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: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/stormwater/npdes/docs/GuidanceSt-Sweep_05-03-04.pdf

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

Understanding the Clean Water Act

We see news headlines about clean water, pollution, and other environmental issues daily. Clean water is a global issue, but one that needs to be tackled at every level – local, state, and even federal. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was created in 1948 as a way to regulate water pollution in the United States. It was modernized by multiple amendments in 1972 and re-named as The Clean Water Act (CWA). So, what does this have to do with you?

As a member of your community, you have as much of a responsibility as anyone to help keep water in the United States clean and unpolluted. You have an impact on the environment, and it’s up to you to make sure that that impact is a good one.

What Does it Regulate?

According to the CWA, substances that fall under its jurisdiction include various toxic pollutants, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended solids, fecal coliform, oil, grease, pH, and any “non-conventional” pollutants that are not categorized as conventional or priority. 

The CWA regulates both direct and indirect discharges of any of these pollutants into navigable waters.

Direct discharges include contamination from sources like pipes and sewers. Companies that need to discharge pollutants into national sewers are required to obtain a permit first, and then follow the regulations and conditions given by the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) program.

Individual homes that do not have a surface discharge, use a septic system, or are connected to a community water system do not need an NPDES permit.

What Are the Consequences?

The NPDES regulates the discharge of pollutants into national waters, and any violation breaks the law. Even if the violation was an accident, the permittee is liable for prosecution. This can include a monetary penalty (up to $27,500 per violation per day), require the company to take corrective measure immediately, for the company to shut down production or activity until the problems are resolved, or even revoke a permit.

This stipulation negates the ability of any permittee to claim ignorance – it is up to every business and individual to be informed and aware of any pollution discharge for which they are responsible.

In addition to consequences meted out by the law, any violation pollutes the nation’s waters.That alone should be enough to avoid breaking the law when it comes to the CWA.

How Do I Avoid Violating the CWA?

The  most important thing you can do to avoid violating the CWA is to be informed. Monitor yourself, and if you notice any violations, take immediate corrective action.

Make sure your permit is up-to-date, and make sure any changes in pollution discharge are reported immediately to the EPA.

Look for ways to reduce discharge, such as keeping public streets swept and clean to avoid storm water discharge.

Keep yourself informed about what changes could happen and how they might affect you in the future…and what you can do to contribute to keeping the nation’s waters clean and free from pollution. Contact USA Services of Florida for more details.