A revolving steel-bristle broom kicked up dust as a giant vacuum suctioned it and more trash into a “hopper,” or gigantic trash bin. Tiny hoses shot water out to calm the storm of dust on April 11 as the street sweeper slogged down Parker Henderson Road in southeast Fort Worth. 

The machine’s driver Tanya Kimberlain, 46, operated the massive vehicle. The city promises that if Fort Worth residents aren’t used to seeing street sweepers now, they will soon as Fort Worth prepares to add 12 new street sweepers to the fleet – two replacements for existing vehicles, and 10 additional units to clean a rapidly growing city. This will bring the city’s fleet to 10.

Kimberlain dealt with the pains of being a public bus driver for years in Las Vegas — and for a short period of time in Fort Worth — before she became a street sweeper equipment operator for the city. 

Kimberlain dealt with issues like nudity, urination, defecation and violence as a bus driver.

“People would try to fight me literally at least once a trip,” Kimberlain said. “Compared to the stress I had working in public transit, this is easily the easiest job I’ve had, and I get to be of service.”

Kimberlain began working as a street sweeper operator in October. She and her husband arrived in Fort Worth from Omaha, Nebraska, mainly to take care of her elderly mother, she said. 

After 40 hours of training with supervisors, Kimberlain hit the streets. Her schedule in the sweeper is usually four days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and she works mainly in Quadrant 2, which is south of Interstate 30 and east of Loop 820. 

That quadrant includes Echo Heights, which Kimberlain drove through on April 11. The southeast Fort Worth neighborhood has complained of widespread litter and air pollution issues. 

In Las Vegas, Kimberlain put up with arguing passengers, but on the street sweeper, she enjoys listening to NPR, she said. She also prefers driving the massive street sweeper over a long bus.

Growing up, Kimberlain lived in many places because of her military parent. She spent her childhood in California, where she graduated high school. Then, in Las Vegas and lastly in Omaha before moving to Fort Worth.

She tried to become a street sweeper operator in Las Vegas, but the schedule didn’t work out — street sweepers in Las Vegas operate at night because of traffic.

A street sweeper cleans debris off the road April 11 on Martin Street. The City of Fort Worth recently approved a contract to purchase new street sweepers. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

In Fort Worth, she operates her machine at a whopping 5-to-7 mph while sweeping. Her truck, which has just over 50,000 miles on it, is reliable but 7 years old.

“We’re dealing with dirt and so much dust that the filters go really fast. And so every time we change the brooms, we have the filters changed and it’ll work for a little bit. It doesn’t bother me,” Kimberlain said. “It’s an older truck, so the usual wear and tear.”

By the numbers:

How many street miles does the city of Fort Worth have?

8,129 lane miles of street surface.  

How many miles do the sweepers average each day?

An average of 15 miles a day. 

How many routes does each sweeper have?

An average of four routes. 

How many pounds of trash have been collected this fiscal year?

276 tons of trash collected from October 2022 through March 2023

Source: Sherri Mata, Fort Worth Code Compliance and Solid Waste Supervisor

Last year, city officials approved a new budget that included funding for new litter cleanup initiatives – some of which an increase in the city’s environmental fee will fund. Residents now pay $1.50 per month, up from 50 cents. 

In March, Fort Worth City Council approved a contract to purchase 12 street sweepers for about $3.75 million, the Report previously reported. Citing supply chain delays, code compliance director Brandon Bennett told council members April 4 that he would be happy if the vehicles arrived in the first quarter of 2024. 

The new street sweepers is something the environmental team needs, Kimberlain said. 

“They’re expanding what they want to do as far as cleaning up the city, it’s necessary to have new and more equipment,” she said.

Although Kimberlain is new to Fort Worth, street sweeping and her stint in Fort Worth public transit have allowed her to become more familiar with the city — though she will continue to use her GPS.

On top of her cleaning duties, at any given time, Kimberlain is using the MyFW App to report a stray dog or deceased animal on the side of the road during her shift. 

“Sometimes we have to send out another team which they call the Curb and Gutter team, and they have to come out and they essentially just shovel it,” Kimberlain said. “There’s a bunch of us but only a few trucks. So our litter abatement team helps with other things.”

“We all clean together,” she said. 

Street sweepers:

A street sweeper is a truck equipped with a large steel-bristle broom, a vacuum cleaner, and tiny water hoses that help settle dust. The “hopper” is the sweeper’s storage tank, which can fit up to 2,000 pounds before it overflows.

Every 10 curb miles, the street sweeper operator stops cleaning and must dump, which can happen at a dumping facility on Columbus Trail or 5150 Martin Luther King Freeway. 

A 2023 City of Fort Worth contract approved the purchase of 12 street sweepers from Industrial Disposal Supply Co. for about $3.5 million. Street sweepers will be assembled and delivered by early 2024, city officials say. Operators will travel to Waco to train on the new machines, Kimberlain said.

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Creative Commons License

Noncommercial entities may republish our articles for free by following our guidelines. For commercial licensing, please email hello@fortworthreport.org.

Avatar photo

Cristian ArguetaSotoCommunity Engagement Journalist

Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...