World Sweeper Logo

Fleet Management Information for Sweeping Professionals

Fleet Management Tips From a Pro Sweeping Tech

by Keith Chambers with Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Ali Mulaj has been involved with sweeper repair since he was a high school student over 20 years ago. To date, he has been involved with:
  • The Ford vs. Ferrari movie,
  • Discovery Channel's Monster Garage,
  • Episodes on the Speed Channel,
  • And the 24 Hours of Le Mans race...
... All in addition to overseeing service and preventive maintenance requirements on up to 60 pieces of a major sweeping company's rolling stock.

Master Technician Ali Mulaj is one of the most experienced sweeper maintenance persons in America: Just ask the sweeping contractors around the country who have his cell phone on speed dial. The following is a synopsis of the hour-long Zoomcast between Mulaj and WorldSweeper's Editor, Ranger Kidwell-Ross.

To watch the Zoomcast, which is highly recommended, click on the image shown at the bottom of this article. To whet your interest, you can also read more about the history of Ali Mulaj as you go down the page.

AliMulaj200 Ali Mulaj has been involved in street sweeping since he was a high school student – he applied to be a mechanic's helper at Michigan-based C&J Parking Lot Sweeping and, once hired as a shop helper, worked for them every day after school starting at 4 PM.

On his third day on the job, Mulaj was asked to spray off a pony engine before it went to the shop for repair. He diagnosed and troubleshot the problem while his boss was at lunch and then discovered there was a problem with the push rods. Ali had the engine running by the time his boss returned from lunch, so impressing him that he designated Mulaj as an assistant mechanic in addition to just a shop helper.

CJLogo150 Even at an early age, Mulaj was interested in restoring and 'rodding' automobiles. C&J's mechanic was into race cars and was impressed when he saw the car Ali had at 17 years old – a 1981 Ford Cobra with a modified 460 Ali had taken out of a Lincoln. He was even more amazed when Ali's car blew past the mechanic's highly tuned and customized 1972 Roadrunner outfitted with a built 340.

DiscoveryMonsterAnim Mulaj's expertise and attention to mechanical details has led him to become involved in other projects outside of working for C&J. This included helping to produce motorcycles for Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage," where his team built two bikes that could run on ice. He was also involved with The Speed Channel's "Gears" program, where he helped build and restore a 1952 Jaguar.

FordvsFerrari200 In addition, Mulaj has spent time working with the Ford Motor Company. In 2016 he worked with Ford's GT40 racing team during the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ford would go on to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd at Le Mans that year, though Ferrari was ultimately awarded 3rd place because one of the Ford GT40's had an indicator light out.

Mulaj was even involved with the 2019 film "Ford vs. Ferrari," spending time working on the twelve vehicles needed for the film's production – all while still maintaining his position at C&J.

Ray and Ranger Ray Confer, owner of C&J Parking Lot Sweeping until its sale in 2021, had this to say about Mulaj: "He is a master mechanic who truly understands how sweepers operate. He knew what it took to fix, correctly, any of the sweepers we've ever had. Ali was also great at searching out whatever parts we needed and then purchasing them at good prices.

When we would buy almost any new model, he would end up calling the sweeper manufacturer to suggest changes should be made in that model. Nine times out of 10, the manufacturer would end up making the change on future model updates.

"Another skill of Ali's is that he was very helpful – in the event that we had a truck or sweeper go down in the field. He could usually diagnose the problem on the phone. He'd give instructions to the operator to "do this, try that, pull such and such wire..." and, almost always, the sweeper was able to complete the shift without us having to send out another unit or tow that one. There's no question that Ali Mulaj was one of the keys to C&J's success through the years."

When Mulaj started with C&J Parking Lot Sweeping, their fleet consisted of 6 TYMCO sweepers. At the time the company was sold the fleet consisted of upwards of 60 street sweepers from a variety of different manufacturers. During his time at C&J Parking Lot Sweepers, Mulaj developed an eye for common issues within fleet vehicles and came up with a way to track them on all the sweepers he was responsible for maintaining.

One of his tips is to maintain a strict maintenance schedule for all vehicles in the fleet, and then make sure to stick to the schedule. "Everything we did, we logged," Mulaj says. "Every six months, the hydraulic oil filters were changed – regardless of if that truck only had an hour on it, we replaced it.

Why? Because of certain types of moisture that accumulate in a hydraulic system when the weather changes. I think a lot of people might think it's a little strict, or maybe nonsense, but I know this is why we were so successful. We did hydraulic filter change-out every six months and oil filters on the rear engine were replaced every 100 hours. What we did was to gather all the trucks together, warm'em up, and then one guy would go out and ump all the rear engine oil all at once. That process made it easier to log it all."

Another maintenance tactic Mulaj recommends is servicing the fleet of vehicles yourself, instead of towing the vehicle back to the dealer. "I started noticing that taking it to the dealer was cutting into our sweeping time. When that broom wasn't hitting the ground it wasn't making money. In most cases, even though it was warrantied it actually cost us more when the vehicle went to the dealer where, in too many cases, it would sit there for months on end. Plus, the dealers oftentimes still couldn't figure out the problem.

At that point, I started collecting the software myself. When we had the proper software/hardware to diagnose them we had zero downtime as compared to taking it to the dealer. For sweepers that were under warranty we made a value judgment; should we take this to the dealer or should we fix it? Oftentimes we could fix it for $250 and have the machine up and running in 15 minutes.

For any lower level repairs that was far better than taking it to the dealer, who'd first take time to assess if they'd cover the repair under warranty. And, with sweepers, the dealer is #1 for arguing about warranties, due to the nature of the environment that sweepers are used in. We did studies with Isuzu concerning warranty-covered repairs and we seldom utilized warranties at all. By eliminating 'dealer downtime' we saved a lot of money."

Through years of experience, Mulaj found out that one company, WIX, made the best oil filters and hydraulic filters. At C&J they used those filters to maintain the fleet he was responsible for. Ali swears by their reliability, even today. "We put WIX filters on every single machine. For one, WIX filters have a bypass. You might not need it but... it's like waking up in the morning saying 'it might rain outside, I'm gonna take my raincoat with me just in case.' That bypass is always there.

"WIX makes amazing filters. I've never seen any of them fail in 24 years and, at one point, we ran 150 diesel engines in the fleet. You'll find they're also used in race car applications. For me, a WIX filter is a MUST on a sweeper. Anybody who says 'I want to save a little money here,' or 'If you change the filter enough then no bypass is needed' is not living in the real world of sweeping.

"Also, anybody that tells you they've got their maintenance schedule on point to the hour, to the T... that's also not the real world. Going that extra mile and getting top quality with maintenance filters and oil goes a long way in keeping your truck moving, keeping the brooms on the ground, which is what's making you money. In a high activity sweeper company you can get crunched where you don't exactly have the time to do maintenance on a vehicle. Sometimes it can go past a week or two before you get to the oil change that needs to be done, or the oil filters that needd to be replaced.

Without a bypass, if the filter clogs you have restrictions going to your hydraulic pump, which runs your hydraulics hot and so helps burn it up. When sweepers start burning up hydraulic valves it costs a lot of money. Paying a little extra money on that quality WIX filter is insurance that's automatically helping out without you even knowing it."

Keeping track of daily wear and tear is essential in keeping sweeper fleets mobile and Mulaj was aware of this being a factor in broken equipment and diagnosing problems. "Take the 348 Schwarze: The pro's are that it would suck up a brick; the cons are the transition tubes always wear, the fans wear fast. That's the nature of the beast. If you run them you have to prepare yourself, make sure you have the right repair items in stock to run that machine.

"Most other places in the country, we probably average a year to a year-and-a-half on a fan; in Detroit's aggregate we were getting six weeks no matter how much [dust suppression] water we used. Having the worst roads in the country really showed the flaws in all the makes and models of sweepers."

Keeping up with diagnostic software, as well as having someone who can correctly interpret the results, is challenging. If you have a good-sized operation, Mulaj says that can be important. "What I found is that making sure you have the proper diagnostic equipment goes a long way these days. With it, your people will not be having to guess and/or throw parts at a problem. Good diagnostic tools saves time and eliminates stress for your mechanics. Today's systems are so complex; many more computers have been added to the equation. It can sometimes be a shot in the dark even when you have the software, that's how complex the systems are being built. There were probably 2,000 engineers at the chassis manufacturer building the base vehicle. Then, you've got a handful of sweeper engineers building all kinds of equipment on top of it. Finally, your mechanic has to figure it all out."

What comes next for Mulaj? Currently, he is a Principal at Oliver's Diesel Specialist, which is the midwest region sales and service representative for sweeper manufacturer, Merit Sweeprite. "It's like opening a new chapter in the sweeper world for me," says Mulaj. "At my diesel repair facility we do a lot of diagnostics for people. I have all the latest and greatest software from every major manufacturer. I've worked with every major engine manufacturer, including Cummins, Isuzu, Deutsche and more. I've also been a designated beta test site for some of them. For now, I'll be sticking with diagnostics on sweepers and diesel engines, as well as consulting with sweeping contractors and other people in the industry."


For more insights be sure to view the lively hour-long Zoomcast Mulaj did with WorldSweeper's Editor, himself a 30+ year veteran of the sweeping industry and its many challenges.

The Zoomcast features more information on preventive maintenance and also includes Mulaj's comments about the world's first all-electric parking area sweeper, which was introduced by Merit Sweeprite at the end of 2021.

Video Start Panel

If you have questions or comments about this interview, please, let us know and, if appropriate, we can add it in as an addendum to this article.

World Sweeper Logo

© 2005 - 2022 World Sweeper
All rights reserved.

Back to Fleet Management Information
Site Map / Table of Contents