- Bruce Stephenson
The 5 Ws of Truck Washing
Updated: Jan 28, 2019
To appreciate the need for the automation of large vehicle washing, it is important to understand the who, what, where, when, why (and how) of the truck wash industry as it exists in today’s world.
Who washes trucks? All vehicles need to be washed at some time or another. Typically the owner or the driver of the vehicle is responsible for having it washed.
What is the customer “satisfaction” standard?
Hand washing is far-and-away the most acceptable commercial wash standard for trucks. This means the result is “clean & shiny” and dries without spots or streaks.
Trailers are not usually washed by hand. Since there are many types of trailers the standards vary.
Most companies have lower standards for trailers than for trucks (i.e. tractors). Brokers have higher standards than company drivers.
Machine washing is viewed with skepticism. There is fear that the equipment will damage the vehicle. Many are unconvinced that the machine can wash as well as they can.
Where are trucks washed?
Most are washed at home or in the company.
Mobile washing companies are employed to wash large numbers of trucks at company yards. This is the best place to wash-since there are no transaction costs-the vehicle isn’t working.
On the road wash bays located at truck stops or on major highways. According to NATSO (National Association of Truck Stop Operators) less then 30% of all truck stops have wash bays.
When are trucks washed?
Convenience is the major factor. If the truck is working and earning money it is not convenient.
Trucks are more often washed before or after their run, or in conjunction with maintenance.
Why are trucks washed? There are a variety of reasons why commercial vehicles are washed ranging from simple pride to practical necessity:
Maintenance: clean vehicle are easier to perform maintenance on.
Value: washing maintains investment value longer (e.g. inhibits corrosion).
Image: a clean image attracts customers.
Regulators: washing helps to avoid fines and/or inspections
Weigh scales: washing removes a buildup of dirt, resulting in reduced weight and preventing fines.
Safety: preventing corrosion through regular washing fights against the deterioration of vehicle parts (e.g. brake lines).
Better mileage: heavy soils removed translates into a lighter vehicle, resulting in greater fuel efficiency.
Security: presenting a positive image at borders can avoid troubles associated with stereotyping/profiling
How are large commercial vehicles washed? Truck washing is conducted at one of four levels:
1. Hand washed by owner or operator
The vast majority of trucks are “hand-washed”, utilizing brushes, mitts, and pressure washers.
Operators can spend as long as four hours washing a truck.
2. Mobile power washer
Quality and cost varies depending on services requested.
Convenient for the operator since wash service comes to him or her.
Environmental regulations require wash water to be contained and disposed of to protect waterways and aquifers.
Since most wash outdoors, this poses a problem in winter
3. Automated fleet wash
Convenience of washing at "home base".
At best produces "fleet wash quality" (the vehicle looks clean from a distance), which is often acceptable for fleets.
Produces inconsistent wash results and operating costs are typically high
4. Commercial hand wash
A public, fixed-location wash site where operators take their vehicles to be washed
Wash quality is generally good but very labor intensive and time consuming
Commercial wash bays apply various wash techniques. Typical hand wash facilities employ a crew of 4-6.
With exception of the automated fleet wash all other methods are manual operations utilizing varying amounts of labor. The fleet wash is a private wash, only accessible to company drivers, leaving the public with limited options that are labor intensive and time consuming.
A Game Changer
Now that the truck washing landscape is better understood, find out how our gantry-style wash system makes waves in a stagnant industry. Or, check out the Markets section on our website to learn how our systems can meet washing needs in various contexts.