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Don’t forget the clocks changing and Winter Gritting go hand in hand

Daylight Saving Time (DST) has been a contentious issue in the United Kingdom for over a century. This biannual clock adjustment, aimed at making better use of daylight, has far-reaching effects beyond simply changing the time on our clocks. It may be our favourite thing to forget each year, but in the UK, it is also closely linked to the onset of the Winter Gritting season, a crucial period for maintaining road safety and minimising the impact of snow and ice during the winter months.

DST and Winter Gritting

The end of DST, which occurs on the last Sunday in October, is traditionally seen as the start of the gritting season in the UK. This is because the clocks go back one hour, which means that there is less daylight during the evening and morning commute, which in turn makes the temperature lower, the roads more slippery and increases the risk of accidents.

As the clocks change, winter maintenance teams gear up and commence operations to ensure safety during the winter months. The statistics reveal that effective gritting is essential for reducing accidents, economic losses, and health risks associated with adverse winter weather. As the UK continues to refine its approach to winter gritting, it remains a crucial component of public safety and infrastructure maintenance.

The significance of winter gritting during the darker months cannot be overstated.

The UK government spends around £100 million on winter gritting each year using around 2 million tonnes of salt each year. Despite these efforts, according to the UK Department for Transport, adverse weather conditions contribute to approximately 29% of all road accidents.

The Birth of Daylight Saving Time

Our Transatlantic cousins like to voice that idea of DST was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. In a whimsical letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” Franklin cheekily suggested that Parisians could economise candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning. Franklin actually meant this as a joke.

In fact, it was Germany that first introduced DST in 1916. Clocks in the German Empire and its ally Austria, were turned ahead by one hour on April 30, 1916 — two years into World War I. The rationale was to minimise the use of artificial lighting to save fuel for the war effort. Within a few weeks, the United Kingdom, France, and many other countries followed suit. Most of them reverted to standard time after World War I, and it wasn’t until the next World War that DST made its return in most of Europe.

Since then, DST in the UK has gone through several changes, including amendments to the start and end dates and the length of the DST period. Currently, DST in the UK begins on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October, a system of DST created in 1972 that aligned it with other European countries. Clocks are set forward by one hour in spring and set back by one hour in autumn – hence the memory aid: “Spring forward, Fall back”.

Following Brexit in 2019, the UK government carried out a consultation on DST. The consultation found that there was a majority in favour of abolishing DST, but there was also significant support for moving to permanent DST. The government has not yet decided on whether to change DST, but it is committed to carrying out further research and consultation whether to opt for permanent standard time (GMT).

OUTCO Winter Gritting

As we enjoy the last fine days of autumn, OUTCO’s gritting teams are gearing up and preparing for the upcoming winter season. Deployment schedules are being drawn up. With the end of October firmly in our sights, if you would like to speak to one of our experts and know more about how our winter gritting helps you stay operational and safe please contact us.

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