Winter travel

How do we do it?

The Highway Operations Control Centre (HOCC) is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to co-ordinate work on the highway network. It is fully equipped to monitor the effects of winter weather on our roads.

The technology includes a network of roadside ice detectors at strategic locations, which provide information on actual road conditions and are used to help predict when ice and snow may occur. Radar and satellite images are used to track rain and cloud cover across the county, and we have close links with our specialised weather forecasters.

This means that:

  • precautionary salting routes that are freezing can be identified and treated
  • most effort can be directed to the worst affected areas
  • an efficient, cost effective and environmentally sensitive winter service is provided which minimises salt usage.

What we do

  • undertake precautionary salting on major roads when there is a risk of ice or snow
  • monitor road conditions and direct resources to where problems are occurring
  • clear the major routes of snow
  • provide roadside salt bins and bags for self help
  • react to highway flooding, and fallen trees
  • keep delays to a minimum.

You can find out more about what we do in our Winter Service and Emergency Plan.

When do we salt

Often you will wake up to find frost on your car but will see that the roads have not been salted. This is because the decision is based on road and not air temperatures.

Salting is usually completed before freezing but rain may occasionally delay treatment leaving roads liable to freezing until they are salted. Salting will take place:

  • when roads may be wet and road temperatures are forecast to be at or below freezing
  • when snow is forecast, but it takes time and traffic for salt to melt snow.

Where we salt

2,650 km (1,650 miles) of roads are on the precautionary salting network. This includes major roads and routes to larger settlements, as well as accesses to emergency services such as hospitals or fire stations to make travelling as safe as possible. Despite this, 80% of roads are not routinely treated. Details of gritting routes in Devon can be found at and the following document illustrates the primary salting network in Devon.

What we are unable to do

  • undertake salting or other work on the motorway or trunk roads as these are the responsibility of Highways England
  • salt all roads as this would be an enormous and costly task.
  • always keep roads free of ice and snow.

More information about when and where we salt/grit can be found in our frequently asked questions.