Winter service of municipal vehicles

One of the many areas in which municipal vehicles are used is winter service. Winter maintenance of roads and sidewalks is of great importance, as the smooth flow of road traffic plays an essential role in the national economy. It is the only way to get people and goods to offices, stores and factories at the right time. It also enhances the quality of life, as people not only want to arrive safely at work, but also for shopping or leisure activities. Functioning roads are also of paramount importance for emergency services and fire departments, as well as for public services such as school buses or garbage collection.

The respective road authority is responsible. This arises from different laws on different levels eg. municipal, county or nation wide. On trunk roads, this is usualy the responsibility of the road maintenance departments, while in the municipalities it is the responsibility of the relevant department, e.g. the city cleaning department.


In order to guarantee the requirements, a great deal of organizational effort is made and the latest technology is used. The use of de-icing salt permanently removes ice and snow. De-icing salt has been used since the late 1950s. Significant improvements in terms of environmental protection were achieved above all with the development of pre-wetted salt technology, the introduction of computer-controlled, speed-dependent spreading techniques, improved road weather monitoring and forecasting, and the introduction of winter service management systems.

The balance between the legal mandate for road safety and the obligation to protect the environment is a constant challenge. This is taken into account by the principle of “as much as necessary, as little as possible”.

The winter service must start in the morning in good time before the rush hour traffic starts. In principle, municipalities must clear snow on all roads, bike paths and sidewalks within the local boundaries. However, the obligation to clear sidewalks is often passed on to residents by municipal statutes.

The devices used in the municipal sector are usually attached to a carrier vehicle such as a truck or Unimog. As much as possible should be cleared in one operation. For loose snow or in addition to the snow plow brooms can be used, snow blowers can also be used for snow depths of over 50 centimeters and for snow drifts in open terrain.

The use of clearing / sweeping combinations, which have advantages in loose and soft snow, is efficient. Pedestrian bridges, cycle paths and stairs can usually only be cleaned manually or with special small devices.

The type and size of the gritting vehicles depends on the different requirements. Special vehicles with suitable dimensions are required for use on sidewalks and cycle paths. Here usualy  attachments of plow and spreader to municipal small implement carriers are used. Legal regulations on width and maximum weight must be observed.