The country’s leading manufacturer of winter maintenance vehicles has successfully trialled a new safety feature for gritting at high speed.
Following the road test by Econ Engineering – where a gritter with a prototype rear visibility panel was driven at speeds of 56mph – field trials are currently underway.
The panel has been designed by Thomas Lupton, grandson of the company’s founder William Lupton. It came following a specific request by an authority’s highways team to make gritters more visible to motorway traffic travelling in the same direction.
This County Council has placed an order for eight of the vehicles due for delivery in time for next winter season.
The company, which is based in Ripon, North Yorkshire, and has recently opened engineering hubs in Alloa, Scotland and the Welsh capital of Cardiff, is the country’s largest producer of gritters and pothole repair vehicles.
It has a hire fleet of more than 800 vehicles, employs a 240-strong workforce and has a +80 per cent share of the country’s winter maintenance vehicle market.
After a few miles of test driving, the driver reported that there was no significant difference in driving the vehicle with the rear visibility panel attached.
The trial also revealed the acceleration/power required to drive at high speeds was no different to a normal spreader. Fifty-six mph was reached briefly and still did not affect driving in anyway.
The report added: “All the spread pattern combinations were achieved with no effect from turbulence from the panel.
“The salt also cleared the lights and number plate brackets. The panel appeared very secure on the back of the hopper. Upon inspection after the test, the panels were all still securely in place.”
Additionally, the vehicle also underwent a series of tests whilst stationary to see if any salt would collide with the rear lights or number plate.
Econ Engineering’s Technical Manager Michael Flynn said: “We are delighted with how the prototype faired during its testing, and as a result one of our clients has ordered eight new gritters with this new safety feature fitted as standard.
“Before getting to this stage there were a number of challenges to overcome, in particular if the size and weight of the rear visibility panel would affect the acceleration and road handling of the gritter.
“Whilst aerodynamism was a key factor another was the effect, if any, it would have on the gritting and spraying functions.
“A specific request of the customer was for the gritter to be driven at 56mph, which we did, and it handled perfectly.
Mr Flynn added: “The success of the road test demonstrates why we continue to dominate the UK winter vehicle maintenance sector.”