology allows routes and spreader settings to be altered without having to drive the route again and spreader settings can be easily adjusted and saved as alternative routes.

“This helps ensure the council provide its customers and local businesses with efficient de-icing of all widths and surfaces from urban streets to dual carriageways. We can therefore build on our reputation of providing a reliable service to residents, visitors and businesses within the borough,” she said.

For more information: www.aebi-schmidt.co.uk