17 Years of Pure Vacuum Sweeping Power! | Bucher Municipal | United States

17 years and counting for this street sweeper!

City of Hickory Johnston VT650 Operator Dan Diehl in cab
City of Hickory Johnston VT650 Operator Dan Diehl in the cab of his street sweeper.

In the last couple of years, Bucher Municipal (aka Johnston Sweepers) has been made aware of several Bucher/Johnston sweepers that have passed the fifteen-plus years ʺstill in operationʺ milestone. This development sparked our curiosity about how these end-users were extending the life cycle past the average industry standard of eight years.

This article is just one example of why Bucher/Johnston Sweepers have become the industry standard worldwide for productivity, reliability, and durability.

Dan Diehl (Equipment Operator, City of Hickory) grins wide when I ask him what he likes most about the Johnston Sweeper he's driven for the last 17 years. ʺIt's part of me. I can depend on my sweeper; it will perform every time I sit in the cab,ʺ gushed Dan.

City of Hickory street sweeper operator Dan shows Bucher service manager Sean around his Johnston street sweeper
City of Hickory street sweeper operator Dan Diehl shows Bucher service manager Sean around his Johnston street sweeper

Dan lights up as he gives me a tour of the VT 650 pure vacuum sweeper built in 2004 by Johnston Sweepers and that the City of Hickory put into operation in 2005.

Dan describes in detail, with the enthusiasm of a proud father, the hopper, brushes, vacuum intake, equipment locker, cab, and well...all of the sweeper.

John Bowman (Assistant Street Supervisor) said ʺDan knows this sweeper like the back of his hand.ʺ

City of Hickory staff Dan, Bobby, and John in front of Johnston VT650 street sweeper
City of Hickory team: Bobby Hatley, Dan Diehl, and John Bowman in front of their Johnston VT650 street sweeper

As we drove to meet Bobby Hatley (Street Supervisor), John Bowman (Assistant Street Supervisor), and Dan Diehl (Equipment Operator), we passed city, after city we've sold street sweepers to. Hickory is right in Bucher/Johnston Sweepers country. Hickory, North Carolina, is located an hour from Charlotte and Asheville at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. When I visited, the crew had recently finished cleaning up after a snow and ice winter storm that had made quite a mess of their area. The sweeper was definitely a major contributor during the clean-up.

A lot of miles

On a good day, Dan sweeps 25 lane miles. Due to weather Hickory typically sweeps nine solid months a year, as the weather allows during the winter months.

The Freightliner cab-over chassis inches ever closer to the 100,000-mile mark. Currently, the chassis has 99,572 miles on it.

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), all of that usage is pretty amazing when you consider the current average lifespan of a street sweeper is five to eight years (depending on use).

Odometer City of Hickory Johnston VT650 street sweeper


The secret?

So what's the secret to getting extra time out of a street sweeper?

"Consistent and proper preventive maintenance," said Booby Hatley (Street Supervisor). Dan and the Hickory vehicle maintenance crew make sure to service the Johnston / Bucher sweeper daily. What is the most replaced part of the sweeper? No surprise there, it's the brushes. ʺI tell anyone else on the crew who operates my sweeper, take care of it, and it'll sweep great for you,ʺ says Dan.

I took along one of our Service Managers, Sean Ballantine, for his expert perspective on the sweeper.

Sean said, ʺThe overall condition of the sweeper, including the hopper, is astonishing after seventeen years. It's as structurally sound like one of our brand new hoppers. That's amazing when you consider the corrosive and abrasive environment it works in every day. ʺ Sean added that the majority of the electronics in the equipment locker were original. ʺThat speaks to the quality of the OEM Johnston/Bucher parts, ʺ said Sean.

City of Hickory Johnston Sweepers VT650 street sweeper tilted side angle


Other sweepers?

Bobby says, ʺWe have a newer competitor's CNG regenerative air street sweeper, but it just doesn't pick up like our Bucher/Johnston sweeper, plus CNG didn't catch on here. ʺ On the competition's pick-up performance, Dan added, ʺNot even close. ʺ


Sweeping can be a lonely job even when you love your job and sweeper as much as Dan. To add a little fun into the mix, a coworker gave Dan a toy monkey as moral support and reminded him not to monkey around on the job. 

City of Hickory street sweeper operator Dan with his mascot in the street sweeper cab
Dan with his mascot


What's next?

What's next for the city of Hickory? We're happy to report Dan, Bobby, and John-Boy are looking forward to this Spring when their new Bucher V65t, the next generation of the Johnston VT, arrives. 

One of the things Dan (as a larger guy like myself) is looking forward to most about the new sweeper is the extra room in the cabin. Besides more space, the exclusive SportChassis option provides an identical dual steer on the right and left side of the cabin. Learn more here (will insert link).   

As I look back at my time in Hickory, it's a lot like one of my favorite Star Wars quotes from Han Solo on his well-used ride, the Millennium Falcon, ʺShe may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts. ʺ

City of Hickory Johnston Sweepers VT650 sweep gear


About Hickory, NC

Hickory's regional hub of 365,000 people is home to minor league baseball, walking and biking trails, 26 parks, boating, restaurants, and a revitalized spirit of business collaboration. Hickory boasts a collective spirit of craftsmanship that strengthens any endeavor with detail, artistry, and quality. Hickory is Life. Well Crafted!


Special thanks to Bobby Hatley, John Bowman, and Dan Diehl for sharing their time and experiences with us.

By Matt Starnes, Product Manager at Bucher Municipal North America

Rear view of City of Hickory Johnston Sweepers VT650 street sweeper