A colourful special guest helped launch Aberdeenshire Council's winter resilience campaign at Inverurie last week.
Goldie the golden gritter visited the town as part of its UK-wide tour to celebrate the 50th birthday of gritter manufacturers Econ.
Its arrival not only coincided with the unveiling of the council's vital winter resilience campaign, but the launch of a competition for Aberdeenshire's 152 schools to name the region's 32 main gritters.
Suggestions will be submitted by participating schools to the council's Roads Service by Tuesday, November 12, with judges revealing the winning names on November 15.
With the days getting shorter and temperatures starting to fall, Aberdeenshire Council is putting its winter operations into top gear to ensure it is business as usual for the region.
Despite experiencing a milder season last year, the council is under no illusions as to how tough winter can get.
Its fleet of 54 gritters, support vehicles and more than 200 dedicated roads staff are poised to keep the area moving and ensure our residents and businesses can travel and operate as freely as possible through potentially challenging conditions.
The council has also contracted around 120 local farmers who will help maintain minor and rural roads wherever necessary.
In recent months more than 25,000 tonnes of salt has been stockpiled at key locations across Aberdeenshire, with top-ups scheduled depending on usage.
Typically, the local authority will use around 45,000 tonnes of salt annually to ensure that the region’s 3,424-mile road network remains safe for drivers.
Round the clock, the council's roads team carefully monitors both weather forecasts and actual road surface temperatures to ensure crews react as quickly as possible to changing conditions.
And while it is almost impossible to keep all surfaces clear and free of ice at all times lessons learned from previous years are routinely implemented in a bid to minimise the impact of severe weather.
In terms of Aberdeenshire's roads network, all routes are categorised into appropriate priority levels with the primary network being made up of 32 different routes covering 1,081 miles - around 30% of the region's entire network.
Mostly ‘A’ and ‘B’ class roads, the primary network also comprises a range of busy commuter routes which keep the region’s main towns and villages connected.
Aberdeenshire Council's over-riding aim is to keep priority one roads passable at all times unless weather conditions are abnormally severe and these roads will always be gritted before any others, including priority two roads.
The council's Head of Roads, Philip McKay, said: "The primary road network receives preventative treatment with gritters and ploughs starting a morning treatment at 5.30am and finishing an evening treatment no later than 9pm each day when necessary.
"To reduce instances of unnecessary gritting, sub-zero road temperatures need to be forecast for 48 hours before priority three roads are treated."
In addition to looking after the region’s roads, the council is gearing up to treat footpaths and cycle routes which are again prioritised.
The intention is to keep footways in busy urban areas - near shops, businesses, and medical and community facilities - in as safe a condition for pedestrians as possible. Most footpath treatment is carried out during the normal working day.
However, around 1,750 grit bins are located across Aberdeenshire to enable residents to self-treat nearby roads and footways.
Chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Councillor Peter Argyle, said: “Every year our teams work tirelessly throughout the winter to ensure our roads, footpaths and cycleways remain safe and passable for travelers whenever possible.
"Our residents, commuters and businesses can be assured that Aberdeenshire Council is highly prepared and, as always, we will continue to look to improve the high level of service we provide with the resources available to us.
"However, we are also realistic and, when there are extreme conditions, while we will do the best we can, road users must be aware of those conditions and drive accordingly or heed the advice of our roads partners and leave vehicles at home."