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

What Obstacles Prevent Good Street Sweeping?

Garbage and pollutants accumulate on streets, roads, highways and in parking lots. If this garbage is left out in the open, it can be swept away by rain and make its way into water system. Small particle pollutants can also get pulled into the air as well, which affects the health of people who live or work in surrounding areas. Street sweepers work to minimize the amount of garbage and pollutants that enter waterways and airways.

Of course, street sweepers can’t completely eliminate all garbage and pollutants, even in just one city. People and businesses contribute such a significant amount of garbage to the environment every day, there is not enough street sweepers to keep up with the amount of work.

Because it is already so difficult to keep up, how can we limit other things that slow the productivity of street sweepers? How can you help? We have all the facts about the problems and solutions of street sweeping, so keep reading to find out.

Problem #1: Badly Maintained Roads

When a road is not maintained well by the city or county, it naturally has more cracks and crevices that can hide garbage and pollutants. It’s a lot harder to clean a road with a surface like an alligators hide than it is a smooth, clear road.

Roads that are classified as poor are typically the most difficult to keep clean of debris. At a minimum, communities should maintain their roads at a fair rating to glean a minimum benefit from street sweepers.

Obviously, roads that are rated good are more effective at maintaining a clean street. At the very least, communities should repair cracks and potholes to prevent significant debris from being stored on road surfaces.

Problem #2: Curbs

Studies show that the majority of sediment and gathered pollutants congregates within 3 feet of street curbs. One study in Madison, WI found that up to 75% of sediment gathers in that 3-foot area. So good street sweeping companies focus on those dirty areas near curbs. Roads without curbs don’t accumulate nearly as much debris, meaning they don’t need to be maintained nearly as often.

Of course, it would be counterproductive to remove curbs from roadways, because debris wouldn’t collect in a convenient place to be swept up. Also, curbs are necessary in cities for sidewalks and other walkways, so the benefits would be minimal.

Problem #3: Parked Cars

You may live in an area that uses street sweepers, and so you’ve experienced the obligatory “No Parking” days on your street. You may even be the unfortunate victim of a parking ticket for not observing street cleaning days. Of course, it can be a pain to move your car one day a week, and it’s certainly annoying to get a ticket, but the benefits of street cleaning days far outweigh the inconveniences.

Did you know that one parked car on the street essentially leaves three car lengths un-swept on the street? Even the most skilled street sweeper drivers can only maneuver so well around a parked car. They can generally sweep around a parked car, but leave about one car length on either side of a parked car as dirty as they found it. Street sweeping vehicles are just so big and bulky, tight maneuvers are not possible. And remember, since the curbs generally hold 75% of dirt and debris on the road, street sweeping in that section of road won’t help prevent debris from entering the air and water.

So the next time you see a street sweeper, remember to move your car from the road on street sweeping days.

Problem #4: Fast Drivers

Have you ever accidentally gotten stuck behind a street sweeper? You probably had to wait quite a while to pass around it. The optimal street sweeping speed is 5 miles per hour. While such a low speed may be frustrating to other drivers on the road, it’s the best way to keep the streets clean.

Street sweepers should stay within a range of 3 to 7 miles per hour while cleaning up the streets. That way the driver can speed up or slow down, depending on the amount of debris he encounters.

So the next time you end up behind a street sweeper, don’t get annoyed by its slow speed. Remember that a slow street sweeper is an effective street sweeper.

Problem #5: Tiny Pollutant Particles

While street sweepers are very efficient at removing large debris from the roads, they are typically less effective at removing tiny particles, usually 60 microns or smaller. This is a problem because the majority of pollutants that cause damage to humans are this tiny size.

However, you should know that only about 3% of particles in accumulated dirt are smaller than 10 microns. To put it in perspective, the eye of a needle can hold over 1000 microns. That means street sweepers are cleaning the majority of debris that is accumulated in roadways.

Street sweepers are working on developing technology that can pick up these tiny particles. Until then, the technology does its primary function quite well and it removes dirt and debris from roads.

Have Any Questions?

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