The single-engine sweeping advantage with Chuck Chiapellone of Metro Ports

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Single-engine case study, Chuck Chiapellone of Metro Ports

Chuck Chiapellone, Maintenance Manager at Metro Ports, Longbeach shares his VS652 single-engine street sweeper experience with host Matt Starnes.


  • The stainless steel advantage especially in harsh environments
  • Single-engine maintenance benefits
  • How a competitor sweeper rusted out
  • The power of choosing the right sweeper for your application
  • Time and monetary savings
  • Added benefits of our catch basin cleaner

And more!

Listen to the podcast episode and read the full transcript!

Chuck Chiapellone of Metro Ports on the power of the single-engine VS652 street sweeper!

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Read the full transcript of the podcast case study of the single-engine VS652 street sweeper!

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.

Announcer: 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, thanks for joining us. Today, we speak with Chuck Chiapellone of Metro Ports, and this is a unique case study for some pretty harsh conditions at the seaport about what the V Range is capable of, especially our single-engine unit.

Matt Starnes: All right, Chuck. Thanks for joining us. If you could just tell us a little bit about yourself and the company to start with.

Chuck Chiapellone: Sure. My name is Chuck Chiapellone. I’m the maintenance manager here at Metro Ports in Long Beach, California, and we’re a bulk loading facility where we load coal, coke, soda ash, sulfur, all different products on the ships. They’re stored here on site, and we have to load in shifts. Long Beach is a green port, it’s a clean port, so we have a sweeper to keep everything clean. That even with everything enclosed, you still get dust on the ground. So we put water down, and we need to keep our areas clean, the parking lot, the high line, the ships are tied off. So we use a sweeper pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Matt Starnes: Oh, wow.

Chuck Chiapellone: … to clean the facility. I think from 3:00 to 6:00, we’re not using it. So we use it pretty much every day, a sweeper. So we have to have a dependable sweeper that will continue to wash down and clean. We have to keep it clean as part of what we need to do.

Matt Starnes: Chuck, when you first thought you needed a street sweeper, were you in that decision process back in the day?

Chuck Chiapellone: Yes, I was. Yeah, our old one, after about four years, it totally just rusted out and was no longer serviceable, repairable. So we started looking for a sweeper. We started with, basically, we looked around the area. There’s a company called Oxbow right next to us, who we service basically, and they’ve used Johnston sweepers, and they were very happy with them. Then we looked at other ones, and then we just saw the difference between the companies and the product, the history. So we finalized finally on Johnston Sweepers.

Matt Starnes: Back even before that, how did you determine you needed a street sweeper at all before you even bought the one that you had for four years? Was it just impossible to clean or what?

Chuck Chiapellone: Well, the old one was just worn out, and it’s a very harsh environment. Equipment, trucks, anything, don’t last long here. The unit we had on hand was no longer sweep cleaning, was no longer operational, and the cost to repair it was too costly. So we had to get a sweeper to replace the one we had. Pretty much from day one, we’ve always had sweepers here, a part of our process that we have to have sweepers on the clock.

single engine VS652 Shawn Hutchings

How the single-engine VS652 stacks up against…sulfur!

Matt Starnes: I know we spoke early last week briefly, but if you can kind of describe that environment because I haven’t run into this myself, but I think you’ve got a … Like you said, it’s a shipyard, but it’s a very unique, harsh environment.

Chuck Chiapellone: Yeah. So we’re on the coast, so we get the salt air. That takes any pickup truck or anything that has sheet metal, it rots it in a short amount of time. We load sulfur, which is very corrosive, and so we have to put water down, and then we sweep it up with the sweeper to get rid of the sulfur, and then we process the water. So we have multiple conveyors throughout the system and transfers, and pretty much all of them are covered, and they load ships. But we still get dust in the air, so sulfur dust or coke dust or dust goes in the air and then falls on the ground. So we have a water truck run pretty much on and off throughout the day keeping everything wet so we don’t stir up dust. Then the sweepers go behind it and suck up the water and the dust that’s in the water. We’re constantly doing that, keeping clean, and it’s an ongoing process.

Chuck Chiapellone: But it is a harsh environment. I said before, the sea. We’re right on the sea edge, water edge, Port of Long Beach, and we have sulfur and other products, when they stay wet, they just are very corrosive to equipment. And plus, we have longshoreman driving it, who basically they bang into things. That’s just part of the business that we do here.

Matt Starnes: That would be really rough on it. When you described this, I’ve been to shipping yards, but all I can imagine is something like Lord of the Rings with the molten lava, all the sulfur. That kind of thing is what goes through my head.

Matt Starnes: You were telling me about one of the sweepers you had previously. Tell me about the floorboards.

Chuck Chiapellone: Okay. Well, basically it had a cab. It was built from someone else. We could start to see after the first year how everything was starting to rust. The body was sheet metal, and the paint was poor, so it was eating through the sheet metal. We painted it a few times, but the floorboards and the doors totally rotted out from the sulfur and constantly being used. And so, eating the sheet metal.

Matt Starnes: Oh, my goodness.

Chuck Chiapellone: A lot of it was just rusting away, and that’s literally what happened. It just rusted. Within a four-year period, it was beyond use, and the wiring was starting to go. We had to replace wire looms and everything. Everything was just falling apart, it wasn’t holding up, and it wasn’t cleaning very well at the end. It just rotted away.

Matt Starnes: Wow.

Chuck Chiapellone: In a short amount of time, more than other pieces of equipment.

Matt Starnes: I lived up in Ohio when I was a teenager and I had an old car, and the floorboards rusted out and you could see part of the ground.

Chuck Chiapellone: Well, that’s why they built the Ford Model A with wooden floorboards, so you could just change out the plywood every seven years.

Matt Starnes: [Laughter] Almost turns into a Flintstones sort of a thing. [Laughter] Oh my goodness. What a corrosive environment. So is that part of the reasoning of why you chose Johnston/Bucher for the stainless steel or …

Chuck Chiapellone: Yes, very much so. Just the durability and we were hoping the service would be a lot better, which it is.

Matt Starnes: Oh, good.

Why service matters

Chuck Chiapellone: Because that was the other thing. We didn’t have good service. We do have the maintenance in-house. Any time it’s something major that we can’t do, we have to send it out or have a technician come in. They just weren’t servicing us very well.

Matt Starnes: What do they have difficulties with, or rather, you have difficulties with, as far as the service side?

Chuck Chiapellone: Getting parts or getting people out here in a timely manner. I mean, we only have one sweeper, and it has to be operational around the clock. So if it goes down and we can’t get a part for it, we got to rent a sweeper and immediately. So it’s very critical to the operation. We cannot operate without a sweeper, and we only have one. So we have to make sure it’s durable. We have in the past had to rent one or get a loaner in here, but we needed it right away. We have to have a durable sweeper, and that’s why we picked Johnson/Bucher. And so far, it’s been a very reliable sweeper.

Matt Starnes: Yeah. So you were saying as far as running it pretty much constantly, except for about basically three hours, is that the only downtime it really gets?

Chuck Chiapellone: Yeah. Maybe an hour or two throughout the day, we don’t use it. Like lunch and things, but it runs pretty constantly throughout the day. We put a lot of hours on it quick, because we run two shifts, and we run seven days a week. So it’s pretty constant. We do the maintenance to them, the filters and everything here, and the cleaning here on site.

Matt Starnes: With doing the two shifts and using it constantly, like you said, you can’t afford downtime. You would have to rent a replacement sweeper and then, like you said, be able to get that almost immediately just so you could keep up with clearing the harsh environment so that sulfur dust and those types of things don’t get around. Because you’re also trying to protect the safety of your workers too, in that environment. So yeah, very good, very good.

Matt Starnes: I guess, since you do the filter changes yourself, is that fairly easy for you and your crew to change out those types of maintenance items?

Chuck Chiapellone: Yeah. We do an inspection every morning, and then we do a 500-hour inspection and filter change out for the waters and the oil filters, hydraulic filters. So yes.

Chuck Chiapellone: We have a single-engine unit, actually which is good, because it has less maintenance to it. That is a single-engine benefit there, a single motor that powers both the blower and the sweeper drive chain train.

Matt Starnes: Yeah, that single-engine seems to be getting a lot more popular, and it goes through cycles, at least in North America especially. So it’s easier to maintain with just that single-engine rather than having to figure out two. Got you. All right.

Single-engine VS652 street sweeper

Matt Starnes: Then I want to talk to you about salesperson Shawn Hutchings, our Regional Sales Manager out West there. How was that experience once you connected with him? I know you had kind of a step before you met him, I think.

Chuck Chiapellone: Right. Yeah, actually the response sales team has been great. From pretty much day one, they were right upfront with us. They told us what was happening and why, and Shawn was very good, very instrumental in making sure the training, we got plenty of training. They were out here for the first two weeks, no additional charge or anything, to make sure we knew how to operate the single-engine sweeper, how to maintain it. They made anything that wasn’t quite right, they made it correct. So it was very good working with Bucher, very pleased with their service and response.

Matt Starnes: I’ve had the chance to go to trade shows with Shawn and other sales events and those types of things. I think the thing that really helps him so he can relate to people is he started off in service in his background. So he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and get in there and dial in the units, which it sounds like he did the first couple weeks.

Matt Starnes: I was able to get some pictures at the shipyard. He sent me a few of those. It looks like you had quite a few people being trained, which is good since you’ve got the two shifts, which is pretty crucial there.

Matt Starnes: Beyond the training, what kind of time savings have you noticed so far?

Chuck Chiapellone: Maintenance-wise, the filter changes are pretty quick. We’re definitely not spending as much time maintaining it. But it’s easy to maintain, keep it going. But we’re just constantly sweeping. So I mean, it does a good job. Sucks up water.

Chuck Chiapellone: That’s the other time we use it for, is in a rain event. When we get a lot of rain, we get big puddles that don’t drain, and we have to suck those up. It’s a larger capacity holding tank on it, so we do less trips. So that’s, I think, where we get the savings, pretty much sweeping more than we had before. It was a smaller tank, so we’d have to do multiple trips dumping the water. So that’s how.

Chuck Chiapellone: It sucks up water. It has two nozzles, but we only just one suction nozzle at a time and the center broom, one side at a time. So it sucks up water. That’s a time saver, and I see it is maintenance because it’s a single-engine and it’s new. The second is, it has a larger holding tank, which is stainless steel, which hopefully that should last a while.

Chuck Chiapellone: You find the two things that hold up well here is stainless steel and fiberglass. This body is made of fiberglass. We tried in the past, we tried a lifetime liner in the tank by another manufacturer, and it didn’t last a lifetime. It started separating. So they replaced it on the warranty, but then it was down for two to three weeks because of that.

Matt Starnes: Oh goodness.

Chuck Chiapellone: We definitely had to go with the stainless steel tank.

Matt Starnes: What you said, fiberglass and then stainless steel, really your only options for sulfur and…

Chuck Chiapellone: Plastic holds up pretty good, too.

Matt Starnes: Yeah, made of oil. That helps a little bit. Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, thanks for telling me about the time savings.

Matt Starnes: As far as the monetary savings, do you have enough information to kind of think about how that saved you? I guess that kind of ties into the time a little bit as far as your crews not having to go and refill water and those type of things with the larger capacity.

Chuck Chiapellone: Look, I mean, they’re paid eight hours shifts anyway. So time-wise, they’re going to be busy eight hours. They just going to keep sweeping. So time-wise, it just saves trips so we could dump more water. But we don’t finish a job earlier because they continue all day.

Matt Starnes: Right. That’s true.

Chuck Chiapellone: It’s easy to maintain. That’s where the time savings really is.

single-engine Johnston VS652 profile of street sweeper

Matt Starnes: Got you. What about money-wise or monetarily savings? What are you-

Chuck Chiapellone: Well, sweepers are expensive, either the one we had before. I mean, right now it’s less maintenance. So it’s a new machine. We’re doing the money savings right now because we’re not having to rent a sweeper. So there is a saving there, where in the past we would have some sweepers down. It was usually down for two to three to four days. We’d have to rent a sweeper and that was a cost, probably like $500 a day. That would add up quickly.

Matt Starnes: Okay. I see, yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s a really good example. What kind of expectations do you have for the sweeper when you bought the single-engine VS652?

Chuck Chiapellone: Well, basically I would definitely clean and suck up water, which it does, that hopefully, it has a good five to eight-year lifespan on it. We got like four years on the last one so we’re expecting five if not more.

Matt Starnes: Yeah, that stainless steel should definitely help.

Chuck Chiapellone: Yeah, but it was just everything. The old one, it was the wiring, the cab totally rusting out. We were going to have to buy a whole new cab. The whole cab was totally gone because it was made of sheet metal underneath. So it would crack up. It’s kind of like you’re driving in the rain all the time. It’s always wet when we’re sweeping. It’s not like on a road where you’re just cleaning the curb or a gutter. It’s all wet, and it’s the sulfur in there. It would get splashed up. It eventually eats up the floorboards underneath. So time will tell there. But like I said, this cab is all pretty much fiberglass on the outside, where the old one was sheet metal. So that should definitely hold up longer.

Matt Starnes: Are you able to do a single pass with our sweeper as far as sweeping goes? Are you able to do it in one pass as far as your initial one [pass]?

Chuck Chiapellone: Yeah, we do a pass, and we overlap pass and overlap. It’s wide. It’s like a freeway basically. So you have multiple lanes, so we do it back and forth and then we overlap. It does a good job. I mean, it sweeps well. But we’re picking up water and dust is what we’re picking up mostly.

Matt Starnes: I can’t remember offhand, but does that particular unit, does it have a catch basin cleaner on top?

Chuck Chiapellone: It has it on the back. It has a suction hose on the back.

Matt Starnes: The back. Right. Okay.

Chuck Chiapellone: It works good in some areas. But for leaves and lighter products like that, it does well. We have, they’re called truck washes where we washout, and over time it’s solid full of a sulfur product, and they’re little beads, and it’s just solid. So we try to use that to suck it up. We’ve actually reduced the use of running a super-sucker because half of our areas we can clean, use the catch basin hose on it, the single-engine sweeper. So save money there. As opposed to a super-sucker. I mean, there’s two to three… We try to use it as much as we can. It does a great job. We have a lot of train tracks, and we clean switches with it. We wash them out and clean the switches, and it works fine there. That’s half of what we have to clean with, so that’s cut down the cost of running a super-sucker. So there’s another single-engine sweeper plus there, so that was good.

Matt Starnes: I haven’t been around that type of environment in a while, but that sulfur, like you said, it just gets so heavy when it gets wet.

Chuck Chiapellone: Yeah, it’s heavy.

Matt Starnes: Yeah, yeah. For sure. Okay. Well, Chuck, I really appreciate it, kind of sharing your single-engine experience with us. Hope to follow up with you in the future and see how it’s going. Really hope five, eight years from now, we can do a followup when you’re ready to get a new one and you can tell us how many hours you’ve got on that. Because it sounds like in a week, you’re getting a more than typical use.

Chuck Chiapellone: Yep.

Matt Starnes: All right, thank you so much, Chuck.

Chuck Chiapellone: You’re welcome.

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.


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