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

How Street Sweeping Affects Your Parking Habits

43rd street cleaningWhen it comes to getting around your city or commuting to work, your car is your most vital resource. Because it matters so much, you want to ensure you park it in a safe location. And normally you do. But what about those times when you need to park on the side of the street?

A roadside parking spot represents a risk for several reasons. And one of those reasons involves street sweepers.

Why bother worrying about street sweepers, you may ask? The following information will help you become a more responsible car parker by showing how street sweepers typically clean and how you should prepare to move your car off the street when they make their rounds.

Street Sweepers and Your Parking Habits

When you think of the term “street sweeper,” you probably conjure up images of poorly dressed men in caps with brooms and shovels. While this image is certainly romantic and nostalgic, it is hardly accurate in today’s world. Modern street sweepers actually drive trucks or machines which they operate at around 5 to 15 miles per hour.

Generally, two types of street sweepers keep garbage off the roads and pollutants out of the air. Some street sweepers clean the street with water and circular brushes. They spray water to reduce the amount of dust blown and activate a brush to scrub dirt and grime away.

Other sweepers utilize high-powered air blowers to lift dirt off the street and suck it up into a container. But no matter what kind of street sweeper your neighborhood uses, the sweeper’s equipment could damage any car left on the roadside. Or your car could damage the equipment. Or perhaps the street sweeping company could have your car towed to eliminate any risk for damage.

For this reason, you need to keep your car off the road when the street sweepers come.

4 Steps to Take for Your Parked Car

Street cleaning occurs primarily on the side of the road-against the curb-the same place where you park your car. You need to know when to move your car and how to cooperate with street sweepers when it’s time for them to come your way. Read further to discover some advice to keep in mind during this process.

1. Learn Your Local Street Sweeping Schedule

To gain a basic understanding of when street sweepers will clean, check out their schedule. Most street sweeping company websites will post a table that tells the days or hours of their cleaning services. Other sources such as your city hall’s website or your city’s public works website will allow you to enter your address and area code into a search field to find information for your locale’s schedule.

2. Keep Your Car on the Driveway or in the Garage

The best place for your parked car is out of the street sweeper’s way. The simplest solution involves parking your car in your garage or outside on your driveway. It becomes a hassle for street sweepers to clean around parked cars. So they sometimes have them towed.

And if the street sweepers don’t tow your vehicle, they will be unable to collect the dirt and garbage that accumulate near the curb. After all, these professionals don’t want to damage your car or their equipment.

3. Obey “No Parking” Signs

Most of the time, street sweeping companies or city officials will post signs around town warning drivers to keep their parked cars off the side of the road. When city officials temporarily place these signs, they often post them at least a day before the street sweeping begins. These signs should also give you the specific off-limit hours so you know when it’s safe to park on the street again.

4. Consider Alternatives to Driving if Necessary

Street sweepers don’t just clean your residential roads; they clean busy downtown streets as well. If you park your car on the street when you go to work, you’ll need to consider ways to avoid doing so when street sweepers come by.

If possible, consider taking the bus or riding a bike on days when you know street sweepers will clean near your work. Your car should be fine if you park it in a company parking lot or in an underground parking garage.


As you follow these guidelines, your car will remain safe and you will avoid receiving any unnecessary tickets or fines from law enforcement. Most importantly, you will be a vital asset in your local street sweeping company’s goal to keep your roads, city, and air clean from trash and pollution. You’ll keep your car and your city more beautiful at the same time.

The next time your street sweepers provide service, remember these tips. To update yourself on more information related to street sweeping, check out our other blog articles.

Street Sweeping in Fiction

street sweeping in fiction blogStreet sweeping provides vital services, keeping roads clean and managing storm water. While seemingly unglamorous, the street sweeping service industry has infiltrated several forms of fiction, enhancing true stories and lending familiarity to fantasy.

In this blog, we cover some of the best known appearances of street sweeping in fiction, including in advertising and comic book form.


The best advertisements demand attention, often through presenting a familiar object in a new light.

Sky Movies – Comic Book Heroes (2014)

British television firm Sky Movies HD shows a range of superhero films during their Comic Book Heroes Season. One of their many promotional commercials followed a street sweeper (the worker, not the truck) as he cleaned a city. Presumably, the city needed his services following a destructive battle between superheroes and super-villains.

The street sweeper offers observances on the characters of several heroes, including Batman, Wolverine, and Superman as he completes the superhuman cleanup. Watch the commercial here.


Perhaps Sky Movies found inspiration for the advert described above in the story of comic book cleanup crews. Most notably, Marvel’s Damage Control.

Damage Control Comics (1989 – 2008)

The concept of cleaning up after superheroes isn’t a new one. In both comics and film, heroes often leave shattered windows, crumbling walls, and smashed cars in their wake. Beginning in the 1980s, Marvel published several storylines revolving around Damage Control, a company dedicated to these herculean cleanups.

The comic featured familiar faces like Spiderman, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk, and was rife with references to other Marvel comics. Damage Control primarily dealt with reconstruction of roadways and buildings. However, they also dealt with the debris that street sweepers would handle if these battles were to occur in reality.

In 2014, Marvel released news that Drew Pearce, who worked on many Marvel movies, wanted to create a Damage Control film adaptation. As of Marvel’s 2015 film lineup announcement, the movie had yet to receive the green light.


While the previous pieces of fiction deal primarily with the duties of street sweepers, films on the subject delve deeper, exploring drivers’ lives and the future. “Solar Crisis” (1990)

Set in the future, “Solar Crisis” deals with public fear after scientists predict a coming solar flare that may incinerate the Earth. Astronauts fly toward the sun with the intent of dropping a bomb to redirect the blast. On Earth, however, citizens already struggle with the effects of a stronger sun.

In this film, street sweepers serve as mechanical police forces, enforcing a curfew intended to keep civilians out of the dangerous sunlight levels. These street sweepers have weapons systems, transport capacities, and even voices.

“The Streetsweeper” (2004)

This film festival piece follows the life of Enzo Morelli, a street sweeper by trade. In the film, Morelli gives up a promising career as an opera singer to provide for his son. Morelli drives one of San Diego’s Elgin Eagle sweepers and keeps a regular route.

The film offers perspective on the plight of some public workers, including, in the past, street sweeper drivers. In the film, Morelli struggles with his own purpose as well as with the daunting perspective of putting his son through college.

“The Streetsweeper” includes panoramic shots of the streets of San Diego and footage of the city’s historic sweepers in action. The film ushered in changes to how outsiders viewed the sweeping industry. The film garnered wider recognition of the feats drivers accomplish as well as the vital public service they provide.


Books often express all-encompassing emotions that do not find hold in film. We discuss one such book, which uses street sweeping as a storytelling vessel, below.

“The Street Sweeper” by Elliot Perlman (2012)

In 2012, Elliot Perlman, author of “Seven Types of Ambiguity,” released “The Street Sweeper.” Perlman’s epic-length novel winds together the stories of three very different men in New York City. Readers meet the main character, Lamont Williams, immediately after his release from prison where he served after an unjust conviction. Williams takes on the duties of a street sweeper.

In the course of his duties, Williams meets a World War II survivor living in an old folk’s home and a professor at Columbia University. Though living different lives, the three find they have perspective and life experience to offer each other. Perlman’s work delves into the issues of racism, heroism, historical representation, guilt, and love.

The Globe and Mail heralded “The Street Sweeper” as a poignant look at “how individual people matter in history.” The novel also received praise from The Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times, and The Guardian.


People often use fictionalized narratives to talk about the feelings, circumstances, and causes they find most important. Explore the fiction above to examine how authors and screenwriters integrate street sweeping into their stories.

Street sweepers provide essential services that keep cities functioning safely and smoothly. For more information on how street sweepers impact storm water management, local wildlife, and even crime rates, read our other blog posts.

The World’s Largest Street Celebrations- Plus the Messes They Leave Behind

When did you last attend a street festival in your area? Perhaps your city has a vibrant St. Patrick’s Day celebration complete with green floats, green confetti, and green-clad Irish river dancers. Or maybe you have fond memories of your city’s Fourth of July parade, which featured military marches, high school bands, and cannon salutes.

Whatever street festivals you’ve participated in, you were probably too busy having fun to pay attention to the litter left behind. But during a typical celebration, participants throw wrapped candies to the crowd, sell treats like ice cream bars and cotton candy, and sometimes set off bursts of confetti or glitter. On top of that, there’s the dust, spills, and scuffs left behind by a typical celebration.

The day after the festival, most of this mess is gone, largely thanks to the street sweepers and sanitation workers in your area. But what about larger events? Can street sweepers clean up after a celebration as large as Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, or the New Year’s Eve celebration at Times Square? The answer is a definite yes-though you’ll be surprised at just how much mess street sweepers can tackle.

Read our blog below to learn about some of the world’s most exciting festivals, and how street sweepers keep the roadways clean before and after.

How Do Street Sweepers Help?

First, let’s discuss the typical role street sweepers play in many street festivals. They usually come out during two key times: right before the festival, and right after.

Before a festival begins, street sweepers go over the area to make the streets safe for participants. They remove any dirt, trash, or other objects that could cause problems once the streets flood with people. They also beautify the area to prepare the city to stand out once visitors arrive.

When they host events involving bikes or runners (such as city- or state-wide marathons), some cities hire special street sweepers to clean paved bike trails or segregated bikeways on the road.

Finally, street sweepers turn up after a festival to clean up anything left behind. In larger festivals, street sweepers often work in conjunction with local workers to clear away all the trash. Your local street sweepers can take care of any mess, no matter how large, in the wake of an exciting event.

Now that you know how crucial street sweepers are to street celebrations, read below to see what kinds of jobs they take on at festivals around the world.

New Year’s Eve at Times Square

Every December 31st, thousands of people crowd into Times Square to watch the ball drop, then celebrate the New Year with confetti, cheers, and kisses. In fact, on December 31st, 2014, nearly 1 million people crowded into Times Square, where a confetti crew showered them with more than 1 ton of confetti.

With such a large celebration, you would think only a sanitation crew in the hundreds could take care of the mess. Actually, it’s less than 200. Only 178 sanitation workers cleaned up the streets on January 1st, 2015, aided by street sweepers, mechanical brooms, leaf blowers, and trucks. By the 2nd, the crew successfully removed over 52 tons of garbage, getting the Square in top shape for the 360,000 visitors it sees each day.

Carnival at Rio de Janeiro

If 52 tons of garbage seems like a lot for a cleaning crew to handle, consider this: street cleaners removed 300 tons of garbage after Rio de Janeiro’s 2013 Carnival festivities. Of course, Carnival is a much longer celebration than the several hours of New Year’s Eve festivities, since partygoers celebrate for five straight days and nights. It’s the world’s largest Carnival celebration-two million people enjoy parades, samba competitions, and parties on the streets each day.


St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin

Originally, St. Patrick’s Day was a strictly religious celebration. Irish immigrants to the United States turned it into a colorful cultural celebration, which then caught on back in Ireland (and across the world). The current celebration features a vibrant parade and a long day and night of street festivities celebrated by 2 million people. As celebrations die down, night crews come out to clean in shifts to remove around 20 tons of litter.

Glastonbury Music Festival

Like Carnival, this festival spans five days. It’s also the largest green field festival in the world, which means sanitation crews have to take a slightly different approach to the outdoor clean-up. After all the headlining bands and musical celebrations, 800 sanitation workers start to pick up trash all over the 1,200-acre festival site. Tractors help clear away the garbage, but it still takes crews around 6 weeks to return the area to pre-festival conditions.

Now that you know a little bit more about how much trash street sweepers remove, you can appreciate your local street sweepers a little more. Enjoy your city’s next outdoor celebration to the fullest, and be proud that your clean-up crew has the dedication and resources to get the area back to its usual shine within a few hours.  USA Services offers a full line of festival preparation and cleanup services throughout the State of Florida.  Contact us today for more information.

Cleaning Up the Streets: How Street Sweeping Can Lower Crime Rates

It’s true that there are several benefits to street sweeping. In our previous post on 3 Benefits of Street Sweeping, we discussed safety and environmental improvement. But there is a specific benefit to street sweeping that you may not have thought about before. When it comes to lowering crime rates, cleaning the streets has a positive effect.

Of course it’s good to keep your street clear and safe from dangerous debris. But when you can improve the cleanliness of your city’s streets, you’ll make the environment safer for everyone. Where there’s less crime, there’s less chance of injury, loss, and violence.

Crime in the U.S.

On average, about 3,800 out of every 100,000 U.S. citizens fall victim to crimes each year. This isn’t a number most people are comfortable knowing, because it means your chances are higher than zero. But, certain cities of the world have taken a new approach to crime reduction. Read on to find out what changes they made.

Putting Clean Streets to the Test

It’s easy to make claims that clean streets help lower crime rates, but this is no new theory. In 2010, the Rotterdam police department conducted “The Neighbourhood Takes Charge” experiment. After asking residents for improvements, Rotterdam police spent time each week fulfilling these requests.

Most requests weren’t about specific crimes, but rather about improving the “walkability” of their streets. Common preferred measures included:

  • Controlling speeding vehicles by reducing and enforcing speed limits
  • Cleaning up and preventing pet debris
  • Basic street upkeep, including trash disposal and street sweeping

True to their word, the Rotterdam police force spent time cleaning graffiti and the street itself. They also responded by increasing their public presence and cracking down on speeding violations. Some thought that more serious crimes would skyrocket from neglect, but crime rates dropped.

After the two year trial period, drug crimes and vandalism decreased by 30%, while burglaries dropped by 22%. Even theft and violence saw drops in occurrence after police made specific efforts to clean the streets.

Although this could be a fluke, there’s no ignoring cities who have followed suit. Later in 2012, high-crime areas of New York City and London both lessened crime rates with focused clean-up. Results continue to come from clean streets.

In October of 2014, leaders of Pine Bluff Arkansas set out to make changes in their more problematic neighborhoods. Focusing on areas that made the most police, ambulance, and fire department calls, the police and local mayor spent months cleaning. Leaders also made a point to talk with residents of these areas to find out what things they thought needed improvement. Pine Bluff crime rates dropped by 30% as a result of these efforts.

The Formula for Success

It may seem arbitrary or even obvious, but there are several ways you can clean your streets. One of the best ways to get quality cleaning for a large area or city is by using power street sweepers. This lessens dust and pollution levels, while also clearing dangerous debris from the street.

Everyone can do their individual part for cleanliness, of course. Encourage citizens to pick up litter and garbage when they see it. Keeping emptied and accessible trash cans can also improve the ease of keeping any street clean. It’s difficult to be a good citizen by picking up litter if there’s nowhere to deposit it, after all.

You can also encourage city cleanliness by scheduling regular street sweepings in advance. Develop a set schedule to avoid forgetting. You can even craft this schedule to coincide with other common city events. That way, your streets will be pristine for whatever big event is coming your way.

Anti-crime teams all around the United States recognize the value of a clean street. When a city is clean and well-kept, it promotes an atmosphere of friendliness and honesty. Conversely, an area full of broken windows and accumulated trash gives the feeling that crimes occur there. Such an environment can thereby promote crime itself. Show the best side of your city by engaging in and enforcing street cleanliness.

From what you can see in the previous examples, there are some common elements in all four city’s plan:

  1. Focus on specific problematic or struggling areas
  2. Consult local residents and citizens for improvements
  3. Cleaning the street in more ways than one
  4. Measuring the effects on the crime rate

With these four main elements of city cleanup, you can improve your city, too. After learning the effects clean streets have on crime rates, take advantage of your confidence in trying something similar. Every city and every citizen deserves a safe and clean environment to live and work in. Make a commitment now to “clean up your streets” too, whether that means focusing on certain areas, hiring a regular street sweeper, or talking to local residents about relevant issues.