|At a glance|
Sweeper manufacturers identified trends in the industry:
Over the last few years, street sweeper technology has evolved. That means fleet managers have more choices to make when adding new assets to their fleets. Do they need a larger water tank, or are they going waterless? Is diesel fuel the way to go, or will they switch to CNG? Mechanical broom, regenerative air, or pure vacuum?
With so many choices at hand, fleet managers have the latitude to be very specific about their needs for a sweeper — and as a result, new buying trends have emerged. Three leading sweeper companies offered an inside view on all the latest developments and what fleet managers today are looking for in a street sweeper.
Looking for Versatility
When most people think “street sweeper,” they likely think sweepers clean one surface: a street. While that’s logical, fleets know it’s not as simple as that. Your streets could be flat or hilly, smooth or rough, full of potholes or newly laid — all in a single route. And what your sweeper picks up will vary, too, from fine dust to larger debris. That debris may vary depending on season, from leaves and sticks to salt and sand.
This wide array of demands leaves fleets to decide whether to purchase a number of different sweepers designed for each specific task or to find a versatile sweeper that can handle multiple requirements. With limited budgets, fleets are increasingly buying sweepers that can handle it all.
“At Elgin Sweeper, we’re seeing an increase in the purchase of sweepers offering added versatility to tackle multiple applications,” said James Crockett, sweeper products manager, Elgin Sweeper. “For example, single-engine mechanical sweepers like the Pelican and Broom Bear sweepers from Elgin Sweeper are preferred based on their ability to quickly pick up bulky debris — and in greater quantity — in one pass.”
Raymond Massey, regional sales manager at Schwarze Industries, sees versatility as a growing trend as well. “More than ever before it will become more important to choose a versatile, long-lasting sweeper,” he said. “Multi-configuration sweepers like the M6 Avalanche will become even more popular. The need for more than one kind of model sweeper to tackle a range of different surfaces will be a thing of the past.”
At TYMCO Inc., this means increased interest in regenerative air sweepers. “More and more people are choosing regenerative air. This technology can tackle the vast majority of all street sweeping tasks and does it in the most environmentally conscious way,” said Bryan Young, regional manager. “It is also important to note that of the three technologies, it has a proven track record for having the lowest overall cost of ownership, which is very important to fleet managers.”
Versatility also extends to the time of day a sweeper is used. For fleets that operate at night, quieter sweepers are growing in popularity. “Quieter sweepers are becoming the norm,” Massey said. “Technology like the Schwarze Whisperwheel fan system...allows Schwarze sweepers to be utilized at night without being a nuisance to the residents.”
Opting for versatility has also led to another emerging trend: buying for application rather than lowest price. “It’s important to remember that there isn’t just one sweeper technology,” Crockett noted. “There are three core technologies: mechanical, regenerative, and pure vacuum. The most recent customer purchases of sweepers have shifted back to application-based purchases — as opposed to lowest bid. Customers are increasingly buying sweepers that are best suited to their specific sweeping needs.”
Waterless Models Becoming Popular in Cold Climates
Water is another trending topic in the sweeper world.
Waterless sweepers have become increasingly popular among fleets located in colder environments. These models allow them to clean year-round without the worry of frozen tanks.
“We have seen a growing awareness of waterless dust control sweeping technology. Waterless sweeping is often considered because of its environmentally friendly attributes, combined with the ability to perform year-round sweeping regardless of weather,” Crockett said. “Waterless sweepers also have the ability to perform both bulky sweeping and picking up fine [particles] on the streets — it allows you to essentially do the work of two sweepers with one machine. Waterless sweepers, like the Pelican and Eagle sweepers from Elgin Sweeper, are also able to extend productivity because they don’t require any water for dust suppression.”
While waterless sweeping is emerging as a trend, those who continue to use models with water tanks are looking for more water capacity so they can clean for longer periods of time.
“Water continues to be a hot topic and customers are looking for maximum water capacity to reduce refilling times and thus sweeper downtime,” said Joe Hendrickson, sales operations manager, Schwarze.
Even though larger tanks are desirable for some fleets, water conservation remains a concern.
“The efficient TYMCO Regenerative Air System uses less water for dust control due to our multi-stage dust separation processes and proper water placement. Our engineers take several aspects into account when designing for better dust control such as water nozzle design and air flow direction and velocity, not just adding more water,” commented Tom Rokas, inside sales at TYMCO. “The inherent design for conserving water while providing excellent dust control also allowed our sweepers to pass the South Coast Air Quality Management District [AQMD] Rule 1186 standard for excellent dust and PM10 control.”
Fleets Shifting to Increased Lifecycles
Sweepers are expensive assets, and with tighter budgets over the last five years, fleets are shifting their focus from replacing units to maintaining them better and keeping them longer.
“Owners are extending the replacement cycle of sweepers in order to delay the cost of replacement,” Hendrickson noted. “Good maintenance and customer support have become very important.”
Hendrickson’s colleague Brian Giles, Schwarze product manager, has noticed the same trend. “We continue to see longer and longer life cycles and smaller fleets,” he said. “What used to be 5 to 7 years is now easily 10. Value has become so important in the purchase of equipment. These days cost of ownership means more than purchase price. Productivity, extended warranty, and quality products all provide value.”
To help fleets keep their sweepers in good working order, sweeper companies have done their part to make them easier to maintain.
“Schwarze has made vast improvements in ease of general maintenance to its sweepers, especially its mechanical sweepers,” said Greg Heyer, vice president of sales, marketing, customer service, and product management. “Service tasks that may have taken hours before now can be done in mere minutes.”
Nevertheless, Crockett suggests regular maintenance practices to his customers. “Daily sweeper upkeep, such as washing, servicing, and inspection of the sweeping components, is an integral part of any sweeper’s care and longevity. A clean sweeper is easier to work on and failures are easier to see when service is performed each day,” he said.
“Too many times, sweepers are not cared for in a responsible manner. The longer the equipment neglect goes unresolved, the worse the sweeper performance. Routine inspections and adjustments are required to keep a sweeper fleet on the road sweeping and out of the garage.”
Costas Cordonis, Schwarze warranty and training administrator, agrees.
“A good preventive maintenance program is still the best cost-benefit value to your sweeper. Every sweeping municipality should have a program in place to catch any loose parts, misalignments, vibrations, etc., early on,” he said. “If you haven’t started a preventive maintenance program for your sweepers, start one today. Involve your operators in the concept and make sure they understand the manual. With a good preventive maintenance program, many sweeper woes can be stopped before they start.”
At TYMCO, extending life cycles starts with understanding how to operate the sweeper, so the company offers in-person training and educational videos. “Service technicians and operators need to understand their sweeper completely, so they can get optimal performance from their equipment investment. That’s why, for more than 25 years, TYMCO has offered scheduled two-day service training schools at our manufacturing facility in Waco, Texas,” Rokas said. “When operators and mechanics are thoroughly trained and knowledgeable about their sweeper, sweeper owners will realize better performance and a lower cost per operating hour.”
Staying in Compliance with Emissions Laws
Although the trend overall has been to extend sweeper life cycles, some fleets must purchase new assets to remain compliant with state and federal laws.
“Some municipalities that were previously in the mode of extending the useful life of their sweepers have shifted their purchasing criteria toward updating their previously exhausted sweeper fleet,” Crockett said. “This could be due to the pending transition from U.S. EPA Tier 3 emissions to U.S. EPA Tier 4 interim/final across all horsepower categories found on street sweepers. This perceived buyer mode was most prominent with mechanical sweepers, due to their lower cost of ownership, but was still apparent across all types of sweeper technologies.”
Over at Schwarze, Jim Adair, product manager, is seeing the same thing. “We are all starting to see the low-emission Tier 4 engines. Even though the cost has increased considerably, the exhaust from these engines has never been cleaner,” he said. “In some cases the air going into the engine is dirtier than the exhaust coming out. These electronic engines are more fuel efficient and cleaner burning to meet the new EPA emission standards.”
But the new sweepers aren’t just compliant. Bobby Johnson, vice president, marketing at TYMCO says they’re more user-friendly, too.
“Interim Tier 4 (IT4) engine standards required us to review how we were designing and organizing components to make sure we would meet IT4 engine requirements,” he said. “This evaluation process presented us the opportunity to make significant enhancements that positively affect both operators and service technicians.”
Rather than purchasing new, some fleets look to the used market for compliant units. Giles cautions them against this strategy. “We have to stress that if you’re looking to buy used sweepers you need to be careful before you choose to put your money in an older machine,” he said.
“Equipment owners looking to purchase older sweepers should be aware that some states are considering enacting emissions regulations that are more stringent than the EPA requirements. Municipalities are starting to require meeting these stricter guidelines to participate in the bidding process for government purchases and contracts.”
Choosing Alternative Fuels
As with passenger vehicles, more and more fleets are giving alternative fuels a try. Sweeper companies have responded with alt-fuel technology.
“The sweeper industry is starting to offer more sweepers with alternative fuel configurations, and the chassis OEMs are making a more conscious effort to provide turnkey CNG-ready chassis straight from the factory,” Crockett said. “The auxiliary engines Elgin Sweeper has integrated into our sweepers range from alternative fuel to biodiesel [B-5 up to B-20]. Elgin Sweeper offers single-engine, three-wheel sweeper, four-wheel mechanical, and regenerative CNG sweepers.”
Giles has seen the trend toward CNG spread inward from the coasts. “CNG has grown popular beyond the traditional areas of Southern California and some areas in the Northeast. We are now seeing interest in Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, and various other areas of the U.S. as more fueling stations become available,” he said. “We expect continued growth in the sales of our alternative-fuel sweepers as more cities and regions require alternative fuels be used.”
At TYMCO, production of CNG sweepers is at an all-time high. “TYMCO is manufacturing more CNG-powered sweepers than ever due to increased interest nationwide,” Johnson said. “This is due in part to continued emphasis on using environmentally sustainable fuel sources and a more developed infrastructure that supports CNG equipment.”
Adair said fiscal reasons also fuel the drive toward CNG. “The cost of CNG is around 20% less than diesel, and various funding is available through state and federal agencies, and private grants,” he offered. “Plus, owners of a Schwarze alternative-fuel sweeper can get a sizeable tax rebate from the federal government for properly registered products.”
More Choices Equal Better Sweeper Quality
To meet the demand for all the varying needs fleets have of street sweepers, sweeper companies have worked hard to continually develop their models. As a result, advances in technology have jumped over the last few years, making the jobs of drivers — and fleet managers — easier in the long run.
“It’s amazing how sweeper technology has evolved over the years,” Massey said. “Sweepers have become so much more powerful, better built, and easy to operate, which all equates to better productivity and less maintenance.”
Choosing the Right Sweeper
The latest purchasing trends are a good indicator of the smart choices fleets make when purchasing new street sweepers. But, every fleet’s needs will be different, so Joe Hendrickson, Schwarze’s sales operations manager, suggests a little self-reflection, too. “The advice we give to fleet managers is take the time to evaluate your sweeping program,” he said. “Talk to an industry professional to discuss the right equipment for your sweeping program needs.”
Our experts suggest reviewing these items prior to purchase:
- State and federal regulations, such as stormwater and air quality regulations
- Number of curb miles maintained per day/week/month
- Which types of surfaces need to be swept
- What types of debris needs to be removed
- Maneuverability required
- Transport speed
- Off-loading requirements
“You can have both cleaner streets and cleaner air and water by selecting the technology best suited to your specific street and debris conditions,” James Crockett, Elgin’s sweeper products manager, said. “Knowing which types of sweeper technologies are best suited to your particular needs will help your fleet run smoothly.”
A Guide to Sweeper Technology
Need to brush up on sweeper types? James Crockett, Elgin’s sweeper products manager, offers a quick summary of the three core sweeper technologies.
Mechanical Broom Sweepers
- Ideal for tough road conditions, including sweeping construction debris and granular materials like millings, gravel, and the heavy build-up encountered after flooding or during yearly spring cleanup
- Effective for sweeping large amounts of debris ranging in size from fine dust particles to heavy sand, millings, and large, bulky objects
- Burn the least amount of fuel compared to other sweeper types
- Available on a special, purpose-built chassis for maneuverability, so well-suited for congested, urban environments
- Typically do not exceed speeds of 20 mph
- Most common type of sweeper in the U.S.
Regenerative Air Sweepers
- Closed loop air stream with no venting or exhaust
- Typically used for municipal applications on streets, parking lots, and alleyways
- Most versatile technology for picking up typical street debris like heavy dirt, rocks, sand, leaves and trash
- Environmentally friendly
- Lowest overall cost of ownership
- Second most common type of sweeper in the U.S.
Pure Vacuum Sweepers
- Operates like a giant vacuum cleaner
- Ideal for street gutter cleaning
- Operates well on rough, pot-holed roadways
- Most efficient removal of material directly under the suction nozzles, typically resulting in up to a 99% removal of all particles
- Rely on water to clean the air stream before being exhausted to the atmosphere
- Least popular in the U.S.
- Jim Adair, product manager, Schwarze
- Costas Cordonis, warranty and training administrator, Schwarze
- James Crockett, sweeper products manager, Elgin Sweeper
- Brian Giles, product manager, Schwarze
- Joe Hendrickson, sales operations manager, Schwarze
- Greg Heyer, vice president of sales, marketing, customer service & product management, Schwarze
- Bobby Johnson, vice president, marketing, TYMCO Inc.
- Raymond Massey, regional sales manager, Schwarze
- Tom Rokas, inside sales, TYMCO Inc.
- Bryan Young, regional manager, TYMCO Inc.