Street Sweeper contracts – 7 Mistakes Municipalities make when writing specifications and how to avoid them

Cities and Counties across the country are learning that contracting out their street sweeper service is far more cost effective than performing these services in house.  However developing your street sweeping contract is an important process.  If you have never done it before it’s easy to miss key steps that can cause the contract to be less successful than you need.  The following are some items to consider to ensure your street sweeping contractor works for you.

Mistake 1 – Not providing detailed equipment requirements

There are numerous configurations of street sweepers used across the country.  They can vary greatly in size, function, operating speed and efficiency.  While many people look at these street sweepers as interchangeable they actually are designed for different functions.  Some are designed for highways while others stick to residential areas.  Some are designed for construction sites while others are designed for leaves and dirt in finished communities.  Knowing what equipment is best for your project will help ensure you get quality service.

Things to consider:

  • Size – Some agencies make the mistake of not specifying sweeper size. This could result in the low bidder being a company using a small “sweeper” that is designed for commercial parking lots and not streets.  It’s wise to require a minimum Gross Vehicle Weight and at least a 4 yard hopper size to avoid this problem.
  • Sweeping Function – Sweepers function in three basic ways
    • Mechanical Street Sweepers use brooms and conveyors to pick up the dirt
    • Vacuum Street Sweepers use vacuum functions to “suck” the dirt up
    • Regenerative air Street Sweepers circulate air to lift the dirt off the ground and transport it to the trucks hopper

While mechanical sweepers are the most commonly used vehicles due to their versatility and cost effectiveness you should do research to make sure you know what you need.

  • Speed – While operating speed isn’t something that should be included in equipment specs, minimum traveling speed is. You want to make sure the truck can travel to and from sites quickly.  Slow traveling speeds can prevent your work from being completed in a timely fashion
  • Advance Warning Devices – Be sure to specify that the street sweeper be equipped with all necessary advance warning devices needed to protect the traveling public. Examples are 15 light directional arrow boards, rotating beacons or strobes, reflective tape and backup alarms
  • Shadow Vehicles: FDOT requires a shadow vehicle with an attenuator behind the street sweeper when sweeping on its roads. If you have an FDOT MOA as part of your roads you’ll need to include that requirement in your spec.  You can also require it on your high speed arterial roads to ensure the safety of the traveling public.

Mistake 2 – Not requiring GPS tracking and records

GPS tracking is an easy way for agencies to ensure they’re getting the street sweeping they are paying for.  They allow you to easily verify that service was provided and also maintain a record of services provided if you are ever questioned by a citizen or regulating agency such as the Department of Environmental Protection.  The best part GPS is so inexpensive to the vendor that it usually does not affect the curb mile price they’ll bid.

Things to consider:

  • Requiring a minimum “ping” frequency for the street sweeper of every minute
  • Requiring daily reports be provided for each street sweeper
  • Requiring activities to be shown on report such as:
    • When the street sweeper is sweeping vs when it is just traveling
    • When the street sweeper dumps
    • How fast the street sweeper is operating
    • Street Names as well as latitude/longitude
    • Street Sweeper operator name


Mistake 3: Not providing specific reference requirements

Since most agencies are required to award the contract to the low qualified bidder, it’s important to make sure your solicitation spells out what it means to be qualified.

Things to consider:

  • Automatically disqualifying bidders who have had a contract terminated for poor performance in the last 5 years
  • Requiring at least 5 references of similar size. This is important because a company who has swept only shopping centers or a small city with 10 curb miles isn’t necessarily able to sweep a city of 100 curb miles
  • Requiring a office within a certain distance of your project so they can respond to emergencies in a timely manner

Mistake 4: Not providing a list of roads and corresponding quantities.

Street Sweeping contractors base their bids on the time and equipment required to do the job.  To provide an accurate costs it’s important the bidders know what you want swept and how frequently.  By providing them details of the work to be performed it allows them the opportunity to visit the sites and review the conditions.  They also have the chance to verify quantities and ask questions prior to the bid.


Mistake 5: Not having a mandatory pre-bid conference

Pre-Bid conferences are the time to ensure the bidders are clear on what you expect.  It also allows them to ask questions in an open environment for all to hear.   Often agencies skip this step and only find out after the contract was awarded that the contractor wasn’t clear on their expectations.  This can lead to disputes, poor service and even failed contracts.

Mistake 6: Not requiring a performance bond

Agencies often think bonds aren’t necessary for Street Sweeping contracts.  However if that contractor fails to deliver it can be time consuming and costly to award a new contract.  In the meantime an essential service is not being performed and you have not recourse against the failed contractor.  A bond is a low cost way to ensure you get a quality contractor and you will get the services you expect.

Mistake 7: Not providing specific instructions regarding disposal of sweeping debris

As the generator of the street sweeping debris, your Agency is responsible for the handling and disposal of it from “cradle to grave”.  Many agencies have run afoul of the DEP by not ensuring their debris was properly handled.  The DEP provides guidance for how street sweeping should be disposed of here:

The most important point is that the sweepings must be disposed of at a Class 1 or 2 Landfill.  If the street sweeper chooses to separate the Trash from the street sweepings then there are additional guidelines for how they can be disposed of but the Trash must still be disposed of at a Class 1 or 2 landfill.


At USA Services we specialize in working with government agencies to design a plan that cost effectively meets their sweeping needs.  We often can provide a piggyback opportunity that allows that solves these needs but if not we’re happy to work with you to develop your specifications.  Our offices in Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Myers, Cocoa, Daytona Beach and Leesburg are all capable of helping you.  Contact us today for more information.


Street Sweeper with Tampa skyway bridge

Study Shows Street Sweeping Reduces Urban and Stormwater Runoff

Study Shows Street Sweeping Reduces Urban and Stormwater RunoffStorm drains effectively prevent floods after storms by giving rainwater a place to go. However, these drains don’t just deal with rain. As water flows down the streets, it picks up chemicals, dirt, debris, bacteria, and other pollutants. It can even pick up other types of urban runoff, such as trash, metal, and gasoline. And it carries these contaminants through the drain and out to the local environment.

These pollutants harm wildlife-and even humans-when they enter our water sources or litter our street gutters.

According to a recent study, one of the best ways to eliminate this runoff from our cities is through street sweeping. The Massachusetts study, “Potential Reductions of Street Solids and Phosphorus in Urban Watersheds from Street Cleaning, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2009-2011” was conducted by Jason R. Sorenson of the New England Water Science Center.

The study evaluated street sweeping in 4 different time periods: monthly, bimonthly, weekly, and three times weekly. Let’s take a look at the study’s background, method, and results to find out what street sweeping methods best reduced polluted runoff.

Study Background/Purpose

The study was conducted over a two-year period with support from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the City of Cambridge.

Researchers felt particularly concerned about the amount of phosphorus in the City of Cambridge. Excess phosphorus can lead to increased algae growth, which reduces the water’s overall oxygen. This condition can harm fish and other species and even affect drinking water.

For the study, researchers were curious to determine the amount of street solids and trace elements in Cambridge’s water runoff. In addition, they wanted to determine the most productive street cleaning methods and evaluate how street cleaning reduced the city’s phosphorus levels.

Water Quality Results

Researchers collected samples and evaluated the water quality. They determined that the amount of solids in the runoff was similar to other U.S. cities, including Baltimore, MD and Seattle, WA.

Researchers also found the most solids at the end of winter. Interestingly, they found a greater mass of phosphorus in water on residential streets than on commercial streets-probably due to grass clippings, tree leaves, fertilizer, and other substances.

Street Sweeping Results

Now, how did street cleaning reduce phosphorus and other substances? Good news: street sweeping in Cambridge reduced phosphorus up to 9.3% and solids up to 19%. Here are the results:

  • Monthly: 16% solid reduction; 8% phosphorus reduction
  • Bimonthly: 18% solid reduction; 8.3% phosphorus reduction
  • Weekly: 18% solid reduction; 8.7% phosphorus reduction
  • Three times a week: 19% solid reduction; 9.3% phosphorus reduction

Researchers stated that street sweeping was about 81% efficient at removing phosphorus.

What Cities Should Do

The study shows that regular street sweeping is important to reduce urban and stormwater runoff. For more information on how street sweeping can reduce pollution, see this post.

Now that you know the importance of street sweeping for your community, consider forming a street sweeping plan. Some of the decisions you’ll need to make include:

  1. Decide how often to send out the street sweepers. Generally, the more street sweeping, the better. Street sweeping three times a week was the most effective at reducing phosphorus and other solids. However, you need to consider this method’s practicality. Could you expect residents to move their cars this frequently? Can your city afford to send out street sweepers this often?
  2. Make sure you choose a reliable street sweeping company. This company should hire fully trained employees who practice proper street sweeping safety. Effective street sweeping relies on experience and training.
  3. Plan effective street sweeping routes. Street sweeping equipment is most effective when it doesn’t have to backtrack or make a lot of right turns. In addition, the street sweeping route should end at a dumping location.
  4. Spread the word to the locals. They’ll need to know when street sweepers will come through so they can move their vehicles. You can also tell citizens what they can do to reduce stormwater pollution in their city and neighborhood. Have them follow these tips.

Keep the results of the Cambridge study in mind as you determine the most cost-effective methods for cleaning your streets.

Preventing Stormwater Pollution

Florida sees its fair share of storms every year, though severe weather is not always a constant. As a local homeowner, you understand the problems you face the moment a severe storm strikes—including the aftermath. For both safety and appearance, it is important to clean up after a storm hits. What you may not realize, however, is how important this cleanup is for your health as well.

How Street Sweeping Prevents Water Pollution

Street sweeping helps clear dirt, debris, and particulates from the streets. If these things were not removed, they would pollute our drinking water and contaminate our soil. Even small-scale storms stir up dirt and debris, though this may not be as apparent as it is with more severe weather. Still, you can imagine how challenging it is to keep waste collected by storm waters from moving downstream and into the water supply.

Obviously, our drinking water is thoroughly cleaned before re-entering the system for consumption, but street sweeping is the first line of defense.

In fact, a survey conducted by the U.S.G.S found that street sweeping can eradicate up to 740 pounds of material per mile in residential neighborhoods and 522 pounds per mile on commercial roadways. That’s a lot of waste being cleared before it ever touches the water we drink.

This is the primary reason municipalities began enforcing street cleaning. Cars kick up dirt and other sediments, accidents leave behind sharp particles, people drop garbage onto the street, and more. By removing these problematic materials, street cleaners help prevent water and soil contamination. However, with greenhouse gases and pollution on the rise, this challenge has become more complex.

A Complex Problem

As mentioned, stormwater is filled with sediment, leaves, and garbage from the street. But the real threat to our drinking water and soil is what rain brings down from the atmosphere. Stormwater can contain air pollution, including particles produced from our cars and factories. Street sweeping has been shown to decrease the amount of particulates polluting our air.  By removing the particulates at the source, and using a dust suppression system during the sweeping process, street sweepers help reduce air pollution and improve the air we breathe.

Street sweeping is a cost-effective and efficient solution for preventing stormwater pollution. It’s important for our health as well as the earth’s that we continue our efforts to stop polluting. For more information call USA Services or fill out our Service Request Form for an online proposal!