MainWebMunicipal sweeping is a niche market where many independent sweepers have found a great source of revenue as municipals outsource their sweeping needs. However, some municipal districts maintain their own sweepers in-house. We talked to a few sweeping manufacturers about the trials and tribulations of this area of sweeping.

“Municipalities are under constant pressure to meet shrinking budgets and reduce labor hours while meeting the demands of taxpayers and providing a wide array of services,” says Robert Lamarche, Madvac director of sales and marketing in North America. “Street sweeping draws a tremendous amount of public attention, whether it’s heavy spring clean up (sand, salt and litter) in the snow-laden areas, summer up-keep for light clean up, post storm sweeping and dealing with continuous litter collection in high profile and heavy traffic areas. A juggling act not for the faint of heart.”

Madvac director of sales and marketing in North America Robert Lamarche, Elgin sweeper products manager James Crocket, and Schwarze Regional Sales Manager Raymond Massey share their thoughts on some of the biggest issues affecting municipal sweeping.


“Municipalities were previously in the mode of extending the useful life of their sweepers,” says Crocket. “Recently, the purchase criteria appears to have shifted towards updating their previously exhausted sweeper fleet, which 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.

“In previous years, new sweepers were only purchased to replace existing equipment if needed. This move to less costly alternatives often lead to customers’ ultimate dissatisfaction with the performance of the sweepers when used in the wrong applications, which had a lot to do with the customers’ lack of familiarity with the sweeper technology.

“To meet the new EPA Tier 4 requirements, Elgin Sweeper is developing and deploying green, energy-efficient and low-emissions technology solutions for its street sweepers. A new Pelican® mechanical sweeper, featuring a Tier 4 Interim EcoInfused™ Technology configuration, meets the latest emission levels as well as performance and engine simplicity expectations as current models—without the cost and complexity associated with current emission-level engines. A new Crosswind® regenerative air sweeper featuring “shared power” technology uses an auxiliary sweeper engine, and also shares some of the chassis engine when more sweep power is required. Both new sweeper models recover downhill braking energy into the sweep system.

“Our new EcoInfused™ Technology initiative represents years of success in combining the science of alternative fuels, high-efficiency dust, debris and particulate removal, advanced filtration systems, improved horsepower management and water conservation technology. This provides our municipal and contractor sweeper customers the ability to do more with less.

“In the last two years, there has been a significant trend towards single-engine mechanical sweepers, like our Pelican® and Broom Bear® sweepers. This trend could be attributed to the costs and complexities associated with the U.S. EPA emissions regulations.

“Keeping a municipality’s sweeper fleet running smoothly starts with knowing which types of sweeper technologies are best suited to specific needs in terms of debris removal, maneuverability, transport speed and off-loading requirements. Every city can have both cleaner streets and cleaner air and water by selecting the technology best suited to their specific street and debris conditions.”


Meanwhile, the team at MadVac has experienced several trends during the past 15 years. “Capital, operation, maintenance as well as labor have been mainstays for decades,” says Lamarche. “Fairly new to the game are: the high sensitivity to fuel costs, type of fuels (bio-diesel, particular mixes or CNG), particulate emissions from unit vacuum exhausts, fleet downsizing, and even the use of water is now on the table. These realities are driving municipalities to optimize collection by fine-tuning efforts and re-thinking equipment use and applications.

“The niche quality of the MadVac line-up lends itself to meeting innovative ideas and offers the ability to confront both the new and older trends. A few examples of the newer trends we’ve been successful wrestling with are listed below, many of which originated from our client base. Our seasoned MadVac team is often called upon to offer solutions for customers with specific challenges and ideas.

High fuel costs, labor, water conservation

“Smaller more efficient equipment like our LS and LR series units offer a much lower capital cost, slashed fuel and maintenance and lower classes of licensing for operators, all adding up to huge savings. A smaller unit will not perform as a large unit for spring clean up and heavy sand collection, but is ideal for maintenance to collect litter, leaves, cigarette butts, bottles, paper, etc. This material is typically within a foot of the curb, easy to collect, plus the vacuum-only units do not require the use of water. Municipalities now welcome units with specific collection qualities versus the large ‘one-size-fits-all remedy.’ In addition to reduced costs, they’re much more nimble operating in traffic, are much quieter, boast added accessibility to tight areas, and speed of collection, to name a few.

Increased particulate and water regulations

“Our global clientele has driven us to deal with vacuum exhaust emissions aggressively. Known as the ‘zero dust’ solution, Madvac units offer a huge advantage for municipalities around the globe that are experiencing tighter regulations regarding air quality and particulates. Our vacuum exhaust is the only one on the market filtered with a two micron membrane resulting in purification that’s better then the air filter in your automobile. To address the use and shortage of water in many areas our ‘vacuum only’ units do not use any water at all. These are two significant challenges that municipalities now have a solution for.

Flexibility of fuel type (cost and air quality)

“Many municipalities are facing fuel costs and air quality head on by converting fleets to CNG as seen in public transportation, solid waste collection and even public works service vehicles. We’re also sensitive to the demand and have several models available that are CNG powered. This is yet another tool for the public sector to be innovative and meet air quality demands and disruption in heavy traffic areas.

“The examples above have all been driven by the new and more conventional challenges faced by the municipal sector. Even the task of defining the optimum equipment design for collection of particular street debris is another ingredient in the mix. Our experience indicates that the challenges are truly a work in progress and being addressed on a daily basis as budgets and regulations continue to be dynamic.”


“Pricing,” says Massey. “New emission changes have by far been the biggest challenge for the past several years. These changes have not only affected the price of the sweepers, but also the following: The length of the total units which have a direct impact on maneuverability of the machines; increased fuel consumption therefore increasing total cost of operation; increased maintenance costs due to the DPF’s; and increased costs due to the addition of the DEF systems on some chassis.

“Schwarze is constantly looking for feedback on ways to enhance our products from both private contractor and governmental department customers who are using our units. We even expanded our engineering department and R&D team. We also added product managers to gather customer feedback and act as the liaison between the customer, sales, engineering and manufacturing to capture these ideas and concerns and provide solutions.

“The new advanced Schwarze M6 Avalanche with the quick change conveyer/elevator for instance is one of our solutions to combat higher prices.

“More than ever before, it is important to choose a versatile and long-lasting sweeper. Multi-configuration sweepers like the M6 Avalanche with its interchangeable elevator system that easily changes from squeegee to belt conveyer has become even more popular. This versatility is what customers are asking for in an effort to reduce their capital spending and stretch their money as far as they can.

“For example, a large city in Texas recently purchased these M6 Avalanche sweepers. One with a belt conveyer and the other with a squeegee conveyer, plus replacement squeegee and belt conveyers to give them the opportunity to switch each machine’s conveyor based on the application at hand.

“Doing so allowed them to purchase two machines instead of four to cover their needs thus reducing their costs. Using the Schwarze exclusive quick change conveyer system gives Schwarze the upper hand in many sales and is a perfect example of the benefits of the M6 Avalanche design.

“Ease of service is another big advantage on the M6 Avalanche. Service tasks that may have taken hours before now can be diagnosed and completed in minutes. This greatly reduces repair costs and sweeper downtime.

“Mechanical street sweepers are still utilized as the primary street sweeper type by municipalities. As you know, broom sweepers are very good at picking up debris in any weather condition and can dig into and remove hard packed dirt and mud.

“The Schwarze® M6 Avalanche™ offers both types of conveyers for two types of sweeping jobs. Both configurations require less power than regenerative air and vacuum sweepers.
Belt Conveyer
Able to pick up large debris
(plastic bottles, cans, branches)
Able to pick up wet/matted and large amount of leaves
better than other sweepers.
Effective at “digging into” and removing packed dirt
from roadway

Squeegee Conveyer
Effective for wet/matted leaves and digging/sweeping packed dirt
Excellent at sweeping millings and coarse sand.
Normal daily build up on roads

No matter which trend or problem affects your city the most, Massey reminds us, “We simply can’t afford to damage the environment by not sweeping debris from streets, roads and curbs.” This is an important factor to keep in mind, along with the EPA’s new requirements, when talking with city leaders and decision makers.

Story by Jennifer Taylor