120 new sandblasting machines ensure operator safety this winter


The new vehicles are part of a two-year state-of-the-art sandblasting rollout across the country with 132 more to come for winter 2022-2023.

The regions receiving new sand pits this year are:

  • Kent, Surrey, West and East Sussex – 36 vehicles
  • Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, part of Warwickshire, Rutland and part of Oxfordshire – 47 vehicles
  • Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and parts of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire – 28 vehicles
  • West Midlands, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and parts of North Gloucestershire – 7 vehicles
  • Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Avon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire – 2 vehicles

Duncan Smith, Acting Executive Director of Operations, was at the National Roads offices in Nottingham to welcome the new vehicles.

He said:

The new vehicles are an impressive sight and this year’s rollout once again demonstrates our commitment to keeping drivers safe throughout the winter months.

They include cutting edge technology allowing us to handle roads up to a maximum of 50 mph, 10 mph faster than previous models. We want everyone to travel safely on our roads and ask drivers to be extra careful around dirt, to keep a safe distance, to pass dirt with caution when safe and at reduced speed.

When winter weather arrives, our winter crews across the country will be ready to work around the clock to keep traffic flowing.

Duncan Smith, Acting Executive Director of Operations (pictured right) received the keys from Stephen McKeown, Managing Director of Romaquip, for the new 26-ton Volvo dryers that will patrol the network this winter.

The new vehicles are equipped with technology that allows sandblasting routes to be downloaded directly into the vehicle, helping to tell drivers where to go, which lanes to treat and which to take, but also specific information to consider, such as bridges or other road features.

They meet the latest EU emission standards for heavy-duty CI (diesel) engines, known as Euro 6, which aim to reduce harmful exhaust emissions, ensuring that national highways provide the cleanest, most efficient vehicles available.

Inside the new high-tech grinding cabins

Inside the new high-tech crushing cabins

Over the past four years, national highways have replaced 311 sand drifts, helping to keep roads open and people moving in severe weather. The first phase of the deployment started in 2018 with 34 new vehicles delivered to the east of England. In 2019, 64 were put into service in the North East and South East. And last year 93 took the Northwest and Southwest routes. The 120 new sprinklers this year mark the start of the second phase of the fleet renewal.

To help keep operators on the move this winter, National Highways has 1,300 specially trained sprinkler operators and 535 sprinkler operators available, all of which have received summer service. There are 127 depots based at strategic points in the network, 23 snowblowers capable of removing up to 2,500 tonnes of snow per hour and national roads will store over 280,000 tonnes of salt.

To monitor the weather around the clock, National Highways has approximately 250 weather stations located on its 4,400 miles of freeways and major A-roads. Aerial warning signs can also be used to alert motorists of extreme weather conditions.

When extreme weather conditions are forecast, drivers should follow these tips:

  • In snow and ice, drivers should stick to main roads where they can and only travel when necessary – drivers are also encouraged to make sure they have a snow kit in their vehicle, including a scraper and a defroster, warm clothes and blankets and sunglasses to deal with the weak winter sun.
  • In strong winds, trucks, caravans and motorcycles are at particular risk. Drivers should therefore slow down and avoid using exposed road sections if possible.
  • In the event of heavy rain, drivers should stay a safe distance from the vehicle in front, gradually release the accelerator if the steering is no longer responding and slow down if the rain and spray from vehicles make it difficult to see and visibility.
  • In case of fog, drivers should turn on their fog lights and not use the high beam as the fog will reflect the light back. If you really can’t see you should consider finding a safe place to stop until it is safe to continue.

Drivers are advised to follow messages on road signs and listen for radio updates.

More information is available on the Traveling in Winter webpage.

Further information can be found by visiting the travel updates page and following @highwaysnwest @highwaysneast @highwaysseast @highwaysswest @highwayseast @highwayswmids, @highwaysemids @highwaysyorks on Twitter or by calling the National Highways Information Line on 0300 123 5000.

General Information

Members of the public should contact the National Highways Customer Contact Center on 0300 123 5000.

Media inquiries

Journalists should contact the National Highways Press Service on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.

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