Super Sweep Bringing Super Quality to Metro Vancouver Sweeping Market

supersweeplogoall by Ranger Kidwell-Ross Super Sweep Street Cleaning, Inc. is a relatively new power-sweeping company that services the Greater Metro Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) area.  Andrew Hunter founded the so far very successful sweeping company in September of 2015 and, on this one-year anniversary of the company, we are choosing them to be our Featured Contractor. Our intent is to perhaps provide some insight to others looking to get into the sweeping business of how quickly success can happen, as well as the kinds of things that they might be helped by learning over the first few months and years they are in business. When he started Super Sweep, Hunter knew from experience what to expect from a well-run sweeping operation. That’s because, in prior work as a builder and renovator, he had used a number of sweeping companies to support his projects.  His experience also indicated that the power sweeping companies currently in business in the Metro Vancouver area were seemingly getting busier and busier. Along with that their prices had been going up even though, in his opinion, he saw a need for improvement in how many operated. “You know what,” Hunter said was his realization, “sweeping appears to be a business where there’s probably much room to expand. And, by the looks of how busy the companies seemed to be I think that sweeping is probably a good business to get into.” Super Sweep is very multifaceted for being a startup company.  Hunter had an advantage not available to many startups, in that he had available resources that allowed him to start  “large out of the box.” As a result, Super Sweep has already has gained the reputation of being able to handle any type of pavement cleaning task a prospect for services might need. The company entered the marketplace by getting equipment that allowed it to service several segments of the industry.  A Tennant scrubber enables them to handle that service in underground parking areas and warehouses; their Green Machine is designed for pathway and sidewalk sweeping; and, their Elgin Crosswinds give them the correct machine to do street and construction sweeping, as well as catch-basin cleaning. “When we looked at getting into the business,” said Hunter, “we found that all the competitors were not only doing street cleaning, but also parking lot cleaning. Doing it all seemed to be a necessity. I decided that if I was going to get into the business, I should be in both the street cleaning end of it and the parking lot end of it.  They seemed to go hand-in-hand, so we decided that we should get into all areas and be able to service [most all clients’ needs] parking lots, pathways, street cleaning and underground cleaning and scrubbing.  They all seemed to go just hand-in-hand so we decided to jump right in and get involved in all the aspects of the business.” To get the company its initial customers, Hunter hit the ground and did a lot of door knocking. They also decided to become the Premier Sponsor of the “Construction Conference Build Ex” in Vancouver, and did many other forms of advertising as well as created a very strong Internet presence.  Most successful so far, though, has been the door-knocking — trying to touch-connect with site supervisors in construction.  That segment of sweeping has become their main business segment to date. sstennant“We’re doing a lot of residential and industrial warehouse complexes,” Hunter related, “as well as parking lots for hotels and other commercial properties. We haven’t had many malls as clients, yet, but we certainly try to reach out to them.  We also were successful in bidding for a city contract for street cleaning.  We were just awarded that contract and we are quite excited to get started working for it, especially during the fall leaf season. “We’ll be sweeping for a city that’s a suburb of Vancouver.  We know that the leaf season can get very busy, so we are really hoping to get going. We have two Elgin’s now and are looking at a third truck that we should have on the road within the next 30 days. We feel that’s going to be really needed in the upcoming busy leaf season.” For street-class cleaning, Super Sweep uses Elgin Crosswind sweepers. One truck they bought from the City of Salt Lake that was quite new, with only 1,000 hoursand 10,000 miles on it.  Even so, Hunter directed that many parts of it be repainted to look its best.  “We’re all about the look of our sweepers — the professional look of them.  We also keep them very clean.  We even chrome-plated the front bumper on it so that cosmetically and mechanically it’s just like new.  Their second Crosswind was just delivered, a brand-new 2016 model on a Freightliner M2 chassis. Since they had the luxury of specifying what they wanted, they decided to go for some options and add-ons that would make it a beautiful show machine. “We factory-ordered the chassis, which apparently is a somewhat rare thing to do, and we put on it every possible option that a sweeper owner could put on it. We specified an M2 chassis and it has “chrome everything,” along with powered windows and door locks,  air-ride seats and the air-ride cab; according the people at Elgin, it’s very unusual that someone would order such a luxury chassis. “We also put a larger motor in it, going with the 6.7 liter engine that generates 300 horse power. We knew we were ordering an unusually large motor for a sweeper, but that’s what we wanted because we set it up for towing, also a rare thing for someone to do with a sweeper. What we wanted was to be able to tow our smaller sweepers to job sites.  We find it’s really great, especially in industrial warehouses, where we can take tow a smaller sweeper with our Elgin Crosswind.  While the smaller sweeper is working on the corners and the tighter areas, the big sweeper is doing the larger sections of the parking lot. [Doing it that way] we can cover everything in one trip, with one vehicle.  Most people would agree that it’s very unusual to see a street sweeper towing anything, so it’s certainly unique.” sselginfancy Hunter related the extent to which the Elgin company was surprised to get that particular truck order. He says they were even told that it compared favorably to that company’s very famous NASCAR sweeper which, in terms of deluxe, can hardly be surpassed.  That sweeper, which is shown above, Hunter says looks much better on the street and gets many comments from people who say they’ve never seen a sweeper like that before. The timing for starting a multi-faceted sweeping business could hardly be better, since Vancouver, BC has been in a construction boom for the last 10 years or more.  Because of how robust the construction industry is in the area, Super Sweep has been all but overwhelmed with business from that sector. They have found what many operators in the U.S. say, which is that most construction companies don’t seem to plan ahead. When they have trucks coming in and out, even though they should know they will be marking up the road.  Instead of planned sweeps, though, Hunter says construction company personnel tend to phone in a panic, wanting to get somebody there “within the hour.” “Sometimes I feel we’re more like a taxi company,” Hunter laughed. “It’s very hard to schedule your day, because you just never know what will actually happen. Each day is just so unknown and it can change rapidly. We do our best to juggle things because we don’t like to turn down business.  I’m always trying to keep everybody happy. We have to really be on our toes because it’s a competitive business and customers, especially in construction, expect you there right away when they call.” Super Sweep does on-call construction sweeping with a 2-hour minimum, which is very competitive for the area since some area contractors insist on a 3- or 4-hour minimum. The company also just charges for one-way travel time, from the company’s base in Port Coquitlam to wherever the job site is located, but don’t charge for return travel time. The Crosswinds are outfitted with suction wander hoses, too, which allows the company to offer catch-basin cleaning and other jobs requiring that type of suction. Hunter decided early on to concentrate on the quality of the job they do instead of trying to get their work with the idea of always being the lowest price. He feels that’s a much better strategy for long-term success. He already realized that there’s no way to be successful if you are not charging enough so that you can keep your equipment well-maintained, keep experienced employees, and pay a fair wage such that you can attract quality people. ssgreenmachine“We quit chasing price very quickly,” said Hunter.  “We realized that when you’re battling it out over price, nobody wins in the end.  We’re in this business to make money and we’re not going to just get into this practice of undercutting until there’s no profits left. We focus on quality of the job; when we quote a job, we quote it to do the job right.  Customers have learned that we never just go to a job site and do one pass and leave the area ‘good enough.’  We take several passes, sweeping until the result is perfect, which I’m fanatical about!  I don’t like to see a single rock left on the road.  If I even see one, I’ll turn around and I’ll do another pass.  Typically, we’re doing 4 or 5 passes to get an area spotless. Super Sweep’s Crosswinds are also outfitted with Elgin’s onboard pressure washer option. They use the pressure washer to get corners clean, and a comment Hunter says they get from a lot from customers is: “It’s very rare to see somebody take the onboard pressure washer off the truck and blow off the corners!” “I’ve had many site supervisors at construction sites say they’ve never seen anybody do that before,” said Hunter, even though that’s very standard with us.  If I can’t reach a spot in the corner, I will park the truck, unroll the pressure washer, blow off the corner and then back the truck up and vacuum up the debris.  I just don’t like to see any spot not get touched.  That type of thoroughness has led to us getting many loud praises from onsite supervisors for the quality of our work. We’re proud of that and that’s what we will continue to pride ourselves on.” For those unfamiliar with Elgin’s pressure washer add-on, here’s how it works: The power washer takes water from the main water tank on the sweeper.  The machine generates about 1,850 PSI so it can work quickly. Attached is a hose about 40 feet long which is mounted onto a spring-loaded reel in the back of the truck. This allows the operator to reach anywhere within 40 feet of the sweeper. By utilizing the straight spray tip, a user can get into the corners and blast everything out with the high pressure. That allows the sweeper to then make a pass and remove the detritus. It’s also handy as a way to wash out the hopper at the end of a shift, especially helpful if the sweeper isn’t going to be near a washout station before being parked. “If we’re not near a washout station,” said Hunter, “we use it at the end of the day to wash out the hopper. We also wash our trucks at the end of every work day; we typically use that onboard pressure washer to pressure-wash the exterior of the truck, to keep it cosmetically looking really nice — AND use it to clean out the hopper. We’ve found that system to be really handy; we wouldn’t want to be without it since it gets used several times every day. Plus we also give our machinery a really good wash with soap once or twice a week so they always stand out as being very clean. I think that kind of equipment upkeep makes a company look professional.” For driving the Crosswinds, which have air brakes, Canada has an equivalent to the United States’ Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), which  is required at 26,000 GVW and above in the U.S. There are different levels of drivers’ licenses in British Columbia and each province in Canada has its own licensing requirement.  In the Province of British Columbia, in order to operate a street sweeper with air brakes, the operator has to pass an air-brake test. This consists of either a 2-day course, which is all day for two consecutive days with a test on the third day, or the course may be taken over a week’s time. “I took the crash course over the weekend,” said Hunter, “and then did the government test on that Monday.  An air-brake license allow operation of a single-axle vehicle with air brakes.  If you want to operate a multi-axle truck, then you have to take another course and pass another test that elevates your license to operation of a “highway tractor.” For a street sweeper, though, what is required is to take the air-brake course and pass that test.  I originally took it because I had a 40-foot motorhome with air brakes and I took the course so I could drive it.  Fortunately, when I got into the sweeping business I had already had the air brake license and a bit of large vehicle experience.  Both of those are necessary if you want to operate a vehicle with air brakes.” Unlike with a CDL, there is no drug testing requirement for the license or for other reasons, except for large companies.  Highway, tractor, and commercial trucking companies require drug testing, according to Hunter, but that requirement is not one made by the government. Rather, it’s an individual company requirement that is standard practice for those types of firms. Super Sweep management does require all employees to go through a criminal-record background check, though, and their driving record is assessed and also monitored closely, which the British Columbia government does mandate. A requirement of the provincial government is that companies like Super Sweep must keep a copy of each driver’s driving history on file and then update it annually.  The province also has quite strict requirements for commercial drivers; they must maintain a track record of following the rules of the road and adherence to good driving practices. When asked about safety, Hunter didn’t hesitate in his answer: “Safety is an ongoing thing.  We discuss it daily. One of the other requirements of our government is that you have to keep a log on the sweeper.  Every morning before every shift, the operator must record the vehicle’s mileage in that log. In addition, also required is a walkaround checks and a check-off of each section.  So, before the vehicle moves on any given day the operator checks the vehicle’s signals, air brakes, lights and more. The fact all this has been done is entered into the log book and the operator then signs off on it. The log stays in the vehicle. “If we ever get pulled over by what they call here a “Commercial Inspector,” who can actually pull you over on the road, you must be able to provide that log to show that you have done a pretrip inspection prior to starting your shift. That’s mandatory.  So we also do a careful inspection at the start of every day, to make sure the truck is in good working order and have that log-book filled out, in case we ever have to present it to a roadside officer.” Hunter cites one of the company’s advantages to date as the fact they are small; small enough that even the owner is out there operating a sweeper for 8-10 hours a day.  “Also,” he told me, “all of us really care and we really go above and beyond.  I’m probably the only owner that any of our customers will run into that’s actually doing the job and not just sitting in an office.  And the quality of our staff is incredible; I’ve been really fortunate to get incredible, quality employees.  Many of them are firemen who are helping me on their four days off. I also have a newly retired fireman working for me. All of them really care about providing excellent service in a safe manner — everybody does. As the owner, I also try to visit personally as many job sites as I can.  If I’m not on the job, I love to always make sure that the work is getting done properly.  I emphasize that continually; we really just focus on the quality.  That’s our first priority.” Super Sweep may be contacted through the company’s website, www.Super sscatchbasinslogan

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