Street sweepers probably don’t get the glory they deserve. Odds are, most people don’t recognize the serious health hazards sweepers prevent by maintaining clean streets. For that reason, street sweepers are an important part of many fleets. Like any fleet vehicle, maintenance is an essential part of delivering quality service while keeping a cap on costs.
Extending sweeper brush life is part and parcel to street sweeper maintenance. Sweeper Products Manager Brian Giles for Elgin Sweeper offers his "dos and don’ts" for sweeper brush care.
1. Don’t Buy Cheap Brooms.
While at first blush, it might seem buying inexpensive brooms is a great deal; however, Giles says you get what you pay for. Bargain brooms all too often offer short brush life and ultimately aren’t worth the cheaper price.
"Since sweeper brooms are a consumable commodity, someone is always willing to sell for less. The cost of a broom is dependent on the quality and amount of the filament. Reducing either of these will lower the cost, but it will also increase the wear rate," he said. "I have personally witnessed bargain flat steel filament brooms that broke off most of the filaments prior to wearing the filaments to the replacement length."
With any purchase in an open market, there is a delicate balance between laying down minimal cash and getting a quality product. For example, investing a little extra in a quality broom results in longer brush life and better service on the streets.
"They may cost more up-front, but they save big in the long run," Giles said.
2. Make Sure All Broom Linkages are in Serviceable Condition.
Just as keeping tires properly inflated can reduce gas mileage, keeping linkages in good working order can reduce wear on sweeper brushes. A little upkeep goes a long way and can save dollars spent on replacements.
"The linkage that allows the brooms to follow the road contour must be properly maintained," Giles said. "If this linkage becomes worn or begins to stick, excessive broom wear can occur."
Regularly checking broom linkages is a small time investment that can yield big savings on replacement brushes.
3. Don’t Use Excessive Down Pressure.
The most common cause of prematurely worn-out brushes is allowing more downward pressure on the brooms than necessary — or, in industry speak, "excessive down pressure." The extra friction created when brushes make too much contact with the street cause filaments to wear at a faster rate. Making sure the right amount of pressure is applied can reduce extra wear and tear.
4. Use the Proper Angle Setting of the Broom.
Another source of premature wear is an incorrect angle setting of the side broom.
"If the forward and outward tilt angle is not correctly adjusted, the broom may require excessive contact pressure to function or have too many filaments in contact with the street surface," Giles said. Ensuring operators adjust brooms to the correct angle will help extend the life of the brush.
5. Don’t Skimp on Productivity Features and Options.
Many street sweepers offer features that help the operator avoid excessive down pressure and adjust to the proper angle without affecting productivity. According to Giles, these features are worth the investment. "Modern, high-end sweepers have accurate in-cab adjustments that allow the operator to use only enough pressure to get the job done without having to leave the operator’s seat or slow down the sweeper," he said. "Options such as in-cab side broom tilt allow operators to adjust the broom angle from inside the cab to reach deep curb debris without the need to use excessive down pressure."
6. Train Before Putting Them on the Road.
Unnecessary wear caused by excessive down pressure and improper broom tilt can be prevented by teaching drivers how to adjust the sweeper brush to the right settings.
"Operators and maintenance staff should learn what pavement surface contact pressure and what side broom angle adjustment is most effective for the required sweeping application," Giles said. "Most sweeper manufacturers provide very detailed instructions on setting brooms for optimum sweeping performance."
Ultimately, the upkeep of any machine comes down to the people who use and care for it. Getting your staff the proper training and teaching them good operating and maintenance habits can make a world of difference when it comes to extending street sweeper life.