The first FMX snowploughs in the UK, including the first FMX 4×4 variants, have entered service with South Gloucestershire Council.

These are also the first Volvo gritters to be operated by South Gloucestershire Council. The order, for a total of eleven vehicles, comprises eight FMX-330 6×4 twenty six tonners and three FMX-330 4×4 eighteen tonners.

South Gloucestershire Council’s eleven new Volvo FMX snowploughs

South Gloucestershire Council maintain 1500km of road, and during winter keeping access roads, delivery ramps and shoppers’ car parks clear in areas of urban Bristol, such as the Cribbs Causeway and Kingswood Malls. This comprises a somewhat unexpected application for the FMX snowploughs, especially all-wheel drive 4x4s. They are also working on the rural main roads such as the A46 and A38 and local market towns like Thornbury, Yate and Marshfield.

According to South Gloucestershire Council’s Highways Manager Owen Jenkins, the short wheelbase 4x4s are ideal for this application as they are required to work on icy surfaces, on steep hills, between rows of parked cars to keep roads open for local businesses, residents, shoppers and delivery vehicles.

In addition to the latest D11C 11-litre engine rated at 330hp, the specification includes the Volvo Powertronic PT2106 six-speed fully-automatic planetary gearbox with integral retarder.

Designed for heavy duty applications, the PT2106 offers smooth gearchanges without interruption in power delivery in both automatic and manual modes. Smooth start-ups and good traction, even on gradients and demanding terrain are possible thanks to the electronic gear selection and torque amplifier with automatic lock up.

South Gloucestershire Council’s eleven new Volvo FMX snowploughs

Drum brakes were also specified to reduce maintenance costs in the aggressive winter maintenance environment. The FMXs are expected to have an eight-year operational life with South Gloucestershire Council before being sold on, says Owen Jenkins.

The bodywork is by ECON and the FMX 6x4s are equipped with nine cubic metre Salt Spreading Bodies complete with the company’s Low Throw Distributor. The FMX 4x4s have six cubic metre ECON Salt Spreading Bodies and Low Throw Distributor. All the Volvos are fitted with the latest ECON SPARGO Gritter management system.

According to Owen Jenkins, the FMXs are only loaded with enough grit to treat the route each one is working on. To further cut down on the possibility for wastage and maintain legal axle weights during operation, Red Forge weigh cells are also fitted. The FMX snowplough drivers work a three shift system to ensure they remain fully within drivers’ hours regulations, reports Owen.

Drivers, staff and Council mechanics’ input to the specification was crucial, says Owen, adding that a comprehensive evaluation programme was carried out by South Gloucestershire Council, including testing of a number of demonstrators.

During the bad weather of the last three winters, South Gloucestershire Council has successfully built a reputation for keeping the roads open and fully functioning, winning a number of awards along the way, including the Association of Public Service Excellence award for most improved Highway and Winter Service 2010. The new FMX gritters and snowploughs are the highest specification yet and will help maintain that excellent position for many years to come.