Almost 4,000 gritters are tackling the wintery conditions currently sweeping across the UK.
The Met Office has issued a red warning for extreme weather in Scotland, with a second day of heavy snow causing major disruption on the road network.
RAC Foundation analysis of DVLA data shows there are 3,854 gritting vehicles licensed in the UK – with 3,238 of those based in England, 431 in Scotland, 105 in Wales and 64 in Northern Ireland.
The analysis also shows there are 335 dedicated snow ploughs: 236 in England; 72 in Scotland and 27 in Wales (no figures for Northern Ireland).
The RAC Foundation says most of the vehicles will be owned by – or operated on behalf of – councils to clear local roads. However, a significant number will be deployed to keep facilities, such as airports, operating.
Last November Highways England announced it had more than 500 salt-spreading vehicles, together with 280,000 tonnes of salt – enough to cover 610,000 miles of motorway (or the entire 1,896-mile English motorway network 322 times).
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Many lessons have been learned by highway managers since the appalling winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11 caught them on the hop.
“But although we can take some comfort from the fact that the stockpiles of salt and grit are much higher this winter, and that there are thousands of specialised vehicles ready to do the spreading, highway authorities faced with the ‘beast from the east’ have had to use their judgement to prioritise key routes and try to stay ahead of the weather.
“As many drivers will know this hasn’t always been possible.
“Even with the scale of the gritting fleet poised for deployment it would be unrealistic to expect every road to be kept clear of snow and ice at all times, so motorists need to be on their guard and, if the snowfall is as deep as some forecasters predict, be ready to ask themselves the question ‘is my journey really necessary?’”