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Legal Issues Pertaining to Street Sweeping

Legal Issues Pertaining to Street Sweeping

California Air Resources Board Proposes New Rules for Sweeper Chassis Engine Emissions

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Here's the latest: In early September, 2008, NAPSA's California Chapter put out the following request for action to California street sweeping contractors. (PDF format)

Although street sweepers have long been, by statute, exempted from emissions' requirements, the California Air Resources Board currently insists it can regulate sweeper emissions. The agency now has street-class sweepers included for impending regulation.

Unless the regulations change, most current sweepers over 14,000 GVW now in operation in California that were built in 1997 or before will be out of compliance starting on January 1st, 2010 unless they are brought up to CARB's 2007 emissions standard. (For models from 1998 up to 2002, the date will be January 1st, 2012; for 2003/2004 models the phase-out date is January 1st of 2013; for 2005 models on up, they will be illegal starting January 1st of 2014.)


If your agency or company had to sell the majority of its sweeper fleet in the next two-and-a-half years, what would be your answers to the following:

Agency Questions

  • Could you afford to replace them with brand new sweepers?
  • Would you maintain the same size of sweeper fleet?
  • Would it make a difference in how often you swept any of your current routes?
  • How would this affect your overall pollutant removal strategy?
  • Would this affect your cost for repairs to your sweeper fleet?

    Contractor Questions

    • Could you afford to replace them with brand new sweepers?
    • Would you have to raise your prices per sweep? By how much?
    • Would you then have fewer customers for your services?
    • Would this affect your cost for repairs to your sweeper fleet?
    • Would you likely have to modify your business in other ways to stay profitable?

    California Air Resources Board Logo The California Air Resources Board, also known as 'CARB,' is the clean air agency for the government of California. Established in 1967 in the Mulford-Carrell Act, combining the Bureau of Air Sanitation and the Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board, CARB is a department within the cabinet-level California Environmental Protection Agency.

    The stated goals of CARB include attaining and maintaining healthy air quality; protecting the public from exposure to toxic air contaminants; and providing innovative approaches for complying with air pollution rules and regulations. As part of that mandate, CARB has proposed widespread changes aimed at eliminating the use of older engines in 14,000 GVW and above chassis.

    Although this situation will affect municipalities and contractors alike, to our knowledge no municipalities have weighed in with any arguments designed to allow their current street sweeper fleet to remain operational. However, a number of affected sweeping contractors have organized to present a united front to the impending CARB requirements. This effort was spearheaded, to date, by Jay Wells, of Sacramento-based Wells Sweeping.

    Wells' company has been directly impacted by a review of his company's sweepers, in which over a dozen of his larger units, primarily Athey-Mobils, were 'red-tagged' and declared illegal to operate. This was due to the fact the sweepers' auxiliary engines were not licensed under an auxiliary engine emissions' statute, at a current cost of around $4,000 each. Wells claims he had no notice of the requirement, and, to date, CARB has not shown that a notice in that regard was previously sent to Wells or his company. Even with the expensive permits, the engines would be out of compliance starting in 2010 under current rules.

    This sparked Wells to become involved with CARB's process, as well as to contact other contractors who would be affected by the 2010 chassis regulations. This coalition is putting together a wide spectrum of research information on the issue.

    Wells also contacted Elgin Sweeper Company with an inquiry about the possibility of retro-fitting current sweeper models. According to a letter (link in pdf format) received from Brian Giles, Elgin's Sweeping Products Manager, this is not an viable option, either. A letter sent by Schwarze Industries, Inc. also shows that manufacturer does not support engine retrofits, either.

    On March 28, 2008, CARB hosted a meeting that was attended by over a dozen other California contractors, along with Marty Keller, Director of the Office of Small Business Advocate, from the State of California Governor's Office of Planning and Research. Wells also had his attorney present.

    Prior to the meeting, I submitted a 'white paper' on the issue from my perspective as editor of WorldSweeper.com. The white paper included an overview on the sweeping industry, since most government agencies are not aware of the extent to which sweepers are responsible for removal of pollution. The document also provided CARB with information about the pickup abilities of the (primarily) mechanical broom sweepers slated to be eliminated from service.

    Then, I used data supplied by Wells that included his company's total pounds of debris removed in 2007, as well as total hours of operation and fuel usage. This was combined with emissions information from a Tier Zero (non-compliant) engine similar to those used in sweepers. In consultation with Roger Sutherland, noted sweeper researcher and president of Oregon-based Pacific Water Resources, Inc., we proposed an educated hypothesis that between 2% and 4% of the total material removed by a broom sweeper would be small micron debris.

    Using the more conservative figure of just 1% for the mathematical analysis, it would appear that even the oldest of broom sweepers in all probability pick up at least 500% more small micron debris than their engines produce during operation.

    The March 28th meeting was cited by all sides as a constructive event that allowed everyone involved to have better insight to the situation. CARB officials indicated they had not fully considered the removal impacts of sweepers, in contrast to their emissions' statistics. CARB officials agreed to research the facts of the case further, including the status of the previous exemption for the sweeping industry and the legality of any new emissions' regulations for street sweepers.

    Attending contractors agreed to provide CARB with economic data to bolster their argument that street sweepers should be exempt from agency regulations in any event. Once these goals have been accomplished on both sides, it is anticipated that further meetings will be forthcoming prior to having the regulations 'set in stone.'

    One such data submittal was provided by Mark Carter, president of Orange County-based, Bill's Sweeping, in June of 2008. Carter offers a snapshot of older sweepers' efficiency by using a hypothetical analogy of ATM machines. Carter compares the relative efficiency of older sweeper pollution pickup (500 lbs) vs. output (1 lb), by suggesting that if there were ATM machines that would give back $500 when someone inserted $1, it would be great. And, we wouldn't want to pull them out of service if newer ATM machines were invented that only required 20 cents to output the same $500 (the ratio of pollutant output-to-pickup of newer sweepers). The paper, available here as a pdf, is well done and worth reading.


    Because of his position as a Senior Advisor to the North American Power Sweeping Association (NAPSA), Carter is also heading up the formation of a sub-set of NAPSA designed to address the CARB issue. The new NAPSA California Chapter, although technically a NAPSA Committee, will collect funds needed for providing proper responses to CARB on this issue. Carter's explanation of the new NAPSA Chapter is available via accessing the audio player to the right.



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