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Choosing Sweeping Equipment

Carefully Consider Chassis' Feature Set When Choosing a Sweeper

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
article developed in part from an email conversation with Eric Fullan, Safety Officer of the City of Hillsboro, Oregon.

In August of this year an article I wrote entitled Sweeping Changes, was published in the August issue of Public Works magazine. The following information derives from the comments one of the readers of the article, Eric Fullan, made in a series of email messages he and I sent back and forth.

Eric Fullan "A sweeping change that I was hoping to see [in your Public Works article] and was hoping to read about was the ergonomics of these rigs. Unfortunately [sweeper chassis ergonomics] was not mentioned at all in the article." So said Eric Fullan, Safety Officer of Hillsboro, Oregon.

This industry aspect is one I first considered in a different fashion after my 2003 trip circumventing Europe and discussing sweeping with a variety of officials in countries that included U.K., Germany, Denmark, France, Portugal and more. If you want to know more about how sweeping is accomplished in some of those areas, I encourage you to check out the award-winning articles I wrote at the time.

One aspect I was surprised about in England was that sweepers were largely tendered through chassis dealers, not sweeper dealers. The chassis dealers would then partner with particular sweeper companies in order to submit a bid on the combined vehicles. At the time, I recall finding it interesting that those purchasing sweepers appeared more interested in the chassis type/brand than in the machine that would be doing the sweeping. However, when it comes to operator comfort and safety, the chassis is at least equally important, as Eric Fullan pointed out in one of his emails to me:

"As a safety guy, I am always interested in the health and safety aspect of the work our Public Works staff. Our sweeper operators spend hours at a time in these vehicles and consideration should be given for the operator while spec these vehicles. That would include adjustable seats with air rides and cushions (not always an option in the small cabs) and the position and placement of the mirrors and camera equipment as well as noise levels and noise dampening in the cab. Including a safety perspective into your articles would be a sweeping change with a subtle and positive impact in our industry."

Global / Elgin Animation For many years, chassis for larger, street-class sweepers, were 'purpose-built;' that is, specifically built for that particular sweeper type. A few still are today, such as Elgin's Pelican model and Global Environmental Products' M3 and M4 models. This allows a manufacturer to better spec. the features they want on a particular sweeper model. Unfortunately, since sweeping is a relatively small industry, standard production chassis have potential options that are limited to whatever the larger industries are purchasing.

Purpose Built Sweepers Animation Many smaller sweepers, especially outside the American market, are on purpose-built chassis, as well. You can see a number of examples of these types of machines shown in the animated photo montage to the left.

As Fullan rightly points out, many of the cab-and-chassis that sweepers are mounted onto are "delivery-type rigs and the seats were not intended for extended periods of seating, as opposed to constant in/out per delivery." Larger GVWR offer more 'comfort features' since, as the size increases, the expectation of longer time behind the wheel increases, as well.

From the perspective of a person who views the world through the lens of overall safety, sweeper chassis should be specified that offer some of the following as options:

• Room for air suspension seating and/or adjustability to varying sizes of operators;

• A very high quality seat since operators will typically be spending many hours in the cab, rather than, as do delivery drivers, exiting the cab on a frequent basis;

• Mirrors that may be mounted such that the sweeper operator does not have to "hunch over" in order to get a complete view of surroundings and the sweeping operation;

• Placement of camera monitors such that operators do not need to get into a poor posture position in order to monitor them, yet are placed such that the operator's view of the roadway is not obstructed;

• Noise-dampening in the cab. Again, since most chassis are not designed with consideration given for the loud operating noise made by sweepers, comfort level is reduced for the sweeper application.

In addition, Fullan comments that, in order to increase the long-term safety of sweeper operators, they should be encouraged to take frequent breaks where they exit the cab and perform several minutes of stretching exercises in order to avoid the effects continuously poor posture. In addition, he believes manufacturers of sweeping equipment should be asked to reduce noise levels and improve the ergonomics of equipment through "engineering controls."

Says Fullan: "I am a huge proponent of prevention through design concepts. Most manufacturers won't put this effort into their sweepers unless the consumer demands it."

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