Sweeper test: Johnston C201

Published:  03 June, 2013

Excellent all-round vision is a key requirement for any road sweeper intended to work in congested urban spaces. The remarkably frugal C201 from Johnston Sweepers has this in abundance as was discovered during a recent test drive in Kent, writes Steve Banner.

That all-round vision plus its easy-to-use controls help to make the C201 an invaluable addition to any city centre sweeping fleet. Power comes courtesy of an Italian-made VM 2.97-litre direct-injection turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder Euro 5 diesel developing 83hp at 2,300rpm. Top torque of 270Nm kicks in at 1,400rpm.

Also available is a 2.97-litre VM direct-injection turbo diesel that meets the Stage 3a emission limits. It generates 78hp and 274Nm.

Full hydrostatic transmission is installed whichever model you pick with a closed-loop circuit and a variable-angle swash plate piston pump. Hydraulic power steering is fitted offering a 4,350mm turning circle kerb-to-kerb and a 5,150mm turning circle wall-to-wall.

If that is too wide for then you can always specify the optional four-wheel steering system. Patented and said by Johnston to be the first and the only one of its kind in Europe, it tightens the circles to 3,760mm and 4,930mm respectively and makes it easier to sweep around parked cars and street furniture. The C201's overall length is 4,120mm with a 1,400mm wheelbase, an overall width of 1,315mm and a height of 1,985mm.

Drum brakes and coil spring suspension are fitted all round along with gas-over-oil dampers and a front-mounted anti-roll bar.

C201 can be ordered at gross weights of 3.5, 4.0, or 4.5 tonnes. We opted for the heaviest model in the line-up which offers a 1,800kg payload capacity.

A stainless steel hopper is standard on all versions with a voided volume of 1.8m3 which leaves 1.5m3 for the payload.

What is it like to drive?

With a maximum speed of just over 30mph, our C201 had no trouble keeping up with the traffic on the busy roads around Johnston's soon-to-close Sittingbourne factory: production will be concentrated in a new £11m 6.5-acre plant in Dorking, Surrey.

However, you soon realise that the steering is highly sensitive. Try to drive C201 like a van and you start veering wildly all over the highway so you rapidly learn to minimise your steering inputs. Once you do that, things are fine.

Controls on an arm that flips down between the seats enable you to – for example – move the sweeper's twin brushes in and out once you switch to work mode – sweeping speed is up to 10mph – and begin your cleaning cycle. Brush speed is variable up to 125rpm.

The ability to see exactly what the brushes – each with a diameter of 850mm and capable of being controlled independently – are doing as you manoeuvre them thanks to the glazed panels at the feet makes it easy to sweep close to the kerb. The positioning of the 815mm-wide nozzle and suction duct also makes this easier.

Served by a high-pressure centrifugal fan, like the brushes they are mounted ahead of the front axle rather than half-way down the side of the vehicle. Good to see incidentally that the front axle – sourced from forklift truck manufacturer Linde – is so solidly built, which should lessen the risk of damage if the driver misjudges things and wallops a kerb just that bit too hard.

If an obstinate bit of litter refuses to be swept up by those whirling brushes, then that should not be a problem. The driver or a colleague – C201 is a two-seater – can hop out and deploy a suction hose with a 3.7m reach mounted on C201's roof to suck it up assuming that this option has been specified.

Grubby street furniture can be spruced up at the same time thanks to a pressure washer. Stowed in the body, it too is an option, with a 10m hose and a hand lance.

Johnston makes the bold claim that C201 can deliver a fuel saving of up to 40% in work mode. So how has that been achieved?

'Simply by ensuring that most of the useful torque cuts in at a lower engine speed when the vehicle is sweeping,' says UK sales and marketing manager, Graham Howlett. 'In work mode the engine is typically spinning at 1,300rpm compared with the 1,800rpm to 2,000rpm favoured by some of our rivals,'

Such fuel efficiency enables operators to save 10 tonnes of CO2 a year. Incidentally, you don't have to stop in order to switch from transit to work mode. You can do it on the fly,' adds Graham.

Low emissions and diesel usage helped C201 win the Mechanical Product of The Year accolade in the British Engineering Excellence Awards for 2012: quite a distinction for a humble sweeper. It was also named Waste and Recycling Vehicle of the Year in the 2012 Plant and Waste Recycling Show (PAWRS) awards.

Its other plus-points include low noise and the ability to capture small particles of dust in large quantities thanks to its pumped water recirculation system. Comfortable and supportive seats – the driver's is air-suspended and fully-adjustable – will be welcomed by workers set to spend most of the day in the cab. So will the availability of –optional, but well worth it to ensure crews keep a cool head – air-conditioning.

While lots of glass is to be welcomed, there is always the risk that it will turn the cab into a greenhouse if the weather gets hot.

A 7-inch full-colour display at the top of the windscreen alerts the driver if there is a problem and records a variety of data about the sweeper's operation. Information on everything from distance travelled to average fuel consumption can subsequently be downloaded onto a USB stick for analysis by the fleet manager.

Fleets need to sweat every asset they acquire so it is worth noting that C201 can be fitted with winter equipment if needs be, including a snow plough, a snow broom and a gritter


For approximately £65,000 depending on the equipment specified, C201 is without doubt an intelligently-thought-out, cost-effective package tailor-made for urban sweeping: and the awards it has won are well-deserved.

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