SHELBY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - Normally, when you think about 'sweeping up,' a regular broom comes to mind, but when your job is to clean up state highways, you have to bring out the big guns.
The most recent data shows Texas leads the nation in road miles with more than 654,923, that is like going from Texas to Antarctica 78 times. You need something like the 600 air sweeper that Bobby Riley uses when he is on the job for the Texas Department of Transportation.
Riley is a district street sweeper, responsible for sweeping roads in nine East Texas counties. The machine he uses is designed to never exhaust polluted air into the atmosphere. It also has fewer moving parts, which means less 'down time' and more 'sweep' time to reduce hazards on highways.
"For the public, you know, if we don't clean this up like I say you're going to have debris in the road. It's always some but you can't get it all up because it comes down too fast. But if you don't it'll just pile up and get bigger and bigger you know and eventually it would be solid on the road," said Riley.
Riley says a high velocity blower blasts air into cracks and crevices removing all different sizes of debris. They find anything from dirt to things like trash and mufflers. "You can find anything out here on the road, cell phones, tools, anything. Yeah, you can get garbage that falls out of people's trucks and stuff, all kinds of rubbers, off of blowouts on tires on trucks and stuff. You get all kinds of stuff."
Riley sweeps from one end of highway to another traveling at a rate of 2-5 miles per hour while the cars and trucks around him are going 70 miles per hour, or faster. It's not a job for someone in a hurry. "It's hectic. It gets a little scary at times but I have a crash attenuator truck cruising behind me and that helps a little bit."
The 600 has a self-cleaning system, but that doesn't mean Riley doesn't have to clean it, which he says is the worst part of the job. "Cleaning it up (laugh) all that stuff that goes in there I have to wash out during the day. I have to wash it every day, it has a screen in there and if you don't keep it clean it'll clog up."
Riley says the best part of the job is getting to meet a lot of people and even discovering new roads. He says he is working to keep our roads safe and he hopes you will work as hard for his safety.
"Just watch out for me when you're out here I'm trying to clean up for them so yeah if you see us out here working give us a little room (smiles)."
Street sweeper, Somebody's Got To Do It.
If you are wondering how you can help, Riley says do not litter and you can go a step further and become an adopt-a-highway volunteer. The program currently has more than 4,500 groups across the state. Just contact your local TXDOT office or click here for more information.