Common Problems

Problems with residential street sweeping are usually one of the following;

1: Did not show up
2: Missed my street
3: Creating dust
4: Unsafe operation
5: Not using water for cleaning
6: Smeared mud/algae on the street (staining)

1: Did not show up. 

We hear this quite often when managers call for a proposal.  We’re not sure why our industry has this problem because showing up on the scheduled day is pretty easy if you don’t overbook and have back-up equipment.

Of course Murphy’s law says that there will be a day you are heading down the freeway to that last job and get a blow-out.  Traffic being what it is, even sending a back-up won’t get you there in time.  In this rare instance the property manager should expect a call from the sweeping company.  Knowing the details before a homeowner calls diffuses any problems.

One misunderstanding we do get once in a while is many people forget that the 1st & 3rd Wednesday is not the same as every other Wednesday.  Also, the city streets outside the gates may get swept weekly, whereas the HOA is only twice or once per month.

2: Missed my street.

Even sweeping thousands of miles per month, this is pretty rare for us.  If it does happen, we want to know about it and will take immediate action.

Usually this problem is rephrased to “I haven’t seen the sweeper in weeks”.  Assuming you know the schedule, since the truck may pass by a residence in under 5 seconds, it’s easy to miss.

If the street is dirty only on your side or just in front of your house,  check for the tell tale sweeper markings on the pavement.  Has the sweeper gone around a parked car or are trees overhanging the gutter?

3: Creating dust 

Many small parking lot sweepers are manufactured without a water dust control system.  Others exhaust air out the top to increase suction.  The solution is to use only full-size street sweepers with water dust control systems and enough power to avoid exhausting air out the top.

4: Unsafe operation

This is a major concern for us and our customers.  For our part we hire only drug tested operators with good DMV records.  We also give our drivers over 100 hours of supervised training, continuing weekly safety training and random surprise evaluations.  All of our trucks are tracked in real-time via GPS.

All of our trucks are equipped with gutter brooms on both sides and two steering wheels.  This is the only way a sweeper can safely sweep the same direction as traffic flow.  The next time you back out of your driveway or come to an intersection, imagine the sweeper sweeping the curb going the wrong way!  Definitely not what I want in my neighborhood.

5: Not using water for cleaning

This is without a doubt the number one misconception about street sweepers.  Except for some very specialized “scrubbers” in Europe, street sweepers only use water for dust control.  The water put out by sweepers is not designed for, nor does it do any cleaning.

Those sweepers you remember in the 60’s & 70’s that left the familiar water trail….just dust control. 

6: Smeared mud/algae on the street (staining)

This is by far the most common sweeping complaint for private communities.  The problem is, it’s not really a sweeping issue at all.  A sweeping contractor can send a $140,000 sweeper, operated by the world’s best driver, make 100 passes down the street and if there is mud and algae in the gutter, some staining will occur. The constant trickle of water from residential landscaping into the gutters can only be solved by the residents themselves.

Thankfully the 80/20 rule applies.  Only about 20% of the residents typically cause 80% of the problem.  Inform the 20% how they are affecting their downstream neighbors and the problem becomes manageable.

Because virtually all private communities have automatic landscape timers and most have cored sidewalks allowing the backyards to drain to the street, below are a number of tools to help residents, board members and property managers address this problem.