The UK is braced for more freezing weather conditions next week with a cold front from Siberia set to bring ‘bitingly’ cold temperatures and more snow. One leading gritting manufacturer that should be ready for this is Aebi Schmidt, which tests its machines in Russia. Highways talks to David Harvey, technical sales manager, about making sure modern gritters are up to the task of tackling extreme weather.
The Schmidt Stratos III spreaders were field tested in harsh conditions in countries like Scandinavia and Russia. What did you learn from those tests?
Schmidt has been able to test the reliability of the Stratos III at very low temperatures and for far longer periods of time than we would experience here. We were able to understand what the new Stratos III was capable of and what extremes of temperature it was able to work efficiently in. As a result, we are now extremely confident of its capabilities in the most adverse of conditions.
What innovations does Schmidt have coming up in the winter service market?
Schmidt is trialling a new and innovative Combi Flex spreader with Transport Scotland in its 2017/18 winter service programme. The brand new concept has been involved in series of successful trials in Scandinavia for the last 12 months, but this is the first time the Combi Flex spreader has been operated in the UK, bringing a greater degree of flexibility and more spreading combinations to winter maintenance than ever before.
It has been involved in Transport Scotland’s winter programme since November in a trial lasting 26 weeks until April 2018, adding a level of versatility that can be adapted to meet most, if not all, winter conditions and temperatures.
The new Combi Flex spreader, which is twinned with a 32-tonne DAF 8×4 truck, is fitted with a 5m³ hopper and huge 13,750 litre brine-filled tanks. This allows a flexible range of winter spreading options from pure salt to pure brine – and all points in between.
The new Combi Flex combines all aspects of spreading dry and pre-wet salt, with the ability to adjust brine percentages upwards of 30%, through to pure spraying. Under certain conditions pre-wet salt with increased brine percentages perform better where road and weather conditions play an important role. The Combi Flex allows for rapid changing between dry substances and brine, without the need for conversion and we believe we have developed a machine that can meet all future eventualities.
We have also developed a number of innovations in our digital solutions portfolio that will make winter maintenance operations easier and more efficient. For example, a new service platform is in the offing that will allow operators to report online any breakdowns, as well as providing online access to management reports, KPIs, products manuals and a whole host of extremely useful and important information.
How is Schmidt adapting to the possibility of brine being more common in the UK market?
The trials we have been carrying out with Transport Scotland have been very interesting so far. We have tested brine extensively on the continent over a number of years and found that it works best in marginal conditions where the temperatures are typically around zero and road conditions dry.
These are not typical conditions that we find on many of the road networks in the UK, but the trials have been experimenting with the percentage of brine in the spreading mix and then assessing the results for effectiveness.
The new Combi Flex allows greater use of brine spraying in various concentrations depending on the weather and road conditions. For example, salt levels can be increased should the conditions dictate by using solid materials from the hopper and mixing them with the brine to increase the concentration.
Or conversely pure brine can be used if the weather and temperatures are not too severe. By reducing the levels of salt involved, operators can not only reduce costs – by up to 30% in certain cases – they can also lessen the environmental impact at the same time.
We firmly believe that the Transport Scotland trial will prove the new Combi Flex spreader to be a welcome addition to the winter service armoury and a significant step forward in the winter treatment arena.
Can you tell us more about your ES Control Panel? Does it provide any innovations or support for new types of risk-based or route-based gritting?
The ES Control Panel configures with our AutoLogic route guidance and automatic spreading systems. Thanks to GPS technology, dosage, spreading widths and symmetry are taken care of automatically by Schmidt’s AutoLogic, while particularly hazardous spots can be set to automatically receive additional salt even if the driver isn’t familiar with the route.
The AutoLogic system includes a PC-application, Route Creator, which allows routes and spreader settings to be altered without having to drive the route again. This is particularly useful during heavy snowfall when higher dosage levels are required. With Route Creator, spreader settings can be easily adjusted and saved as an alternative route.
How flexible are the Stratos vehicles when it comes to going from wide rural routes to close urban roads?
The Stratos range of spreaders is build around a modular concept that includes a huge array of different configurations including demountable, permanent mounted and towable spreaders. They are available in various sizes and are compatible with most tractors and carrier vehicles. They offer innovative, accurate distribution systems and intelligent control systems, capable of readily adapting to a wide variety of different routes and route widths.
The wide range of applications, including the multi-variable AutoLogic automatic spreading system, provide efficient de-icing of all widths and surfaces from urban streets and squares to dual carriageways and motorways.