Powys blown away by the Stock S6400

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:
Me & My
Emrys Davies, operative/sweeper driver at South Powys Council

The leaves are falling faster than local authority budgets, so Powys Council is especially grateful for its fleet of Stock S6400 road sweepers with Tempest leaf blower attachment. Geraldine Faulkner reports

With the deceptively mild autumnal weather and leaves staying on the trees until the middle of October, residents in the Welsh county of Powys are blissfully unaware of the challenge facing local government officers endeavouring to maintain a good level of service amid increasing austerity and budget cuts, particularly in service areas such as clearing leaf-fall from rural highways.

“It’s a very busy time and austerity measures are already hitting us hard,” says Brent Campbell, area operations manager for highways, grounds and street scene services for the South of Powys. “We are facing a reduction of around half our current county highways budget over the next few years.”

Campbell is one of three area operations managers who cover the North, Mid and South areas of Powys Council respectively.

“We do all highways operations maintenance, cleansing, emergency repairs, cyclical activities, spraying and weed control,” explains Campbell.

One of the changes brought about by budget pressures has involved cutting back on the number of road sweepers across the county.

“We have gone from eight full-sized road sweepers to four,” states the area operations manager. “Plus we have three footways sweepers.”

How significant is this reduction?

“In years gone by we would be taking on additional road sweepers to cope with the leaf fall. In fact, in the past we could have as many as 12 full-sized sweepers operating over the county, but this year we are working with four traditional sweepers and also utilising other machinery,” continues Campbell.

Stock Sweepers is the brand Powys Council has been working with for around five years. This relationship began in 2010, when officers at Powys County Council visited the Stock Sweepers stand at the Plant and Waste Recycling Show in Torbay, Devon.

The issues facing them, with regard to rural leaf sweeping in particular, were discussed and Stock Sweepers came up with a unique solution to the problem of removing and disposing of large quantities of leaf-fall from the many rural roads and footways in the county.

According to Jeff Stock, director of Stock Sweepers, officers explained that Powys CC was “investigating options to reduce the significant costs involved in rural leaf-fall removal using the traditional methods of their suction road sweepers to collect the leaves, and then taking them to permitted disposal sites”.

Stock recalls discussing what exactly was required, before going away and coming up with the Tempest leaf blower attachment.

The Tempest attachment is a system of redirecting waste air that would normally be exhausted to the atmosphere.

The waste air comes from the exhaust fan through a 150mm pipe to the front of the road sweeper, and literally blows the leaves off the roads and footpaths. The original aim was for it to blow leaves into hedgerows, fields, or wooded areas to allow them to mulch down naturally.

The air nozzle can be moved from within the cab via an electrical cylinder, to rotate through 110° if the driver so requires. If necessary, the sweeper can continue sweeping while the blower is in operation, picking up stray leaves that may escape the air stream.

“The number of trips the sweeper makes to the landfill site massively decreases, saving a huge amount of money,” says Jeff Stock.

Blowing a tempest

As a result of this development, Powys Council procured three new Stock S6400 road sweepers to replace the old fleet with the Tempest leaf blower attachment mounted on DAF LF55 chassis.

So far, so leaf-blowing good; then came along guidance from the Environment Agency in 2012 which advised local authorities that “material from dedicated street leaf-sweeping collection rounds [are] considered unsuitable for composting due to the contaminants that it is likely to contain”.

This decision has had a dramatic effect on the work being carried out by Campbell’s team in keeping South Powys’ roads cleared.

“From being able to collect the leaf sweepings and bulk them in lay-bys and let them decompose before permitted farmers were allowed to use them as compost, we have now introduced a number of dewatering bays in depots where we can store up to 4,999 tonnes of leaf sweepings and gully emptying and allow them to dewater,” explains the area operations manager.

While the dewatering process breaks down the leaf sweepings and enables the material to shrink, taking three to four tonnes of leaf sweepings down to around half a tonne, it still leaves Campbell and his team with the problem of disposal costs for the remaining materials.

With these constraints, the two operatives who run the Stock sweepers along with their leaf blowing attachment are now using their experience and local knowledge to concentrate resources on the ‘hot spots’ and responding to priority service demands in their territory.

Operative’s view

Emrys Davies, operative/sweeper driver, explains: “These are the hot spots where there is a lot of leaf-fall and also danger of flooding. Where appropriate, we blow the leaves off the road and onto the verge and that’s what we’ll do rather than collect it up and bring them back to the depot.“

Davies, who has been with the council for six years, worked previously as an HGV driver for 17 years. “I could be driving a sweeper today, snow-ploughing the beacons tonight and involved in road repairs the next,” says Davies with a smile. “We do a bit of everything, but at this time of year, for me it will be all leaves.”

Focusing on leaf blowing, he goes on to explain: “In most places you can sweep and blow leaves back onto the verges, and there are places where you have to still suck and dispose of them in the depot.”

With several years’ experience of using the Stock Sweepers, what is the best part of the S6400s operated by the team at South Powys? “During this autumn period, the blower attachment definitely comes into its own” states Campbell unhesitatingly.

“It does its job and blows the leaves three to four metres off the road and vastly reduces the amount of material having to be collected.”

The team at Powys maintains the four sweepers themselves.

“We have our own workshop maintenance team, and as well as the leaf blowing attachment, we have a weed sprayer and a pressure washer,” continues Campbell.

Team consensus

The consensus of the team on the S6400 road sweeper is positive. “It has a hard life and there are rarely any breakdowns. Apart from needing new grids, which is a result of natural wear and tear, we haven’t experienced anything noticeable in terms of breakdowns,” states Trevor Tame, area supervisor.

Nor is it just South Powys that uses the sweepers.“We rotate the sweepers around four depots on a monthly rotation,” adds Tame. “And since Powys is a large rural area with trunk roads and country lanes, reliability is a major consideration for our road sweepers.”

As well as producing robust machines, Stock Sweepers also has a robust attitude to business.

Tim Hegarty, Stock Sweepers’ head of business development, says: “While we are the smallest player in the UK market, we are nonetheless the third in importance. Our machines are extremely robust with 30% thicker components than our competitors’, which ensures our sweepers stay on the road longer.

“Our commercial strategy is to demonstrate that by ensuring our bodies are 30% thicker, people will hear of the longevity of our machines and then move over to us.”

Fact file: S6400 series road sweeper

Truck chassis: 15-18 tonnes GVW Hopper: 6.5m3 with twin-discharge system (electric and PTO operation)

Sweep format: Dual side sweep (left and right) with wide sweep ‘belly’ brush and dual-suction nozzles. 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: 2-16kph

CANbus intelligent sweep system: Operator-friendly electronic controls

JCB auxiliary engine: A choice of 68kW or 93kW engines

Auxiliary fuel tank: 160 litres

Clean water tank: 1,600 litres

Low-pressure dust suppression water system: 35 litres/min at 3.5 bar (50 PSI)

High-pressure wash water system: 30 litres/min at 150 bar (2,200 PSI)

Service interval: 500 hours

Fact file: Powys

Powys covers a quarter of Wales and is the most sparsely populated county in England and Wales, with just 26 persons per square kilometre in mid-2013 (compared with 149 people per sq km in all of Wales). The area of Powys is 5,181 sq km, 17% of which is within the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Powys had an estimated population of 2,705 in mid-2013, representing an increase of 3.4% from mid 2003.

Powys residents created an average of 0.57 tonnes of municipal waste per capita in 2011/12. Of this, 0.33 tonnes per capita was sent to landfill or incineration and 0.24 tonnes per capita was recycled or composted (slightly below the 0.25 tonnes per capita for all of Wales).

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