Big thank you from

Gary Munn

Gary Munn, gritter driver

GARY Munn from Maghaberry is one of the 35 strong team based at Amey's Lurgan depot working around the clock to keep the motorway network open and safe for road users.

Gary has more than three years' experience as a gritter driver and has worked through some of the most challenging weather conditions Northern Ireland has ever seen.

Following the weather events of last winter, Amey (who operates sections of the M1, Al, A4 and A101) in partnership with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recently helped to prepare Northern Ireland's motorists to drive safely in winter with a road-show touring three locations across NI.

The campaign involved creating awareness of how winter gritting works and giving out advice on how to drive safely in winter conditions to motorists who use the 125km of strategic roads that Amey manages.

The weather was so had last year we were working twelve hour shifts handing over to the dayshift who were working 12 hours too.

Between 1 October and 15 May, if I'm on shift then I cover 12 hours on a nightshift and 24 hour cover at the weekend. It doesn't matter if it's the middle of the night or Christmas Day, if the forecast is for snow and ice, the phone rings and I have one hour to get from home to being out on the road gritting; I've then got two hours to complete my route.

Every gritter driver has to know every route, to allow us all to be able to cover one another should the need arise, we work on a rota based system where we will all be given a route for a week so we know once the gritter has been filled with salt and I've done my vehicle inspections, I'll be covering the route that is on the rota nominated to me. We have 6 gritting routes from our depot. I have been covering all these routes since I started with Amey, so I know them all like the back of my hand.

Gritting is a solo operation and during winter I'm on my own for hours on end. You have
to be prepared for the shift. I like listening to the radio and I always make sure I eat before hand because I know I won't be back at the depot until I need to fill up the gritter.

Last year, the weather was so bad, we spent weeks going around and around on the network, trying to make the roads as safe as possible. Some people might think that if the road has been cleared or gritted once, that's it done. But we have to go up and down the road several times - one route can take up to two hours and we can often cover one route several times during the course of a day.

The responsibility of winter maintenance is extremely important, and it is our number one priority to keep the roads treated and open for members of the publicĀ° during periods of snow and ice.

Despite this it is also important that members of the public take responsibility for their travel decisions and driving behaviour.

When my shift is finished at 7am I head back to the depot to wash down the gritter ready for the guys on day shift and they continue gritting through the day; winter service is a continuous process.

At the end of the day I just want to get home safely to my wife and kids. The weather was so bad last year and we were working twelve hour shifts handing over to the dayshift who were working 12 hours too. Winter is tough on our families too, they are the ones left at home but they understand that what we do helps people to stay safe on the roads in winter, and they appreciate how important our work is.

Ulster Star