Kees Kuipers is Coordinator Regional Administration at the Province of Groningen and as such heads a team of de-icers. Every winter he and two other coordinators ensure optimal ice monitoring of the provincial roads of Groningen. Since 2018 they do this in consultation with the meteorologists of Infoplaza. “Together we stick as closely to the truth as possible. To us that is important.”
As a road-ice coordinator you have to be able to rely on the advice of the meteorologists.
In the past the province signed contracts with weather stations based on the lowest price. Until they started talking to Olaf Sueters at Infoplaza, in 2018. The 24/7 monitoring and the personal contact with meteorologists paved the way for a close collaboration between the province and Infoplaza to ensure road users a safe journey in winter.
The decisive factor for Kuipers and his team was the 24/7 monitoring. Road Ice Support users, apart from using colour codes based on the road ice reporting system can rely on the meteorologists’ advice, day and night. Kuipers explains: “With that connection to or contact with the meteorologists feeling is involved. In the beginning of an intense collaboration you are exploring. Us coordinators eventually have to decide whether or not we are going to salt. You have to able to rely on the advice Infoplaza issues, because ultimately we take final responsibility.”
Trust was won through open communication between both parties. Kuipers and his colleagues visited Infoplaza’s headquarters in Houten and after a year they evaluated. Kuipers: “What I like, is that we catch up before every road ice season – because during a few months you don’t talk at all. So every fall we notify Infoplaza of, for instance, new salting routes or measure points. And the other way around: when Infoplaza has implemented, say, a new road surface model, they inform us.”
Do not salt for the sake of salting
In Groningen they know ice meteorologists Michiel, Alfred, Maarten and Marco by now. But having a good connection is not enough during road ice season. According to the ice coordinator from Groningen it mainly evolves around the expertise of the ice meteorologists. “It is very easy to say: it will be slippery, go out and salt. But it doesn’t work that way. You always have to ascertain if it is truly necessary. Alfred Snoek indicated this beautifully during his masterclass last February. If you can spare salting, do it! It saves costs and is better for the environment. This is how I look at things as well. Trying together to stick as closely to the truth as possible. That is very important to us.”
In the winter of 20/21 there was a warning for black ice and code red was issued for a big part of The Netherlands. Kuipers says that when it comes to black ice it is always important to know what this means for his province. At moments like that his team needs background information from a meteorologist who can tell if the temperature in his area possibly will go up. “This can vary per province or even per municipality.”
Precipitation and wind are also deciding factors for the de-icers’ salt spreaders to head out. “When precipitation is forecasted for after 8 PM, we never salt. The salt will be washed away before morning traffic hits. Our drivers also need to take wind and potentially wind direction into account when salting the roads. Wind speed and direction is something we discuss with the meteorologists, before we roll out.”