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More About Street Sweepers
Although mechanical street sweepers are not as ancient as the streets they clean, you may be surprised to find that they predate the vehicle. As is the case with many innovations from the Industrial Revolution, the street sweeper’s true ancestors remain unknown. According to some accounts, C.S. Bishop created the mechanical street sweeper in 1849; according to others, C.B. Brooks, inventor of the paper hole puncher, invented the street sweeper truck in 1896.
In any event, by the early twentieth century, when the car became widely available in the United States, street sweepers were already on the scene keeping things clean. Elgin’s first street sweeper was purchased by municipal officials in Boise, Idaho, in 1914, and the Illinois-based company has been in business ever since.
Although the earliest mechanical street sweepers predates the vehicle, they would have been transported throughout the city using horse-drawn carts. The street sweeper truck inaugurated the use of horseless carriages (often referred to as automobiles) to transport the street sweeper around town. As technology advances and environmental concerns gain prominence, street sweepers have grown more silent, cleaner, and efficient. As we progress farther into the twenty-first century, some are even turning to alternative energy.
The applications of street sweepers have increased in lockstep with advancements in technology. If it’s paved, whether it’s city streets, building sites, airport runways, or endless parking lots, it’s probably in need of sweeping. There are small portable sweepers that can be hauled to a job site, as well as larger interior sweepers that clean the cement floors of vast warehouses and industrial facilities.
Now that we’ve established their origins and intended uses, let’s examine how street sweepers actually operate.
Conventional street sweepers feature jets beneath their trucks that spray water onto the street’s surface to keep airborne dust particles to a minimum, while rotating brushes clean the streets and gutters of debris. Under the vehicle, a cylindrical brush sweeps trash onto a conveyor line that feeds to a storage container. Occasionally, rather than using the cylindrical brush, a vacuum-like device is used to draw the waste into the container.
On the other hand, regenerative air sweepers feature hydraulic systems that employ air jets to churn up dirt on the road and then swirl it toward the truck’s center. Negative pressure beneath the vehicle generates a vacuum, which draws the dirt up into the truck’s back receptacle. Filters purify the air within the container and recycle it to loosen debris on the roadway, while water is sprayed to keep the dust down.
Rather of using regenerative air or water, some sweepers utilize rotating brushes to collect material beneath the truck, where it is vacuumed into the storage hopper. These types are typically smaller than large street or highway sweepers and are utilized on industrial locations where particle removal is critical.
All of this action reveals why these vehicles, whether little or huge, are so obnoxious. To begin, they are often powered by a diesel engine designed for heavy machinery. Second, there are either squirting jets of water or a hydraulic system blowing air into the roadway, not to mention the brushes whirling madly at around 4,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). There is a great deal going on in a little box — with very little noise dampening. Additionally, they operate at calm periods in communities, such as late at night or early in the morning, when we are more likely to hear the racket.
Let us now discuss how these machines are employed in our daily lives and the developments that are occurring in the third century of the street sweeper.
Although we refer to them as street sweepers, the same mechanical surface cleaners may be modified to collect virtually any type of trash from virtually any surface. Sweepers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from full-sized vehicles to small, towable devices. The largest vehicles are sufficiently huge and capable of sufficient speed to travel on and clean up highways. They do, however, have to slow down to perform the actual cleaning; sweeping the roadway at 70 mph (113 kph) is just not feasible.
Small three-wheeled sweepers are considerably more maneuverable for cleaning between shelving units in a warehouse, for example, or in any other situation requiring tight turns and limited area. There are sweepers designed particularly for depositing collected debris in tall containers or trucks, as well as sweepers with hoppers that may be emptied into low-lying containers. Certain sweepers, like as the Elgin GRV, are designed particularly to collect de-icing solution off airport runways before it seeps into the surrounding groundwater.
Street sweepers do a variety of tasks in addition to keeping the streets clean. They are used to collect garbage, dirt, chemicals, and motor oil, as well as other contaminants that may harm the environment. If these potentially hazardous chemicals are removed from the roadway, building site, or parking lot prior to reaching storm drains, they have a lower chance of ending up in rivers and lakes.
The federal government of the United States has already taken efforts to address this form of pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted the PM-10 standard in 1987, regulating the amount of particles in the air that are 10 microns (.001 centimeters, or.0004 inches) in diameter or smaller. Due to their capacity to reach the lower parts of our lungs, these particles are tiny enough to have an effect on our health. The majority of street sweeper manufacturers provide multiple models that satisfy PM-10 elimination criteria, ensuring that our streets remain cleaner and our lungs remain pure. Manufacturers of street sweepers must be vigilant, though, because the EPA is considering reducing the threshold to PM-2.5, or regulating particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns (.0001 inches) or less.
Certain localities have regulations regulating the quantity of pollutants emitted by street sweepers. For example, the South Coast Air Quality Management District in California – which encompasses the nation’s most smoggy region, including Orange County and the majority of Los Angeles – has implemented Rule 1186, which requires new big outdoor street sweepers to run on alternative fuels. Numerous businesses sell devices that conform with Rule 1186 around the country. They are frequently powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), or liquid natural gas (LNG) (LNG).
All of this technology is not inexpensive: A typical, mechanical, brush-operated street sweeper costs around $100,000. A vacuum-assisted model will cost at least $150,000, and with alternative fuel engines and environmental compliance, the price will exceed $200,000. However, this is a modest price to pay for keeping the lungs (and gills) free of pollutants.