Driving a Street Sweeper

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to drive a hulking mechanical street sweeper? This article places the work environments of professional street sweeper drivers into the spotlight, with first­-hand accounts on actually driving these machines.

The driving mechanics

Most street sweeper models drive differently from conventional vehicles. For example, the Elgin Pelican uses a rear-steering system; when you turn the steering wheel, the rear wheels move and not the front. While users of conventional vehicles might find this peculiar, street sweeper drivers find rear-wheel steering helpful as it provides much greater maneuverability.

Driving challenges

Jeff Manners has been a street sweeper driver for 23 years, and he said that the biggest challenge in driving the vehicle is the weather. For instance, it is practically impossible to sweep when snow is clogging the roads. Spring isn’t as friendly either; as the roads tend to be too wet and the vehicle would usually pick up water instead of dirt.

17-year veteran John Tucker noted that driving a street sweeper is much more complex than merely cruising down city streets in a monster truck. For a routine cleaning, a driver’s area of duty is divided into four quadrants, and it is his job to cover them in the shortest time possible while tending to the vehicle on the fly. Sweepers have engines in the front and back, which the driver must regularly check for oil and fluid levels.

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