Sweeping into winter

2nd of February 2022
Sweeping into winter
Sweeping into winter

Does the task of sweeping become more difficult in winter than at other times of the year? Ann Laffeaty finds out how far the sweeping challenge changes from season to season - and asks manufacturers how their machines are able to cope with the particular issues that each season represents.

Winter has now well and truly arrived in the northern hemisphere. That means we must all batten down the hatches and look ahead to the longer nights, cooler conditions and the icy roads.
These cold, dark days can be a challenge for many. And the winter months not only cause difficulties for us on a personal level, they can also change the nature of cleaning – particular when it comes to outdoor tasks.

Sweepers are deployed on our streets year-round to pick up the debris left behind by people and nature. Cans, bottles, takeaway containers and other items of packaging all need to be removed from public thoroughfares along with seasonal detritus such as wet autumn leaves, road salt and the twigs and branches left behind after high winds have struck.

During the winter there is therefore inevitably more natural debris to sweep away. But on the other hand, the fact that fewer people tend to be congregating on the streets during the cooler months means there are lower quantities of human-generated waste in public areas.

So bearing in mind these seasonal swings and roundabouts, how much of a challenge does road sweeping pose in the winter?

In fact the task becomes much more complex, says head of sales at Dawsongroup Sweepers Paul Beddows. “The weather poses significant challenges for the industry,” he said. “Some smaller sweepers operate less efficiently in snowy conditions than the larger models and have a tendency to slide around on icy roads unless the driver has been trained for all-weather conditions.”

Measures taken at municipal level to melt the ice can simply add to the problem, he says. “De-icing grit is not the sweeper’s friend,” says Beddows. “It has a high salt content and can cause the steel elements of the machine to rot if the vehicle is not flushed out and cleaned properly after use. Ensuring all machines are serviced regularly is therefore key to keeping them on the road.”

Challenging weather

He concedes that the lower number of people on the streets during winter is an advantage. “However, while the debris collection process might well be simplified when there is less litter on the streets, any time savings are counteracted by the challenges posed by the winter weather conditions,” he said.

According to Beddows, all Dawsongroup vehicles are built to cope with the challenges of every season. “And snow ploughs and gritters can always be added to counteract extreme weather conditions if they are required,” he adds. Dawsongroup supplies chassis-mounted, compact, industrial and pedestrian sweepers for use in a range of environments.

One of the major problems in winter – particularly in Central Europe – is the quantity of road grit that needs to be swept away according to Kärcher’s sweepers product manager Florian Böhm. “Furthermore, the use of a classic sweeper is very limited once the ground has been covered with a layer of snow or ice,” he adds. “In these situations we can offer specific solutions such as front sweepers, which are primarily used to clear the snow from the ground.”

He adds the challenges of winter can be offset by people’s behaviour. “Most of us tend to spend more time indoors in the winter months, and this means there is less outdoor rubbish left behind by members of the public,” he said.

IPC’s content marketing and social media manager Chiara Molardi agrees that road salt mixed with snow and ice are among the issues that make winter sweeping a particular challenge. “However, each season has its own problems and the sweeping challenge is not dictated by the season alone,” she adds.

“Weather conditions vary from country to country with colder temperatures typically experienced in the north and warner ones in the south. And street sweeping can be a real issue in large cities where there is a lot of traffic congestion.”

Other factors that can change the scope of the challenge include social issues, pollution and the amount of rubbish to be found on the streets, she says. “For example, in larger cities there is a greater chance that the streets will be littered with debris,” said Molardi.

Sweeper problems are not limited to the winter alone, she adds. “In autumn there is always an issue with huge amounts of foliage whereas in summer – particularly in seaside areas – there will be large quantities of sand and salt carried in by the wind,” she points out.

Two seasons

According to Dawsongroup Sweepers’ Paul Beddows there are actually two main sweeping seasons. “The first is surface dressing season which falls between April and October, and the second is leafing season which occurs between October and December,” he said.

Surface dressing season is when the roads are treated to prevent them from deteriorating too quickly, he says. “Once bitumen has been applied to a road, any loose chippings need to be swept away immediately due to the skid risk for other vehicles,” he said. “This process can take its toll on the sweeper over the course of time.

“And during the leafing season, leaves that need to be swept away are typically wet – and this makes the debris heavier than in the summer months. As a result the sweeper will reach its payload more quickly and the machines will have to offload more frequently. And if you don’t have the right machine for the job, this can be a very challenging period for sweeper operators.”

The summer months present their own challenges, he adds. “This is when significantly higher levels of dust and sand appear on the roads. However, this isn’t so much a problem with our machines
because the water bar compresses any fine particles to reduce circulation and spread,” he said.

He believes the sweeping challenge varies from nation to nation as well as from season to season. “Different countries have their own terrains, some more hilly than others,” he said. “Steep hills present difficulties for sweepers so it is vital that the right sweeper is selected to suit the specific environment.”

Kärcher’s Florian Böhm agrees the large volume of leaves created in the autumn makes it a particularly challenging season. “Sweepers with the largest possible waste containers are needed to cope with this issue in Europe,” he said.

“And in the summer months, the fact that many more people are outside means more rubbish is created in the form of food packaging, cigarette ends and other types of litter that people have carelessly thrown away.”

He agrees with other commentators that the challenge is environmental as well as seasonal. “In the Middle East there are large amounts of fine sand on the roads – particularly in the summer months,” he said. “This is blown in from the deserts to the towns and cities and on to the roads.

Social behaviour

“And the social behaviour of people can also determine how much rubbish ends up on the streets. Every culture has a different perception of cleanliness and hygiene, and this means the requirement for road cleaning varies depending on the location.”

So, which is the most problematical sweeping season of them all? Kärcher’s Florian Böhm says it depends on the region and the application, while IPC’s Molardi feels there is no clear answer. “However, if we take into consideration the weather conditions and the state of the paths to be cleaned, the most difficult season is probably the winter,” she says.

Dawsongroup Sweepers’ Paul Beddows concurs. “Winter with its hazardous driving conditions and its typically wet weather poses the most risks to operators and fleet,” he says. “And the easiest sweeping season is probably the summer due to the more favourable weather conditions.”


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