Faun sweeps in as Viajet makes UK debut

Faun is already well-known in the UK when it comes to RCVs, but will its Viajet sweepers meet with the same success? Dan Gilkes took to the road in Anglesey to try one out

There is a newcomer to the highly competitive road sweeper market in the UK, in the shape of German manufacturer Faun. Though new to many here, Faun has of course been making sweepers for many years overseas and the company will be no stranger to many in the refuse collection and recycling business as it is well established in the UK RCV sector.

Indeed the company will be hoping that its connection in the local authority and waste collection provider market will see it make inroads into the sweeper business. What will be harder to crack is the large spot high sweeper business, where the likes of Schmidt, Johnston and Scarab remain the big players.

However Faun also believes that there is a large owner operator and small fleet market - a market that may well appreciate the firm's good record for longevity, robust build and impressive back-up.

The Viajet range of sweepers certainly look the part, with a smooth, all enveloping body creating a compact appearance, whatever the chassis. There are sweeper models to fit 6 and 7.5 tonne chassis and for larger 12-18 tonne models. However LAWR took to the streets of Anglesey in Wales to assess what may become one of the more popular models, a Viajet 6 body on a Daf 55.160 chassis.

Put to work with Anglesey's refuse collection and street cleaning provider Verdant, we spent some time with regular sweeper driver Ifor Owen to see if the Faun machine has what it takes to compete over here.

Brushes take the lead
The first thing to note about our demonstration vehicle is that it has leading brushes, as used by most companies on the Continent, rather than the more common trailing brush design favoured by many manufacturers and end-users in the UK. Faun says that it will offer trailing brushes if requested, but insists that a leading brush, by its very design, offers more effective sweeping and cleaning of the road.

However, the downside of a leading brush design is that it is more vulnerable to having the drive motor knocked on kerbs or obstructions, which could lead to an expensive repair. Faun says that it is simply a question of driver training, but Verdant's workshop manager says that he would certainly tick the trailing brush option.

The second noticeable design feature is the optional twin suction hoses going to the sweeping head. In fact they are not both suction, but an air recirculation system that conveys air from the hopper to the blowing nozzle. As the second hose sucks up the air only a small percentage is released to the atmosphere, around 70% of the air returns to the system.

Air control
The big benefit of this recirculating system is that there is no plume of air coming out of the top of the body, which can in some cases let dust escape from the hopper, and can also blow the leaves off trees as the truck passes. In addition you can add water to the return air and wash the street surface at the same time.

Faun says that this system can be used in temperatures as low as -5 degrees C, as the recirculating air temperature rises to around 20 degrees, preventing the water in the suction duct freezing. The positive pressure and suction acts as an air knife, and is said to make the brush more effective.

The powerful side brush is controlled independently of the main brush, using a joystick that folds down by the window of the cab, so the operator can watch the brush and work the control. Being independently controlled also means that the side brush can be used on pavements and to reach distant objects as the truck passes.

The main brush is hydraulically driven, either from the truck's own power takeoff or by an auxiliary engine mounted within the body. Our demonstration truck was equipped with a Mercedes-Benz motor to power the brush and suction hose, an option that was most popular with Verdant as the auxiliary motor can be run on low duty red diesel rather than more expensive DERV.

The Viajet 6, as the name suggests, has a 6m3 body capacity, with a water tank capacity of 1,200 litres. When mounted on a 15-18 tonne two axle chassis, Faun says that the complete truck weighs around 8,235kg, leaving a payload in the region of 5,265kg.

At the rear of the body there is a foldaway wander hose for heavy suction duties such as sediment traps and manually collecting leaves. The hose is easily handled by a single operative, thanks to a hydraulic support ram that is controlled by buttons on the operator's handle which takes the weight of the hose. The operator can also control the flow of water through the hose to wash away loose debris from the area.

Suction gets powerful verdict
In the cab the operator is greeted by a fairly substantial control console, though Owen says that it is all self-explanatory and easy to operate. An optional rear view camera was also fitted, which helps in tight confined streets and between other vehicles. He was however particularly impressed with Faun's ability to remove debris from the roadside.

"The suction power on this is phenomenal," he says, adding: "Yet it's very quiet. You need a quiet machine too, especially starting work at 6.20 in the morning."

Owen was also pleased to see that the manufacturer has thought about the operator with the hydraulically lowered wander hose. "This is the first time I've had a wander hose on a hydraulic ram - it's a great idea."

The Verdant Group currently has a number of active contracts with local authorities for the collection of refuse and other local services across the UK. The company has been on a rolling contract to cover the island of Anglesey, off the north west coast of Wales, for some years.

However in April of this year Verdant signed a formal agreement with Anglesey to cover refuse collection, recycling, road sweeping, beach cleaning and clearing fly tipping, for the next 14 years. This long-term agreement provides the necessary security for the contractor to invest in machinery and vehicles.

"Verdant operates all over the UK, with 18 major contracts at present and two more to come this year," says business manager Andrew Dutton. "As part of this 14-year deal, the vehicles will all have to be replaced every seven years."

Verdant runs eight RCV and eight recycling vehicles on the island, along with four sweepers, five 3.5 tonne pick-ups, one 7.5 tonne truck with a tail lift and six Ford Ranger pick-ups. The company also has a compact Applied 525 sweeper for pavement work.

"All of the RCV fleet will be on 07 plates and the recycling fleet are on 53 and 54 plates at the moment," says operations manager Neil Lloyd. "All of our sweepers are 07 plate too, so 85% of the fleet is relatively new."

Verdant's sweeper trucks are used seven days a week. The company runs three 13 tonne sweepers and one at 7.5 tonnes, to handle smaller roads on the island.

Miles ahead
"We differ from a city authority in that we sweep over larger distances than an urban council," says Dutton. This is backed up by Owen, who says that he can drive up to 180km in a day yet only tip once as he covers the many villages that cover the picturesque island.

A number of Verdant's RCVs have been supplied by Faun, which has its UK manufacturing and service base just minutes down the road in Llangefni. With that in mind Dutton would certainly consider the Faun sweeper when his current vehicles are older.

"With Faun based on the island we always get good service," he says. "As a group we would always consider a new product on the market. But we would need to assess fuel consumption, service levels and a number of other factors. We would never rule anything out.

"Given that we average 3-4mpg out of a sweeper, we would definitely opt for a separate engine on red diesel to power the brush," he adds.

Once again the last word goes to driver Ifor Owen, who was certainly taken with the compact Faun's cleaning performance. "Because it's got such a phenomenal pick-up, I can travel that little bit faster, which helps you to get the job done," he says.

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