The Scoop on the City Sweep

Municipal SweepingSweeping for a city can be a great way to fill downtime for your trucks, with larger cities taking up to two weeks to sweep and smaller ones taking only a day or two. According to Debbie Jacketta, president of Jacketta Sweeping, cities are great customers. She should know, she sweeps for eight municipals—some of those for the past 15 years.

Never Bring A Knife To A Gun Fight

You can use any analogy you want, but the point is that you need to have the right equipment to do a good job. You don’t want to use your parking lot sweeper to sweep a city’s streets.

“We use the Elgin Crosswind,” says Jacketta. “I like the air trucks for the cities. But, we also have Road Wizards—some cities call and want a broom or a high dump and we’ll use them in those circumstances.”

Jacketta Sweeping has also used Tymco in the past and says that as long as it’s a street sweeper, you’ll be fine.

It’s Not Always What You Know, But Who You Know

Like any business, breaking into municipal sweeping can have a lot to do with introducing yourself and networking with decision makers.

“I’ve had smaller cities call and just ask for a bid over the phone,” says Jacketta. “So, I’ll find out what their needs are. Do they just need you a day, or what? I’ll quote them an hourly price and send them a proposal. I assume they are getting other bids over the phone as well. But, sometimes they are just looking at doing it quickly rather than going through a formal RFP process.”

To get that phone call in the first place, you’ll need to know the right people. “I’m a joiner,” says Jacketta. “I don’t like cold calling, so I joined our local APWA (American Public Works Association) chapter for just $150 and meet people through it.”

She has also gotten a booth at the Utah Asphalt Conference’s Road School to meet new people. “Introduce yourself to the street superintendent and city manager and let them know what kind of equipment you have.”

If you already have a relationship with a paving company, then they might be a good place for you to start as well. Joining a group or setting up a time to meet the mayor and city council members can also be beneficial. “Sometimes you have to come at them from different sides,” says Jacketta. “I think it’s just like anything else—you just have to be there and build relationships. The hard part is when you do that and they put it out to bid, you still might not get the job depending on your competition. When you’ve done the leg work and talked them into contracting in the first place and then still might not get the work, it can be frustrating.”

Other opportunities also exist. Three cities went in together to buy a sweeper. Jacketta Sweeping maintains the sweeper for them and provides the driver. “They have a credit card for fuel. I think they are still paying more than if they had contracted it out, but it is an option for some and we are happy to help them with it.”

Talk The Talk And Walk The Walk

Knowing the ins and outs when you are talking to one of these decision makers will go a long way. You will need liability insurance. Different cities will require different amounts. Jacketta has $5 million in insurance and that has been sufficient for the cities she works with, which range in size from 15,000-20,000 people.

Most cities want you to sweep twice per year—once in the spring and once in the fall. You will want to let them know that you maintain your trucks and what kind of equipment you have. “I’ve been in a situation where someone is bidding against me and they have a really low bid,” says Jacketta. “Part of the process can be to educate the city’s decision makers. Some people come in with a parking lot sweeper. You can talk to the city about what they want out of a sweeper and the difference between broom or air and a parking lot sweeper.”

Speaking of bids, Jacketta says that she typically quotes an hourly rate. “Some cities want a set price, but if we do it by the hour, it is cheaper for them in the long run,” says Jacketta. “They always want to know how much you can sweep in an hour. We can usually sweep 3 or 4 miles in an hour. Others might have a budget or want a fixed price, so we can provide that too.”

One of the things you want to negotiate is water and disposal. Jacketta has been able to get the cities to provide the water and the disposal, but if those are things that you will need to take care of, then you will want to include that in your bid. “I also quote them a regular eight hour day,” says Jacketta. “I let them know up front that we will only sweep for seven of those, because I build in time for the pretrip inspection, travel, and time to dump. Make sure you take into account where the dump site is. Every city I’ve worked with has been okay with that.”

Once you get that contract, whether you’ve gone through an informal process or an RFP, you’ll need to find out when the garbage pick up days are in the different areas. You won’t want to have to work around a garbage truck when you are sweeping. “You’ll also want to find out when their yard opens and closes,” says Jacketta. “They usually tell us when they want us to start and give us a map.”

A Little Customer Service Goes A Long Way

“The cities are usually easy to work with,” says Jacketta. “If a truck breaks down, they say come back tomorrow. Of course, you don’t want to make them wait too long. After it’s swept, I call them back and make sure they are happy. I ask if they need anything touched up, or if there were any complaints, etc.”

Taking care of problems when they arise is always the best policy. “There was a parked car on the street and I had a driver run into the back of it,” recalls Jacketta. “He was going so slow that there didn’t appear to be much damage. The lady came out and my driver gave her $20 for what looked like minor damage. But then her husband got home and they filed a report. My driver didn’t report it to me. So, I was surprised when I got a call from the police department. I had to call my guy in and he denied it at first. But, the city was understanding and we worked it out.”

“They are typically easy jobs,” says Jacketta. “It isn’t hard on the equipment and the hours aren’t long. I wish I had more—they pay well and on time. Everything is a positive.”

Jacketta says they also have times when a resident will see the street sweeper coming but won’t have his car moved until after the sweeper has passed so they chase the driver down to come back.

She tries to keep the same operator working the same city. “That way they get to know the city streets, employees and sometimes even the citizens,” says Jacketta. “One year just before Christmas in one of those cities, a guy came out of his house and told the driver that the neighbors on that street had all pitched in to give him a Christmas present. It was a $100. They wanted him to know that they appreciated him and the job he was doing.”

With all of the positives, you can see why municipal contracting can be a great way to fill any down time you have especially if you already sweep for construction or paving companies and own a street sweeper.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

Resources

For more information:
• Jacketta Sweeping, please call 801-973-6976 or visit www.jackettasweeping.com
• Tymco, please visit www.tymco.com
• Elgin, please visit www.elginsweeper.com

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