MeteoGroup supports winter road management in Dutch municipalities
Winter salting season
The winter salting season runs from 1 November to 1 April in most Dutch municipalities. Throughout this period, ACV, the joint venture of 4 Dutch municipalities (Ede, Renkum, Veenendaal and Wageningen), has 120 winter maintenance staff on standby 24/7. The team is made up of ACV employees, staff from external companies and, last but not least, meteorologists from MeteoGroup.
“Municipalities are required to ensure that roads continue to be passable at this time of year. Each municipality has a duty to combat slippery conditions on its road network and land. The spreading of road salt is widely accepted as an effective solution and each municipality has its own policy on how salt is applied. Individual municipalities start by establishing which roads and cycle paths need to be spread, followed by the spreading routes to be covered, all based on the starting point that no resident should ever be more than 400 metres away from a salted street. The municipality then instructs ACV to start salting”, says Jacob van de Kolk, Winter Maintenance Coordinator at ACV.
“Exactly what is salted and how depends on the weather forecast and current conditions. The urgency of salting routes is determined on the basis of both traffic and environmental considerations. Tension exists between traffic safety - salt as much as possible - and the environmental and cost aspect - salt as little as possible. Naturally, we will never take any risks where the above are concerned. Safety always comes first and it's better to have spread too much salt than not enough. We are able to mobilise a total of 34 salt trucks; these include a number of agricultural contractors with tractors that we hire in to help. With some 1,700 km of roads and cycle paths to be salted, ACV has a big area to cover.”
“Although the four municipalities have their own policies on winter salting, the joint deployment of ACV ensures that coordination is still possible. This is particularly important in situations where roads cross from one municipality into another. With the joint winter maintenance programme in place, salting can be coordinated to ensure that road users don't suddenly find themselves on a road that changes from salted to unsalted when they cross the municipal boundary.”
Jacob van de Kolk continues: “We operate a 'three-shift service'; the first week is a standby service, the second a standard service and the third a rest week. A similar schedule applies for the five salt managers. They decide whether, when and how salting will be carried out (in consultation with MeteoGroup). We have been working with MeteoGroup since 1999, because of which we know each other very well. Salt managers monitor the weather on a daily basis too, so we speak more or less the same language. The extensive experience – that we and the Weather Room have - gained over many years is very important too. We assess what we are doing well and what we could be doing better on an annual basis too. This also involves occasional visits by us to the MeteoGroup Weather Room and they come to us too. As a result, we have developed a working relationship with MeteoGroup that puts us in a position to make decisions quickly in situations where delays have the potential for disaster.”
Snow, sleet and unexpected-black-ice alerts
Two hours before precipitation in the form of sleet or snow reaches the AVC area, the salt manager on duty is alerted by the winter-maintenance meteorologist. He/she will contact the winter salting coordinator in the event of snow and sleet, but also if changes to the weather forecast (being a road surface forecast issued by e-mail in the afternoon) arise that are relevant for winter salting. After establishing which measures are necessary, but before surface conditions deteriorate, the salt manager will alert the relevant staff and instruct the salting of certain roads and cycle paths as a preventive measure. We start to do this several hours in advance. The salting trucks are deployed for a total of approximately four hours, from the first alert up to and including completion.
“We are able to contact the Weather Room at MeteoGroup at any time. This means that the winter salting coordinator on duty can always rely on the support of a weather specialist and stay up-to-date on the most recent weather developments.” The road surface forecast can be sent to a number of e-mail addresses at the same time and, if required, can be archived (automatically) too. The fax or e-mail sent to the winter salting coordinator enables him/her to decide whether or not it is necessary to follow further weather developments via the road-surface report system: http://www.gladheid.nl.
“We can access the road surface forecast for our area straight away on www.gladheid.nl; it's available in a text format or in a clear table and both provide forecasts for the 36 hours ahead. The forecast clearly specifies (through the use of different colours, figures and text) when surfaces will become slippery and which form of slipperiness is expected.”
“Gladheid.nl draws on the information provided by road surface sensors present in a representative cold section of the road network in our management area. This provides us with up-to-date information about the state of the road surface. We have six of our own measuring points in our area, because of which we always have a good overview of the situation. MeteoGroup uses this local road-surface information to extensively monitor the management area and alert us well in advance if slippery road conditions are expected.”
MeteoGroup supplies and installs this road-surface report system in collaboration with Van den Berg Infrastructuren (part of BAM).
“In addition to the Gladheid.nl site and direct telephone contact, the RoadMaster app provides us with an extensive visual depiction of the most essential information, regardless of the time and place. The RoadMaster overview page also generates an alert if slippery road conditions are expected within the next 24 hours. RoadMaster has access to all relevant detailed MeteoGroup precipitation images, both current and forecast, in which different colours are used to depict a specific type of precipitation (rain, wet snow, snow, sleet and hail).”
A harsh winter
Although this year was extremely busy, a harsh winter doesn't automatically mean that a lot more salt will need to be spread. It's true to say that mild winters, with a lot of temperature fluctuations around the freezing point and high humidity, create a huge amount of work and, more in particular, necessitate a great deal of interaction and consultation with the Weather Office. In this type of winter, it's vital to arrive at a correct assessment of the situation. At times like this, it is also very reassuring to know that we can rely on the extensive expertise of the meteorologists in the Weather Room.”
To make it possible to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a number of municipal services, the municipalities of Ede, Renkum, Veenendaal and Wageningen have created one joint service provider: ACV. One of ACV's main responsibilities is winter road management.