Better use of a snowplough reduces salt application and protects road infrastructure

Warmed by the Atlantic Gulf Stream, the UK rarely sees snowfall events, but when it does it tends to cause significant travel disruption, as our snow clearing infrastructure, our inexperience of snow removal and the high levels of expectation from the driving public are not comparable to other countries, more used to handling such adverse conditions. There are obvious exceptions to this, in the Highlands of Scotland and more exposed corners of the British Isles, but in general, snow has the ability to bring UK traffic networks to an icy standstill.

Chemical means to disperse snow through higher doses of sodium chloride salt is generally used, with a 40gram grit run commonly issued to melt the offending ice and snow. However, there is a growing recognition within the industry that this approach is no longer sustainable. Salt is inexpensive and relatively abundant, but comes at other costs of of logistics, storage and delivery.

Every spreader must have a snowplough, yet very little consideration is given to its capabilities.  More often than not the plough is left parked up in the depot, and only called upon in the most extreme winter conditions. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and more frequent considered use of the correct plough technology will help to reduce salt application levels and help offer a better winter service.

One of the common concerns regarding the use of ploughs is the damage to road infrastructure. With standard UK ploughs, jockey wheels are employed to raise the plough blade a couple of inches off the ground to ensure cats-eyes remain intact. But in the gap between the plough blade and the road surface, a compacted layer of snow is allowed to remain, and that remaining snow is effectively flattened and graded by standard UK ploughs before the spreader passes and dispenses salt on top of it.

If the temperature is low, and the amount of salt spread is insufficient, this approach can be a recipe for disaster. Any remaining snow will be partially melted, and has the potential to re-freeze as a slicker, icier surface. It is, therefore, paramount that if a plough is used, it is used correctly.

The biggest difference offered by Bucher Winter ploughs is the interface with the plough and the road surface.  Bucher plough blades sit on the road surface and deliver a back-to-black treatment as standard. They have a negative attack angle, so they serve to squeegee off the fallen snow, as opposed to chisel and scrape it off – the more common approach in the UK. Bucher’s neoprene ‘bi-shore’ plough blade deflects around any road obstacles, ensuring cats-eyes are safe.

The blade is designed with a softer leading face that deflects well around obstacles, while a harder trailing face provides the strength to push the blade along without flexing backwards.  The bi-shore neoprene blade is standard across Bucher’s plough range and can be complemented with a positive angle icebreaker blade for ice accumulation conditions. Both blade types can be configured on straight-edge or V-formation ploughs.

Straight-edge ploughs are ideal for highways operations, where high speed snow clearance is critical. Bucher’s V shaped Universal Ploughs incorporate the same safety systems as their straight-edge counterparts, but can be configured to offer either straight, V-formation and Shovel-formation – perfect for inner-city and rural environments, where narrow access routes need to be ploughed.

Bucher Winter innovations also include the MBS brine injector system for snowploughs. Brine, or indeed any de-icing liquid, is delivered through apertures in the plough blade, and ejected directly onto the road surface at the interface with the snow and ice.  The combination of both mechanical force from the plough blade, plus chemical force delivered by the liquid de-icer, has a dramatic and almost immediate effect on the carriageway.  During product tests carried out last winter, one driver described the process as “painting the road black again”.

Bucher Winter equipment is built and sold in the UK by Johnston Sweepers who has 80 years of experience of producing municipal vehicles from its Surrey-based manufacturing facility, and is able to arrange demonstrations of Bucher Winter’s full product range, including the latest all-electric Phoenix spreader.

For more information: