A precaution that ensures productivity, and profit

By Jeff Winke

Curiosity is good. It can lead to interesting useful information and sometimes to information that veers off the topic being researched.

Google the word “sweepers” and “street sweepers” with the intent of deepening an understanding of the equipment asphalt paving contractors rely on for the cleaning of a milled and paving jobsite and the Streetsweeper shotgun will appear on the search list. The Striker-12/Streetsweeper has a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter and is not generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes. Therefore, it is classified as a destructive device for purposes of the National Firearms Act and is likely not a part of a paving contractor’s equipment list. If it does appear on a contractor’s equipment list, it may bode well to steer clear of the contractor.

Generally, there are three different types of street sweepers: mechanical sweepers, vacuum sweepers, and regenerative air sweepers. Maintaining street sweeper machines requires that they be cleaned and inspected on a regular basis.

“Regular, or preventative, maintenance includes cleaning and lubricating the equipment after every use,” stated Sean Brunger, sales manager strategic products for Aebi Schmidt North America, Inc., Chilton, Wisconsin. “For example, our equipment features options to make both of these easier for users. Sweepers are equipped with on-board pressure washers for cleaning the debris hopper. It’s important to clean the hopper to prevent dirt accumulation, which can negatively affect the sweeping performance. Our sweepers also come with a central lubrication system for lubricating the grease points.”

Maintenance requirements can vary depending on the type of sweeper and the manufacturer.

“We manufacture pure vacuum, mechanical, and regenerative air sweepers, and offer truck mounted and compact sweepers so the maintenance varies per specific machine,” said Matt Starnes, product marketing manager with Bucher Municipal North America Inc., Mooresville, North Carolina. “For our mechanical machines, it is important to maintain the elevator flights – both the elevator drive chain and flight chains. Other maintenance items are the hydraulic reservoir and, of course, make sure to change filters. The number one wear item is the gutter brooms. Making sure the lubrication system is running smoothly is critical in a mechanical sweeper. This is also true of the water filter cleaning. Also, depending on the chassis you should follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.”

Today, most sweepers are engineered and manufactured to be reliable and dependable, but that only occurs if proper upkeep happens.

“All of our sweepers have a label with recommended maintenance schedules on the machine itself,” stated Tim Letts, product manager, Elgin Sweeper Co., Elgin, Illinois. “This helps take the guesswork out of routine maintenance, like daily checks, that are required. Beyond these labels, one of the benefits of our equipment is an established dealer network that provides service and parts for the life of the sweeper. We also offer tons of free trainings for both operators and maintainers, so all the proper individuals know the specific maintenance for that particular sweeper.”

Routine or regular maintenance of sweeping equipment appears to be the key recommendation from the machine manufacturers.

“Our sweepers, both the mechanical broom sweepers and the regenerative air sweepers, require routine maintenance to ensure optimal performance,” stated Brandon Loncar, vice president, Stewart-Amos Equipment Co., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “This includes:

  • Engine maintenance: regular checks and changes of oil, air filter, and coolant
  • Fluid and filter maintenance: regular checks of hydraulic and fuel filters, hydraulic oil, and fuel levels
  • Sweeping hood maintenance: it’s important to check the condition of the sweeping hood and skirts regularly
  • Broom maintenance: broom wear should be checked often, and brooms replaced as necessary
  • Lubrication: all bearings and friction points require regular greasing
  • Seal replacement: regular checks for leaks and timely replacement of seals
  • Regular inspections and adjustments: these are necessary to ensure that all parts are functioning optimally
  • Cleanliness: after each use, it’s crucial to clean the sweepers to prevent degradation, corrosion, and wear. We offer an optional power wash system to help make this task easier and more efficient.”

“There are various maintenance activities that should be carried out to ensure proper upkeep of the sweeper,” Letts said. “Some of these are daily, such as washing, greasing of bearings and other joints along with visual inspection, while others should be conducted at regular intervals, such as ensuring linkages are in good working order. While all maintenance work is important, it is especially important in the beginning of your ownership. I say this because it will help get into the routine of regular maintenance, but also because sweepers, like many other types of equipment, have break in periods. Changing fluids and checking on wear components during these initial hours sets the machine up for proper operation in the future. We recommend training for maintaining, so the proper checks are performed regularly to help extend the sweeper’s life.”

Extending equipment life makes good business sense. Sweeper maintenance can keep a vital piece of equipment functioning at its best.

“It’s also important to do a regular inspection of brooms and brushes,” stated Brunger. “Ensure that the brooms are adjusted for optimum sweeping… they may need adjusting due to use and wear. Additionally, brushes – or the broom bristles – need to be replaced as specified or when they can no longer achieve the correct sweeping pattern to clean efficiently. Additionally, maintaining clean filters and keeping proper fluid levels will help to ensure the sweeper stays in top working condition.”

Manufacturers agree that having a good preventative maintenance program is the best cost-benefit value for keeping a sweeper productive. The experts seem to agree that every sweeping contractor and municipality should have a program in place to catch any loose parts, misalignments, vibrations, or other issues early on.

“A regular maintenance program can improve your bottom line,” Starnes said. “The purpose of the preventative maintenance program and following a maintenance schedule is that it can reduce or eliminate downtime. We’ve found by performing regular maintenance you can avoid costly repairs from non-maintained equipment and keep your sweeper investment…sweeping. Also, when your sweeper is well maintained and can contribute to your sweeping program you have less calls or complaints from residents about dirty or hazardous streets.”

To conclude, sweeper equipment maintenance makes sense.
Letts offered the following three points as a good summary:

  1. “Simply put, daily checks work. They keep the machine running in optimum condition and can help keep small issues small. Daily checks also help keep the operator in tune with the machine.
  2. Properly setting your brooms before your shift is a best practice and what I consider part of maintenance. Brooms that are properly set ensure that the machine collects debris the way it was designed to operate. When the machine is working as designed, it leads to a healthy life for the sweeper.
  3. The manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule is designed to ensure everything operates as expected. Consider that sweepers and all of the components used on them, undergo vast amounts of testing while being designed; so it is known when things need to be re-greased, changed out, replaced, investigated and everything in between. Manufacturers have seen it during testing and likewise, have seen what happens when the recommended maintenance schedule is not followed.”

Maintenance and cleaning, at the end of the day and week, takes less time than what a contractor may think. Much like preventative car maintenance, a little care now can lead to the longevity of sweeper equipment.