Getting down to the nitty-gritty of safe winter driving

Surrey gritter lorry drivers. Left to right, Phil Scott, Robin Chaplin, Andrew Osborne, Clive Harrington, Richard Lilley.

A group of Surrey gritter lorry drivers were invited to take part in a winter driving skills course. Please find a press release produced by Mercedes-Benz World.

Press release

A group of gritter drivers received valuable winter driving skills coaching at Mercedes-Benz World on Wednesday as part of Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy’s bid to help Surrey County Council keep traffic moving safely on the roads as temperatures look set to drop below freezing again.

The five gritter drivers took Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy’s 2013 Winter Driving Course when they attended the training session at Mercedes-Benz World, Weybridge, on Wednesday 20 February. During the session they learnt and developed a range of winter driving skills that will equip them to drive their own cars safely from home to the gritter depots so that in turn they can keep the roads gritted and help Surrey residents have safer journeys to work.

Gritter lorry driver Clive Harrington behind the wheel with driving coach Dave Cates.

As part of the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy’s winter driving course, the five gritter drivers experienced what it’s like to drive a car on black ice, how to safely control a car in hazardous conditions and avoid getting into difficulties. Their one hour, one-to-one coaching sessions were held on Mercedes-Benz World’s state-of-the-art circuits with low-grip surfaces, which replicate driving in hard-to-handle, slippery driving conditions.

Clive Harrington, a gritter driver operating out of Godstone depot, commented: “During snowy weather we often get called out in the middle of the night and need to be on the roads gritting within the hour. With no-one to grit the roads in front of us, we can be faced with really difficult journeys into work. Today’s course has taught me not only skills in how to control my car in a skid and how to avoid a slide in the first place, but also how to make the most of controls such as ABS and ESP which so many of us have in our cars but don’t know how to use.”

Phil Scott, a gritter operator who travels from home to a depot in Merrow, added: “I have to negotiate some tricky side roads and travel across two counties on my journey into work. The training today has taught me really simple steps that I can take to make my journey safer in bad weather. Learning how to slow down the car without using the brakes and pulling away without using the accelerator are two skills I wasn’t aware of before.”

Robert East, National Operations & Development Manager, Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, commented: “When ice and snow hits the county, as it’s predicted to do again this weekend, we expect our roads to be gritted ready to make our journeys into work safer. By giving the gritter lorry drivers first access to our winter driving course this year we have equipped them with the necessary skills to handle their cars safely on their journeys to the depots. This in turn will keep the rest of us moving more safely around the county for the remainder of the winter season.”

The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy believes that preparation is key when it comes to driving in wintry weather conditions, even when the roads are gritted. The unique driving facilities at Mercedes-Benz World offer drivers of all abilities the chance to experience driving on a surface that perfectly simulates the black ice conditions that many have and continue to be faced with this winter. The Winter Driving Course offers practical advice to understand how actions can cause a car to lose control. Not only does this provide valuable skills to deal with slides and skids, but also the knowledge of how to do everything possible to avoid them the next time the county experiences icy conditions.

John Furey, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, said: “Together with our contractor May Gurney, we put a huge amount of work into making Surrey’s roads as safe as possible during snow and ice. Our gritter drivers are heroes of the road, braving freezing temperatures, blizzards and icy conditions, often when the rest of us are tucked up in bed. But they need to drive to work too, often in severe weather, so I’m sure they’ll put their new skills to good use very soon.”

The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy Winter Driving Course at Mercedes-Benz World, Weybridge, is available to all drivers and is priced at £99. For more information or to book, call 0845 123 0055 or visit


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