Podcast – John Dewitz of Above & Beyond Hydroseed

John Dewitz with the VT652 vacuum street sweeper

A street sweeper application snapshot

John Dewitz of Above & Beyond Hydroseed joins host Matt Starnes to discuss using the right street sweeper for the right application.

John and Valerie Dewitz found themselves needing to buy a street sweeper after a bad subcontractor experience.

Learn more about Above & Beyond Hydroseed’s unique street sweeper application and the solution they found with Johnston’s vacuum street sweeper!

Listen to the podcast episode and read the full transcript!

The right street sweeper for the job

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Read the full transcript of the podcast on this street sweeper application.


Matt Starnes: Thanks for choosing the Sweepers and Tankers podcast. I’m your host Matt Starnes, and we’ve got an awesome episode for you today. Special guest, John Dewitz, owner of Above & Beyond Hydroseed. John started the company with his wife, Valerie. They specialize in erosion control and hydroseed. So, how does this tie into street sweepers or sewer tankers? Well, John and Val are using one of our vacuum street sweepers in a pretty unique way. I don’t want to spoil it, but give the episode a listen, let us know what you think. And if you’ve got a unique application for a street sweeper or sewer tanker, let us know, get in touch with us. We would love to have you on a future podcast episode. Always looking for innovative ways that you’re using the street sweepers or sewer tankers, and of course, your stories. They’re always so interesting. So, thanks so much.

Announcer:  Welcome to the Sweepers and Tankers podcast, sponsored by Johnston Sweepers, a Bucher company, providing Endless Sweeping Solutions, and by Bucher Municipal North America, Powered By Innovation and specializing in the development and manufacture of world-class recycling sewer cleaners for over 30 years. This podcast covers topics on the street sweeper and sewer cleaning equipment market. Now let’s welcome our host Matt Starnes.

Matt Starnes: All right, John, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast. I want to find out a little bit about the history, in a nutshell, of … kind of your elevator speech for Above & Beyond Hydroseed.

John Dewitz: My name’s John Dewitz, and my wife Valerie and I own Above & Beyond Hydroseed. We’re an erosion control and hydroseed company out of Ridgefield, Washington, and we’ve been in business since about 2002.

Matt Starnes: Oh, wow. What was the emphasis or the point where you decided to go into business and launch the business, yourself and your wife?

John Dewitz: I come from a building background, and I was in the construction field for a number of years, and I worked for a company where I ended as the general manager of construction. I ended that to start this company. I saw a need for a subcontractor that could take care of erosion control issues that were coming up, and they were becoming more and more difficult to deal with in-house. So, I started this company and in hopes that we would stay busy enough to survive. Fortunately, it worked out.

Matt Starnes: I was going to say, yeah, here we are, what, 17, 18 years later?

John Dewitz: Right, right.

Matt Starnes: Still going strong. So, I just wanna kind of get a little bit of background. You were using a contractor to use street sweepers to work on some porous asphalt. Is that correct or …?

John Dewitz: Well, we have a large builder we do work for, and they came to me asking me to sweep their streets. I said, “Well, I don’t have a sweep truck, but I could probably sub that out for you,” and they said, “Okay, let’s do that.” So, we subbed that out. We did that for about three years, and we were paying a lot of money out for street sweeping, and we weren’t getting very good results.

John Dewitz: So, our customers weren’t completely happy, which with the name Above & Beyond, we really strive for happiness in our customers. We looked into and started researching out some street sweepers, and we came across Johnston, that seemed to have a truck that would possibly work for us. Put out the word to them, and through their website. I believe got us in touch with Shawn Hutchings, and he came out, demoed a truck for us, and things looked good. It seemed capable of doing everything that we were looking for, and we decided to make the purchase.

Matt Starnes: So when you say you weren’t getting good results with the subcontractors, as far as what they were doing for sweeping, it’s my understanding they were running a regenerative air sweeper to try to get up the particulates in the porous asphalt.

John Dewitz: That’s correct. Yeah. It just wasn’t happening. They would say, “Well, we could bring out a broom truck, and we can try that. We can bring out pressure washer trucks.” So then we’ve got two to three trucks showing up to a site, and the cost of that was … it was ridiculous, and we still weren’t getting the results we were looking for. With the Johnston VT652 that we purchased, it seems to be performing well, and we’re starting to get the results that we’re looking for.

Matt Starnes: That’s wonderful. So you switched from regen to vacuum. What type of porous asphalt was being swept? Because I know a lot of it’s the drainage, I guess underneath. And if you don’t get it all up, it just kind of plugs up the works and kind of creates a huge problem.

John Dewitz: Right, and we’re seeing more and more of that. We only have a couple of sites with the porous asphalt right now, so we’re just getting involved in that. I haven’t swept the porous asphalt yet, but I think we’re going to have really good results when I do. I should be sweeping one this weekend I believe.

Matt Starnes: Oh, great. I’d like to follow up with you on that. Yeah. Definitely, the vacuum is gonna get you much better results, as I’m sure the demo that Sean did with you would go there. And you were using the subcontractors for about three years?

John Dewitz: Correct.

Matt Starnes: When did you start kind of noticing, okay, the subcontractors, the equipment they are using with the regen might not be the best way to get the porous asphalt … get the particulates out of there?

John Dewitz: Well, we were seeing ourselves, from being onsite doing some erosion control stuff, we were seeing that it just wasn’t looking as clean as we thought it should. We started getting complaints from the customer themselves, and that’s when they started bringing in multiple trucks to try and do the job of what one truck should.

Matt Starnes: Oh my goodness. Okay. They were actually trying to do a fleet of regens to try to solve the problem.

John Dewitz: Yes.

Matt Starnes: Oh goodness, okay. Just trying to use brute numbers to see if they could solve it.

John Dewitz: Right, yeah. Then I have to try and pass that cost onto the customer, which they weren’t too happy to see that.

Above & Beyond Hydroseed logo

Matt Starnes: What type of cost savings are expecting to see? Obviously, the subcontractor was deploying multiple regenerative sweepers to try and get up the particulates in the porous asphalt, but as you said, that kind of … at some point, it gets too costly for not only a customer but in turn yourself.

John Dewitz: I haven’t figured the cost savings yet. We’ve had the truck for about three weeks now. What I’m seeing is that I’m spending less time on each site and getting a quality job. I know there’s going to be cost savings, and the fact that I’m not taking three trucks out to do one job is going to be a huge saving as well.

Matt Starnes: What kind of time savings are you seeing so far? I know it’s fairly early on in the application of the VT.

John Dewitz: On uncertain sites, on some larger sites mainly, we’re seeing about a two-hour difference as far as the sweep time. That’s on a site with about 100 home sites, probably half of that being in construction.

Matt Starnes: Yeah, already two hours for some of those larger ones. When you say 100 home sites, these are a neighborhood of homes being built?

John Dewitz: That’s correct.

Matt Starnes: Gotcha. Okay. Just wanna make sure I understood the application. All right. Yeah, that’s already … like they say, time is money. That’s already some proof in the pudding, as they say.

John Dewitz: Right, right. Yeah, and we sweep about, oh, 30 sites a month right now. Overall, that adds up to pretty big savings.

Matt Starnes: Yeah, when you multiply that out, for sure, for sure. How would you say the operator training … or the operators, are they picking it up fairly easily? Is it-

John Dewitz: Well, right now I’m the only operator. I want to get to know the truck, I want to know what it’s capable of doing. And so, when I am training my guys and out there visiting sites for quality, I’ll know what to expect.

Matt Starnes: Oh, that’s excellent.

John Dewitz: Yeah. So, right now that’s how it’s going.

Matt Starnes: Okay. I think I really respect that hands-on approach of learning and then trickle it down. Also, I’m sure it helps when you do train the rest of your folks, that they’ll be like, oh yeah, the boss was out there doing it.

John Dewitz and the Above and Beyond Hydroseed crew with Shawn Hutchings

John Dewitz: Right, right. Yes. As far as the training on the truck, Sean did a great job. He was out for a couple of days. He was willing to be out there for as long as it took. The truck itself, I was pretty intimidated first. I went through all the literature, read all the manuals, and tried to get as familiar with the truck as I could. But then actually taking it out to do a sweep was my first sweep ever, so I’ve never operated the sweep truck before. I was surprised by how easy they make it to operate.

Matt Starnes: What was the one thing you were most … if you can think about the most intimidated about, that turned out not to be quite as much … I know I do the same type of thing. Sometimes I’ll build stuff up in my mind and then I’ll do things, and I’ll be like, oh, I really blew out of proportion.

John Dewitz: Right. That’s the first thing I said my first day out. I was like, oh, this is not as bad as I was making it out to be.

Matt Starnes: That’s a good realization.

John Dewitz: Yeah, yeah. Some of the things I worried about was, oh, what if I hit the wrong button or what if … Everything’s right in front of you and it’s easy to see, it’s easy to work.

Matt Starnes: When you’re sweeping, are you just going over it with the truck itself, or using any of the attachments to help with that? Or is it really just the water working with the vacuum that’s getting you the best results so far?

John Dewitz: The ground in sediment that’s just been sitting there for … and just been getting ground in for months and months and months. That’s the part where the subcontractor wasn’t … they weren’t getting that stuff out of there.

Matt Starnes: And that was just on the regular asphalt you said as well.

John Dewitz: Correct. Yeah. Now each time the truck goes into these subdivisions, I’m seeing better and better results. So, it’s picking all that out of there. And it’s not getting it all at one sweep, but over a period of a few sweeps, I think we’re going to get the asphalt looking much better.

Matt Starnes: Yeah, because basically sounds like it might’ve actually been … with the regens, it might’ve not only left a lot behind but then like you said, that kind of builds up even in regular asphalt and it gets kind of compacted in there. So as you’re using the right equipment with the vacuum street sweeper, the VT652, like you said, that’ll just start coming up easier and easier and you’ll get to that point where most likely you’ll be able to do one sweep or not as many sweeps, which will also save you some time, which sounds pretty good.

John Dewitz: Right. Yeah. The comment that we used to get all the time was, “Well, I don’t see that sweeper’s even been here.” That was something that … we had to call the contractor and say, “Hey, our customer is saying that you guys weren’t there.” And so, they would send over GPS coordinates and say, “Oh, well it shows here that we’ve been around through that subdivision.” Okay. So we send that to them, and okay, so yes, maybe you’ve been there, but it doesn’t look like you did anything. Now, I’m not getting that with this truck. They definitely see that we’ve been there.

Matt Starnes: Oh wow. That’s amazing. The subdivision of 100 homes or so that are in the construction process, is that typical or is that … what percentage of the mix are you going to be using the streets sweeper for? Do you think that is 20% of the larger ones or a different percentage mix?

John Dewitz: I would say about 40% are large communities. Yeah.

Matt Starnes: Any surprises? I know you said it was easier to use than you anticipated, but was there any particular feature that you’re kind of geeking out about or really enjoyed so far?

John Dewitz: The pressure wash system that’s in the truck is … it’s great. What a great addition to that truck because that helps with the cleaning as well as on the asphalt, as well as when you get back to the yard and you’re dumping out and cleaning up the truck. You can clean the truck completely each time that you get back with that pressure wash system. It’s a great addition.

Matt Starnes: Oh great. When do you anticipate training some other folks to be operators on the machine?

John Dewitz: Probably within a month, I’ll be working with some guys. I don’t know when I’ll completely hand it over, but about that time is when they’ll be starting to ride around with me and doing some sweeps themselves with me in the truck as well.

Matt Starnes: You’re definitely hands-on throughout the process, which is.

John Dewitz: Oh yeah. Yeah, with all my work I am. I don’t like to micromanage, but I like to set my guys up to where they can dial in the quality that I’m looking for.

Matt Starnes: Well, that’s good attention to detail versus micromanaging, which usually is a good solution to most training for sure. I mean, it’s much easier to get respect from your own folks and operators.

John Dewitz: Oh yeah, you bet.

Matt Starnes: What I like to do, John, is I could follow up with you once you get a little bit more experience under the belt, like a little followup add-on to the podcast if that would be all right.

John Dewitz: Yeah.

Matt Starnes: But I’m really excited about the results you’re having so far. It sounds like you’re off to a good start and already seeing that time savings, which I know, as a small business owner, time is the one commodity that end of the day you’re always running out of.

John Dewitz: Right, right. Yeah. The initial investment I was really concerned about. I did a lot of research and worked numbers. I just did a lot to prepare for such a large purchase, but it’s going to be a nice saving for us and it’s gonna be a good thing. It’s also an additional service that we can add to our other customers as well.

Matt Starnes: Well, John, thank you so much for your time today. Again, we look forward to following up with you as you enjoy and kind of evolve with your experience with VT652 Vacuum Street Sweeper.

John Dewitz: Thank you very much, Matt.

Matt Starnes: All right, thanks, John.

Announcer: Thank you for listening to the Sweepers and Tankers podcast. Please rate review and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play Music, or whatever awesome podcast service you subscribe to.

Above & Beyond Hydroseed logo - long

About Above & Beyond Hydroseed:

Since 2002, Above & Beyond Hydroseed has been providing exceptional service and personalized customer care to highly satisfied clients across Portland and Southwest Washington. Whether it’s a 400 unit housing development or improvements to your front yard, Above & Beyond is in the business of making your experience one of a kind.


Wondering which street sweeper is right for your application? Our guide can help! https://johnstonsweepers.us/guide/

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