As far as your average motorist is concerned, road sweepers, the mechanised variety of course, come under the same category as refuse collection vehicles and slow-moving tractors as sources of extreme annoyance when people are trying to get from A to B. However, along with RCVs and tractors pulling trailers, everyone still expects roads to be clear of detritus, bins to be emptied and materials to be transported.
So while they are probably not held in great esteem by commuters, road sweepers are essential bits of kit that form the backbone of every local authority’s fleet of municipal vehicles, and the good news, despite government cuts to local authority spending, is that according to manufacturers the road sweeper sector is doing very nicely, thank you.
When asked about the current outlook for the industry, Alison Conroy, UK sales and marketing manager at Peterborough-based Aebi Schmidt UK, tells RWW: “Despite the unique challenges of replacement plans being delayed and purchasing decisions and tender issues generally taking longer, the outlook is nonetheless very positive.”
This sentiment is echoed by Tim Hegarty, head of business development with Stock Sweepers: “Although government budgets are being slashed and local authorities’ spending is being put on hold, there are a lot of contracts out to tender with many civil engineering contracts being released.”
Nor is it just the UK where the sector is seeing growth – Hegarty says Stock Sweepers is enjoying success in Europe as well.
“We are not just seeing a surge in the UK industry, there is movement in countries like Greece, where we have an agent who has been tendering for contracts more so than he has done for years.”
In fact, growth in the sector is so noticeable it is attracting other companies into the road sweeper arena.
Sylvie Giangolini, UK sales and marketing director with Hako, a German-based specialist of industrial cleaning machines such as floor polishers and scrubber driers, says: “We’re the new kids on the road sweeper block compared with other, more established suppliers. However, our strength lies in our industrial cleaning experience and we also have a very strong commercial and logistics sector. For us, municipal road sweeping is only one of our sectors, which is why we are working with our municipal team to increase sales and looking at how to position ourselves as an alternative supplier. And so far we’ve done a good job.”
Giangolini is clear about the route Hako is taking to penetrate the road sweeper market.
“We only do the compact and sub-compact models. However, these include a multi-functional aspect in that all our machines can be changed from being a road sweeper to a machine that can scrub city pavements, employ snow brushes, as well as use lawn cuttings attachments.”
Hako’s sales director predicts it won’t be long before the UK comes round to the European way of thought. “In Europe they have cottoned onto the fact that if you have a multi-functional vehicle, you are buying one vehicle to fulfil four to five functions. This is highly significant where you have municipalities struggling to fulfil all their requirements. The direction in which we are heading will be more on multi-functionality. Even if we are not asked about it so much in the UK, I believe this is going to change,” predicts Giangolini.
Aebi Schmidt UK’s Conroy states: “There is a big push towards Euro 6 emission standards in certain sectors.” While Hegarty at Stock Sweepers points to safety and technology.
“Safety is a big issue, particularly when it comes to cyclists. We are installing technology to protect cyclists as standard on all our equipment. While we are completely in
favour of this, there are nonetheless challenges when it comes to the design of the equipment as it calls for considerable investment in research and development to install the safety equipment as part of the manufacturing process.” Hegarty pauses before adding: “It is not as simple as clipping a SatNav to the dashboard.”
When it comes to Stock Sweeper’s preferred cyclist warning display system, the Cyclear technology is the one the company has opted for. The system features an illuminated sign and speaker to alert cyclists when a vehicle is turning left. The latest version also has an optional sequencing sensor that alerts the driver when a cyclist or pedestrian is approaching.
Another trend that Stock Sweepers has noticed is a demand for telemetry.
“We’re working on a GPS-based telemetry system that sends information back to base on operational aspects of the sweeper such as how many hours and how many revolutions the brushes have made. This helps to determine the efficiency of the sweeper,” explains Hegarty.
Giangolini agrees that safety and technology are two important trends in the road sweeper market.
“Safety is a major consideration and it’s rare that cameras are not fitted onto our sweepers. Data management systems have become a hot topic too. It means that while road sweepers might be less likely to have a serious accident than a bin wagon, you are eliminating the possibility that a resident could accuse a road sweeper of ‘nicking my car’. Gone are those days as councils can now produce proof that it was not their machines that caused the damage. Technological advancements are definitely the biggest thing.”
Size, power and capability
What are clients asking for in terms of size, power and capability of road sweepers?
“Flexibility, such as providing a winter as well as sweeping capability, better payloads (leading to increased fuel efficiency – less trips to tip off), low running costs and high productivity,” says Aebi Schmidt’s Conroy.
With an eye to the road sweeper market in Europe, Stock Sweepers’ Hegarty says: “In countries like Russia, they are keen to have a road sweeper that can turn into a snow sweeper or a gritter. We’re looking at the possibility of doing this and we’re at the early stages, but it definitely has potential. It would be nice to back up a road sweeper, press a few buttons and turn the machine into a gritter: a bit like Thunderbirds. There is certainly a demand for kit like that. In fact, we went out to Bulgaria where they don’t sweep roads in the winter but only in summer. There is no point as temperatures sink so low the vehicles would simply get stuck on the icy roads.”
Know your market
Not over-stretching yourself is another topic that crops up. Giangolini again: “We are a niche product and are seen as a smaller provider, but we are a company who is able to offer a novel and reliable way of functioning.
“I am passionate about maintaining Hako’s reputation as a brand. Working closely with councils’ municipal and operational teams, we carefully consider responding to every tender as we are determined not to sell a machine to any client where it would not be fit for purpose. The Hako brand is synonymous with robustness and we have worked too hard for it to suddenly get lost because we have gone for a quick win. This means we only respond to 45% of tenders as I don’t always feel our solution fits every customer. We need to know what are the client’s operations, its budgets and the challenges for the machine.”
Hegarty also recognises the dangers of a company over-reaching its capabilities, but points out: “Stock Sweepers is growing and we will become a bigger player in the market, but to maintain the business we will need a more diverse range as a lot of tenders want to buy machines from the same source. The challenge for manufacturing is that it works well when you produce the same thing day in day out, but it’s a different matter when you are looking at a diverse range of machines.”
Like many understated and, in the mind of Joe Public, under-appreciated bits of municipal kit, spare a thought next time you are stuck behind a road sweeper. Brimming with technology, it is an important part of the waste management community.
Fact file: Aebi-Schmidt Swingo 200+ (2-brush machine)
Customers can choose between a VM R754 ISE4 EuroMot3B, Common Rail, 3.0 litres cubic capacity, 55kW (75 HP) at 2,300rpm; 310Nm at 1,100 rpm. Includes closed particulate filter system or a VM R754 Euro6, Common Rail, 3.0 litres cubic capacity, 62kW (84 HP) at 2,300 rpm; 270Nm at 1,100 rpm. Includes closed particulate filter system, urea (AdBlue) injection and SCR-catalyst
Diameter brush: 850mm
Rotational speed brush: 0-100rpm
Sweeping width optimal: up to 2,500mm
Fact file: Stock Sweeper S6400 series
Truck chassis: 15-18 tonnes GVW
Hopper: 6.5m3 with twin-discharge system (Electric and PTO operation)
• Dual side sweep (left and right) with wide sweep ‘Belly’ brush and dual-suction nozzles. *Dual-sweep recommended
• Single side sweep (left or right) also available
• Overhead wander hose 4.2m reach available, 150mm and 200mm, manual or hydraulically-operated
Sweep path: Max 3,650mm
Sweep speed: 2 to 16kph
JCB auxiliary engine: A choice of 68kW or 93kW engines
Low pressure dust suppression water system: 35 litres/min at 3.5 bar (50 PSI)
Fact file: Hako Citymaster 1600
• Water-cooled 4-cylinder VW industrial diesel engine with 1,968ccm
• Exhaust gas turbocharging and charge air cooling, particle filter, performance 55kW at 2,700rpm
• Common-rail direct fuel injection, tank capacity 50litre
• Engine comes below the threshold value according to exhaust directive 97/68/EC level IIIb
• EU type approval basic unit as a tractor (LoF)
• Traction- and energy-efficient optimised hydrostatic drive with permanent all-wheel drive
• Drive control system with automatic load regulation in transport mode, 2-speed automatic transmission
• Load-sensing hydraulics with variable power distribution