Seasonal Impacts on Pavement Sweeping Businesses

Urban pavement sweeping is essential to protect and preserve cities. Keeping paved areas cleaner helps protect residents’ well-being, wildlife, soil and water quality, and broader environmental health. This essential public hygiene practice further helps create a more appealing community with attractive public spaces that promote increased local investment and economic growth. However, in addition to year-round challenges, there are seasonal impacts on sweeping business efficiency to be considered in strategic planning for upcoming quarters.

Spring Sweeping Season

Early springtime can be the hardest on sweepers in northern regions. Picking up large amounts of heavy sand from winter road treatments is a job that only the toughest and best-maintained sweepers should do. Before sending out a sweeper truck for the first time in the spring, inspect and service your components. 

Seals and blowers on air sweepers should be checked. Inspect the dust-control water spray nozzles and tips. Check your water pump too. Check the hydraulic oil and filters, fluid levels, hoses and fittings, etc. Use appropriate grease on plugs and coils to remove the corrosive effects of winter ice and snow, and the salt used on roads, and to protect against future exposure to extreme moisture. A professional tune-up can yield large fuel savings over a year. 

As a good general rule, when in doubt, replace a worn part to avoid a larger and more costly repair later. Have your trucks tuned up too, to adjust your fuel trim and the timing to factory specs. 

TIPS: Bundle orders for brooms, filters, fluids, tires, etc. Also, be sure to ask your vendor for your NAPSA member discount.

Summer Sweeping Season

You might think that with all of your spring seasonal preparation, you should expect to work through the rest of the warm months smoothly. But, the summer months come with their unique difficulties. During the warmest months, there is more blowing sand in many areas and much more dust in most areas of the country. Today’s sweeper trucks are up to the task of clearing up this problem with water application. It reduces the amount of dust circulating in the air from the sweeping process and spreading and settling again over the area. 

Other summer problems for sweepers include the sheer number of people moving around in outdoor public areas. That means more debris is generated, like cigarette butts, snack food packaging, beverage bottles, cans, and cups, and many other forms of litter. It’s strewn everywhere on and around parking lots, commercial lawns, and streets. This presents a serious environmental health challenge and a seasonal operating challenge for pavement sweeping services, especially those that have not prepared their trucks for the strain. 

Depending on the local culture of civic pride or lack of it, human behavior determines how severe the trash problem on the pavement is in the summer season. Communities have their habits of maintaining or abusing their public spaces. So, pavement sweeping and portering practices must be adapted seasonally to meet local needs.

An overlooked and potentially very serious issue in summer months for all businesses is the lethargy and even burnout that so many employees experience during the hottest days, weeks, and months of the year. Measures should be taken by sweeper business owners to mitigate the effects of this problem on workers as it impacts the company’s performance for customers.

Try a combination of strategies, including simply providing cold drinking water in a mini cooler for the road, refreshing fresh fruit snacks, cooling cloths, extra breaks, bonus days off, and company social activities. Also, remember that just thanking people for sticking with it can go a long way to help them stay motivated in tough conditions.

Autumn Sweeping Season

The massive volume of leaves and other fallen foliage covering the area makes the fall an especially challenging season for pavement sweepers. Only trucks with the largest capacity for debris should be sent for this cleanup work. Because the leaves are often wet during the fall, it’s a much bigger challenge to clean them up than in the dry heat of summer. 

That means that sweeper trucks reach their load limits faster and need to be dumped more frequently. Without the right equipment to meet this seasonal challenge, companies struggle to keep up with their service schedules and can find themselves losing market share.

Another special issue in the autumn is the higher winds that blow branches and leaves from trees and trash onto parking lots and roadways, all of which must be cleaned away too. Along with the wet leaves, landscaping debris, and food packaging trash, there may be road salt from county and city treatments due to early weather changes. Combined, these problems make fall a hard season for wear on sweeper truck components. 

Winter Sweeping Season

In winter, the United States, along with the rest of the northern world, must be prepared for darker, colder conditions, snow, ice, and greatly increased car and foot traffic in the holiday months from late November through early January. 

Later winter months of January through early March are the lightest traffic months of the year in the cold winter climate areas of the country, so the emphasis is turned to de-icing and snow removal on parking lots, walkways, and roads. That work requires different equipment and skill sets than summer pavement cleaning services. Serving that winter market extends the opportunity to maximize annual revenues. 

For operators who do continue sweeping services throughout the winter, any time savings due to lower traffic rates are offset by the increased difficulty of functioning in winter conditions. Additionally, the work and cost of maintaining sweeper trucks and parts can escalate during periods when cities are using salt and/or chemical mixes to de-ice public roads.

These combined seasonal elements compound the challenges of outdoor cleaning tasks in winter, including pavement sweeping. They not only make doing the tasks more difficult, they increase the amount of work that needs to be done. More traffic in a public space means more dust, debris, and contaminants, and winter conditions mean more laborious routines to clean it up. The amount of gritty debris on roads and parking lots that must be swept up is often too much for standard sweeper trucks to remove efficiently when thick ice or snow is hardened on the pavement. 

Winter challenges for sweeper operators include human behavior. People in the northern regions of the country tend to stay inside more or travel south. That means they’re generating less debris outside in the north, but people in warmer winter areas, including the northerners vacationing in the southern states, increase the volume of debris dramatically in their winter locations. So, southern operators must expect labor time and other operating costs to rise in the winter travel months. 

Of course, the larger the city’s population, the more debris and contaminants sweeper operators should expect to clean up every day in every season. 

Surface Dressing Season and Leafing Season 

Arguably, sweeper operators can think of two longer sweeping seasons. The first is all the warmer months from late March through October. The second is all the colder months from late October through December.

The first is the so-called surface dressing season, when counties and municipalities are often building and repairing roadways. During these processes, road workers apply bitumen to bind gravel and other aggregates to form solid layers from the particles. Loose chips must be swept away to prevent the risk of skidding for motorists. Naturally, this kind of sweeping process causes very hard wear on sweeper trucks assigned to the construction cleanup. The bitumen is also tracked to nearby parking lots, increasing the cleaning challenge and sweeper equipment wear there too.

Big Picture of Seasonal Sweeping Challenges 

Of course, seasonal challenges for pavement sweepers vary from state to state, depending on the latitude, elevation and other topography, geology, industry, population, economics, and culture, among other factors in any given service area. For example, flat land at low elevations may present higher effluent issues, whereas steep hills at higher locations may mean struggles for sweeper engines, braking systems, etc., and more stress for drivers. Seasonally higher traffic volume may necessitate more frequent sweeping. Nearby construction, commerce, or wooded sites probably accumulate more debris than largely residential areas. 

You will get better outcomes, improved efficiency, and save costs overall with better quality equipment and a more professional staff. Choose a sweeper designed for the size of the area you need to service and the type of material you need to remove. For example, get heavy-duty brushes for sweeping in gravel, sand, etc. Get more durable equipment for managing heavy traffic areas. 

Buy equipment built to perform in the areas and weather conditions you will operate it in. And, create a training program that ensures consistency of driver safety and effectiveness, and build an internal culture that promotes loyalty and minimizes turnover.

Keeping all public areas clean for users is the mission of sweeping services. The message here is that selecting the appropriate sweeper trucks, maintaining them ideally, and making sure drivers understand the specific challenges that are fundamental to successful sweeping operations in each region and season. In other words, it doesn’t pay to under-invest in pavement sweeping equipment and skilled workers. 

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