Wiltshire Council see Potential for Exactrak Route Based Forecasting Technology

Across the county of Wiltshire salting of roads in icy conditions was taking place but there was never any way of pinpointing exactly where the salt should be spread based on how cold a certain stretch of road was at that point in time. This meant that all of the roads in that county needed to be salted regardless of whether the road would actually freeze due to the weather conditions.

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The Challenge
The key routes in Wiltshire total a length of 1160km (725 miles) which is 25% of the entire maintained road network. Using their fleet of specialist vehicles, they provide a 24 hour response in bad weather. A single precautionary salting treatment will cost, on average, £17,000. This is assumed to be costing the council additional money in salting treatment and also in fuel and man hours to spread salt on roads which may not have needed salting.

The Solution
Exactrak, who provide vehicle monitoring and tracking solutions, use their VECTIS patented technology to interface directly with The Met Office’s Route Based forecasting system, helping drive time, cost and efficiency savings for organisations countrywide. Ordnance survey maps play a fundamental part of the process, used to create detailed route plans by Exactrak for drivers of gritter vehicles in the County of Wiltshire.

The Met Office also uses OS data layers as the basis for their Route Based Forecasting model, they break the pre-planned routes in sections and then use their RBF model on each section to determine whether or not it will require salt to be deployed. The Met Office also uses OS data layers as the basis for their Route Based Forecasting model, they break the pre-planned routes in sections and then use their RBF model on each section to determine whether or not it will require salt to be deployed.

The Met Office provide a detailed weather prediction service which is then fed into Exactrak’s software to generate detailed maps which are then sent directly to the gritter cab showing an up-to-date route the driver should follow. With the Met Office Route Based Forecasting, customers are given detailed hourly breakdown for the forthcoming day with updates given 2 or 3 times a day. The route based forecasting can respond due to changes in weather conditions, providing an up-to-date view of the roads which need salting thus saving valuable time and resources. The concept of route based forecasting is becoming increasingly popular among winter maintenance authorities and is seen as having the potential to reduce the overall operational cost of winter service by enabling people to grit on a route by route basis.

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The Benefits
Road surface temperature and weather conditions can vary greatly on different routes, creating uncertainty in the amount of the route that requires winter maintenance. Route Based Forecasting is a road weather forecasting development designed to help reduce expenditure and improve operational efficiency by enabling councils to selectively grit individual routes rather than an entire domain. This makes it possible to reduce operational expenditure and environmental impacts and gives the option of applying variable treatments to routes. Salt reserves can be maintained more effectively by using Route Based Forecasting within winter road maintenance operations.

Gritting particular routes instead of all routes within a domain is considered to generate significant savings for the customer as costs are reduced from elective gritting. With tightening winter maintenance budgets and on-going austerity measures, proving actual cost savings from using Route Based Forecasting over Domain Based Forecasting is more essential than ever and is a key requirement for those considering Route Based Forecasting.

Over a 5 month period (December 9th- April 8th 2013) Route Based Forecasting was tested on 6 particular routes in Wiltshire to show the value of the system. “Following the trial we now recognise the benefits of the technology our partners Exactrak and The Met Office offer and as a consequence we are now considering the possibility of selective salting on marginal nights using the Exactrak Intelligent Salting system.” Bill Parks – Head of Service (Winter Maintenance & Local Highways), Wiltshire Council.

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