The county council may wait until it gets even colder before they send the gritters out this winter.

Currently, a surface temperature of 1C can be enough to trigger the council’s gritting operation across the network of Hertfordshire’s roads.

But now council officers have signalled that they are looking to wait until it drops to 0.5C.

They say this reflects better weather forecasting and would bring Hertfordshire in line with other councils.

They also say it would help to lessen the environmental impact of gritting.

On Monday (July 1) the move was backed by a meeting of the council’s highways and environment cabinet panel, and will now be considered by the cabinet.

Liberal Democrat councillor Robin Parker did question whether the move would reduce the safety of the county’s roads.

He suggested that if the temperatures were recorded at 0.5C, there would be some areas that had already dripped below freezing.

But he was told sensors on the county’s roads were in places where temperatures would be expected to be lowest.

Presenting the report, assistant network manager Richard Stacey said there were no safety implications, and some authorities had reduced the trigger temperature to zero.

He said: “I am quite passionate about winter services and if I thought it was going to be a problem I wouldn’t be recommending it,” he said.

“There aren’t any safety implications – it’s good practice.”

Before giving the go-ahead for precautionary gritting, staff consider the data from sensors on surface temperature, as well as the weather forecast and the amount of water on the road.

Then they will determine whether to grit – and at what time.

Councillors were told that last year the gritters were operational on 42 occasions – lower than the five-year average of around 55.

They said that if the proposed gritting criteria had been adopted the roads would have been gritted 40 times.

On each occasion last year the gritters treat around 1,500 miles of roads. And over the winter period they spread more than 10,904 tonnes of salt.

According to the report some roads are missed because of night-time parking, which causes an obstruction for the gritters.

Meanwhile, the report shows the council also intends to investigate technology that would allow residents to track gritters on the internet.

The locations of the sensors that record the surface temperature of the roads across the county are:  A505 Lilley; A120 Bishop’s Stortford; B1368, Braughing; A119 north of Stapleford; B487 Hemel Hempstead; B488 Tring Wharf; A4147, Hemel Hempstead; U53 Offley; A41 Cow Roast; C183 (formerly A10) near Barwick; A505 Baldock by-pass tunnel entrance; and A10 Reed.