by Ranger Kidwell-Ross, editor
Sweeping Industry Fraught With "What if..." Examples
My inspiration for this month's editorial comes from Ben Boychuk's recent column references to a Marvel Comics series from the late 1970s and early '80s called "What If...?" The gimmick was to take a story from the main thread of Marvel's comic book universe and spin it differently: "What if Spiderman had joined the Fantastic Four?" or "What if Captain America had been elected president?" He then compared the current 2016 presidential election campaign to a "What If..." story of its own.
I realized the power sweeping industry is ripe for a similar comparison. Although there have been a few changes in recent years, there aren't many that have a breadth and scope such that the parking lot or street sweeping portions of the industry have been either revolutionized or revitalized.
Back in the Clinton era it appeared the EPA would finally exercise its power in requiring cities to take action on stormwater runoff. Although the Stormwater Runoff Act was first penned in 1972, little actual enforcement had occurred. What if Clinton had actually recognized street sweeping as the first line of defense against runoff pollution and mandated its more widespread deployment?
In the 1990s, Schwarze Industries purchased, and then further developed, a sweeper called an EnviroWhirl. Testing showed the machine could pick up over 99% of the small-micron material that comprises most of the runoff pollutants entering waterways and flying into the air to produce air quality issues. However, due to its (at the time) hefty $250,000 price tag, few purchasers emerged other than some industry buyers like lead battery factories. What if that machine had caught on and other manufacturers had thus been forced to innovate to meet the new technology?
Today the water quality issues facing America and elsewhere are becoming ever more critical. What if the government or a private foundation were to develop an 'X Prize' to reward the manufacturer that first produced a sweeper that could match EnviroWhirl-type sweeping capabilities in real world, on-the-road type situations?
On the parking lot side of sweeping, what if the EPA – now that the majority of point source pollutant sources have been identified and addressed – started requiring environmental sweeping of all parking lots in order to keep runoff from that source from entering streets? This would revitalize that power sweeping segment, which is today slumping from the combination of a reduced concern about cleanliness from the retail sector combined with the onset of unrealistic pricing from third party vendors.
Finally, what if parking lot sweeping contractors were ALL better at understanding their overall and long-run costs and "Just Said NO" to the unrealistic pricing, along with the largely predatory contracts, being offered by third party vendor companies?
Alas, because the industry is relatively small and doesn't even have a manufacturers and suppliers association with a mandate to educate lawmakers about, and lobby for, its best interests, the opportunity for the changes needed seem, at the moment, to be receding rather than advancing to the fore.
As always, if you have any news of potential interest to the power sweeping community, please let us know. Between this publication, the WorldSweeper.com website, and the World Sweeping Association, we'll be sure to get the information passed along to interested readers.
Executive Director, World Sweeping Association
PS If you haven't 'liked' our WorldSweeper Facebook page, what are you waiting for? That's where we offer industry previews and updates on an ongoing basis.
January Newsletter Contents
(Scroll down to read stories or click on links.)
- Nite-Hawk's Dual Fuel Sweeper a Hit With Users
- B.S.R. Sweeper: Electric Before Its Time
- Now is the Time to Organize a 'Touch A Sweeper' Event!
- Featured Contractor: Smith Cleaning
- Noteworthy in Sweeping: Remembering Jerry Smith, Lafayette, Indiana Street Sweeper Extraordinaire
- Beach Cleaning: Honolulu Chooses Cherrington's Model 5500 for Island of Oahu Cleanup
- Not Exactly Sweeping: One of History's Strangest Coincidences Involves a Sweeper
Nite-Hawk's Dual Fuel Sweeper a Hit With Users
NiteHawk Sweepers was the first U.S. company to offer alternative-fueled parking area sweepers. Now that the technology is maturing, WorldSweeper takes a look at how these unique sweepers operate. Choice of either LPG (propane) or CNG are available. The latter is paired with the ability to operate on gasoline, as well.
The article includes interviews with three U.S. contractors, all of whom are bullish on the technology. Also discussed are the facts about government tax credits when either alternative fuel is utilized and information about the likely difference between a gallon of gasoline or diesel and LPG or CNG. We also interviewed the principal in the company that converts the chassis engines, Tom Campbell, who proudly discusses his organization, which is the only one in the U.S. certified through C.A.R.B. to convert LPG/gasoline, dual-fuel sweepers.
Check out the article.
Germany's B.S.R. Sweeper: Electric Before Its Time
The photo you see to the right has been making the rounds of the internet as of late, with speculation on forums as to whether it actually is a street sweeper or, as some believe, a machine with a solid, rear rotating brush designed to scrape/scuff up the roadway to make for better traction.
The more interesting part we think is that the machine is purported to be all-electric in its operation. Delving into it, we found there were many more electric-powered vehicles in the cities at the turn of the last century than what might might be thought. Soon after this time the internal combustion engine – which used that new-fangled fossil fuel of gasoline – started taking over. Vested interests in the fossil fuel industry, especially the producers, went to great lengths to stamp out the scourge of electric machines. Electric-powered transit vehicle systems in many areas were eliminated in favor of the new fuel source.
We don't have more information on this sweeper but thought that perhaps our readers would. The machine is portrayed as an electric sweeper operating in Berlin, Germany, in 1907. Click on the photo to the right to view a larger picture. If you have information about this machine, please let us know.
Now is the Time to Organize a 'Touch A Sweeper' Event!
The fact is, most citizens do not realize the importance of sweeping streets for health and safety reasons, to say nothing of sweeping in order to keep pollutants out of the runoff system.
One of the ways to increase citizen awareness of the important job street sweepers do is to sponsor a public awareness event that includes at least one street sweeper along with targeted information to teach about why sweeping is a valuable service.
Sweeper awareness events can do much to educate your community about the many reasons why street sweeping is an important service. This sort of event can be even more important if you're trying to instigate and/or maintain a parked car removal program as part of your sweeping service.
In the U.S., one of the best times to schedule this type of event is in conjunction with the APWA's National Public Works Week, typically held in mid-May. The linked article provides outlines of what some different towns in the U.S. do. Most all are called 'Touch A Truck.'
Read all about it.
Featured Contractor: Smith Cleaning
Our World Sweeping Association Contractor Profile for January features SC-based, Smith Cleaning. Owner Stuart Smith virtually grew up in the parking lot sweeping business in his hometown of Newberry, SC, which is near Columbia, the state capitol. At the tender age of 10 he started helping out his father, who took over the sweeping business of a friend who died in the early 1970s. They had a Clark-brand push sweeper that collected debris in a cloth bag. The machine had to be trailered to the single account that came with his dad's newfound company.
Stuart helped out in the mornings before school, which meant getting up before 5am. Their activities took about two hours to complete. Both his sister and his mother also went on the routes in order to get everything done as quickly as possible. Today, Smith's son sometimes goes out on the job with his dad even though he's only six years old. However, says Smith, he's rarin' to go and loves to run the backpack blower.
Read about Smith Cleaning and listen to the podcast interview at the World Sweeping Association website.
Noteworthy in Sweeping: Remembering Jerry Smith, Lafayette, Indiana's Street Sweeper Extraordinaire
For more than 25 years, Jerry Smith cleaned the downtown core area of Lafayette, Indiana. On a daily basis, he used a broom, dustpan and collection barrel – what he called 'pushing the bucket' – to remove debris. About 10 years before Jerry ended his sweeping work, it was calculated he had picked up more than 15,000 container loads of material off the sidewalks and curblines of Lafayette by hand.
Through the years, in addition to keeping the downtown core of Lafayette spic-and-span, Smith became an icon of the city and an ambassador of goodwill who became widely known for assisting visitors with information about the area he served. Now the city Jerry Smith served for so many years is in the process of developing a fitting memorial to the man who came to represent the reason Lafayette's downtown area was so clean.
Read the story of Jerry Smith.
Beach Cleaning: Honolulu Chooses Cherrington's Model 5500 for Island of Oahu Cleanup
Beach usage is growing and becoming a significant part of the municipal tourism industries. Cherrington recently delivered three of its Model 5500 beach cleaners to Honolulu, Hawaii. The machines will be used to maintain several beaches on the Island of Oahu.
The City of Honolulu chose the Cherrington 5500 because it was seen to be a high-capacity beach cleaner in a compact, self-propelled unit. Cherrington's 5500 has a unique three-wheel design that offers impressive maneuverability and zero-turn ability.
Read about the purchase.
Not Exactly Sweeping: One of History's Strangest Coincidences Involves a Sweeper
In a 2015 article exploring some of the most ulikely coincidences of all time, CNN reporter John Blake included the incredible story of Joseph Figlock, street sweeper.
In 1938, Figlock was cleaning an alley in Detroit when a baby fell from an open, fourth-floor window. The baby hit Figlock in the head, which was credited as the reason the child's life was saved. This is a good story in and of itself. However, a year later, Figlock was sweeping another alley when another baby fell from a fourth-floor window ‐ onto Figlock. Same fate. Both Figlock and the baby were unharmed.
When it occurred, Time magazine matter-of-factly reported Figlock's story under the headline, "Coincidence in Detroit." However, Time's story author did not include any interviews ‐ and the story has become one the Internet loves to debate as truth or fiction. This much appears to be sure: No one ever caught up with Figlock or either of the babies to see how their lives were shaped by those amazing moments.
Link to the entire CNN article, which includes other incredible coincidences.