Snow is falling outside; the presents are wrapped under the tree and a family favourite is just about to begin on tv – then the phone rings.
While many of us may get to experience that stereotypical cosy night in at Christmas, for workers on the frontline they could be called out at any minute.
Renfrewshire Council’s gritting teams work on a 24/7 schedule from October to March to keep the roads clear and free of ice, and sudden weather can have big effect on their festive plans.
Eric Phillips has been working as a gritter driver for more than ? years and has faced many challenges along the way.
Eric said: “Along with the rest of the team, we work non-stop throughout the winter to stay one step ahead of the snow and ice as best we can.
“When cold weather is forecast, we head out during the day to grit the roads before the ice gets a chance to take hold and then again overnight to clear any snow and put down more grit for the morning commuters.”
More than 4000 tonnes of salt is stored in advance of the winter period to ensure that the gritters are fully stocked to protect Renfrewshire’s 800km of roads.
Eric added: “It’s not always straightforward though as the Beast from the East showed last year, with sudden downpours of snow meaning we couldn’t clear it fast enough.
“Many drivers were caught out on the roads, with one car even climbing the Gleniffer Braes in front of my gritter when really it should have been the other way around!
“We often hear that the gritters haven’t been out which can be frustrating when you’ve just driven for hours throughout the night, so I’d ask people to take the time to think about our teams and the work we put in all winter.
“Unfortunately, we can’t reach every residential road, but we do the best we can to keep our main routes, including schools and hospitals, clear and keep Renfrewshire moving when bad weather strikes.”
The team in charge of the gritting vehicles, who were newly-named by the public this year and include famous names such as Ploughlo Grittini and William Wall-ice, are constantly on weather watch and take decisions throughout the day dependant on the forecasts.
Duty controller, John P Wallace, said: “We’re always looking ahead in this role and we do three weather checks, at 7am, 12pm and 7pm, before deciding how many of the gritters need to be on the roads.
“We have 20 drivers on each shift, day and night, meaning we can provide a 24-hour service for winter gritting and the teams do a great job in keeping our roads safe and clear.
“If need be in extreme weather events, we can call on our stand-by workers to help strengthen the team’s efforts and return the roads back to normal as quickly as possible.”
The nine gritters in Renfrewshire have set priority routes to follow which include main roads within Renfrewshire, and bus, emergency and schools routes – before moving onto more residential roads once these are clear.
The vehicles are loaded with salt at the depot before the automatic spreading system ensures that it’s spread evenly across the roads when the gritter is moving.
Once the route is complete, the vehicle returns to base where any leftover salt is weighed and returned to the store and the vehicles are cleaned ahead of their next outing.
For more information on winter gritting and Renfrewshire’s #RenReady campaign, visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/readyforwinter.