Showers for Professional Drivers:
Mike related the true story about a fellow trucker who only just walked by him at a customer's location. Another driver told Mike that the guy took a shower before going out on his week-long run and did not take another until after he got home! With flies buzzing around the smelly trucker -- who had a very strong body odor -- Mike had to quickly leave the building because the stench about turned Mike's stomach. Imagine the impact that this driver's lack of personal hygiene had on the customer!
In trucking, the driver is often the only physical representation of his trucking company that the shipper or consignee will ever see. Personal presentation is important. Contracts for hauling freight can be won or lost based on "little things" like this. Don't blow your chances for more business through slovenly personal appearance.
Who Can Use Them?
Many of the larger travel centers and stopping centers have what is known as "truck stop showers." Being as how anyone who shows up with the cash can buy these services, their use is not limited to professional drivers. Once, when we lived in another state -- before we entered the trucking industry -- we woke to find no running water in our residence; Mike traveled up the road to a local truckstop and freshened there before going to work.
To get the maximum benefit from the information on this page, you as a professional driver must
|From an objective standpoint,
a person who wants to buy a shower would expect access to a clean room
Depending on the truckstop, a key or PIN number may be issued by which the user accesses the assigned room. The user is given a towel and washcloth -- and sometimes a paper bath mat and a small bar of soap. Users need to return the key, towel and washcloth when they finish cleaning up, depending on the protocol at the facility. Some truckstops prefer for towels to be left in the rooms; others like towels to be dropped in a centralized bin usually near the cashier.
Occasionally, truck stop showers have a blow dryer in each room. We're finding this situation less frequently. We take our blow dryer with us, as our personal packing list shows.
Some facilities have installed a fan in each wash room to prevent or reduce mirror fogging, or have a heater unit which users can set to warm the room.
Some truckstops have two different sizes of showers, a standard size and a larger size either for handicapped users or teams (such as where a husband and wife professional truck driving team can wash up together). Depending on the truck stop, some shower rooms are extremely small while others appear gigantic.
When Mike and Vicki drove as a team, we got a "team shower." We also do this now whenever Vicki rides with Mike. Because Mike is tall, he gets an extra towel; when Vicki is with him, we get a total of three. A solo driver should never request a larger wash room unless a family member is riding with him/her.
|If you find that the room to
which you're assigned is not up to that business's usual standard of
cleanliness, bring it to management's attention.
We're sure that they would appreciate knowing.
They have employees whose jobs it is to make sure that the wash rooms are clean.
Depending on usage by others, the facilities may be available right away or there may be a waiting list.
You will want to plan to clean up around time-sensitive loads and times when the facilities are in heavy demand.
While we have never found a time limit on the use of a shower room, it is best to take care of one's washing up as quickly as possible, because others may be waiting.
Some of us enjoy the relaxation of standing under a stream of hot water after a hard day at work.
All of the larger truck stops issue a "shower credit" when a driver purchases a minimum amount of fuel (most commonly 50 gallons). This credit is good from the date of fueling until the expiration date (usually about 5 days). If the credit is not used during that time, it expires and can no longer be used.
Mike keeps up with his credits in a small notepad in his truck. He writes down the name of the truckstop where he got fuel, the date when the credit was issued and when it will expire. When he does route planning, he can also plan out where he will stop to wash up.
To our knowledge, using this automatically-issued credit is the most common way that professional drivers clean up on the road.
Driver Reward Points
|Most truckstop chains also
have a driver reward point system that gives drivers a "point" (which
is equivalent to one penny) for every gallon of fuel purchased at that
truck stop. These points may be used like cash to buy things within the
truckstop or businesses operating therein (like a fast food
Although there may be more, we are aware of these truck stop chains that have driver reward systems in place (listed here alphabetically):
If you do not have a credit at your disposal, you may pay for one with your points. Of course, using your points on getting clean reduces the amount you can spend on other goods or services.
The availability of showers is comprehensively summarized in the 2011 National Truck Stop Directory, aka "The Trucker's Friend."
As we pointed out above, drivers can freshen up out-of-pocket with cash; but if at all possible, we recommend against it. Truck stop showers generally cost (in U.S. dollars) about $7 to $10 apiece. The cost may increase over time. The other options are much more affordable.
If you're in a rush, don't have a credit, and don't have enough points on your card, you may be able to pay to clean up with a combination of the remainder of your points and cash. We don't figure that this option is used much, but it can be, depending on the facility.
|If a professional truck
driver drives for a trucking
that has one or more terminals with such facilities, another great
cost-saving measure is to shower there.
Some companies take better care of their washroom facilities than others.
You must personally weigh the cost and convenience of using a shower at your company's terminals with the cleanliness thereof.
Not showering every day may seem repulsive to those who are used to it, but for OTR drivers who do not thoroughly clean up in their trucks, it is part of a way of life. Mike's policy is that he washes up no less often than every third day, no matter what a load's time constraints are. He prefers to clean up frequently, but that is not always possible.
Some drivers wear their "outside clothes" for two or three days running (until the next time they wash up). We did it when we teamed; Mike regularly does it now as a solo; and Vicki does it when she rides with him. Depending on how dirty Mike's outside shirt has gotten in the course of his work, he may change that daily, too.
Our practice on the road is to change underwear and socks daily. In between showers, we can freshen up with baby wipes. We like using a "thicker" baby wipe.
|It's possible to use soap, water and a washcloth for freshening up between showers, but depending on the driver's in-truck set-up there may be issues with warming up the clean water and disposing of the dirty water.|
Dip your washcloth in the water, wring it out, wipe it lightly over the soap, and wash yourself. You may need to experiment with the amounts of soap and water you use for washing and rinsing.
Assuming that you have room in the waste tank, a portable toilet can serve nicely as a disposal unit for your waste "sink bath" water.
Some owner-operators may have fancy trucks with stalls built in. This can be very convenient. Since we're not familiar with how these units work, we wonder:
We have begun the process of reviewing showers at truck stops based on some objective observations and our own set of expectations. Just as we expect that 12-volt appliances should be manufactured to the same level of quality that 120-volt household appliances are, so we believe that truck stop showers should be built, cleaned and maintained to the same quality that a household bathroom is. After all, their use is being paid for and drivers deserve good quality facilities and amenities.
For a list of the showers we have reviewed so far, please see our truck stop page.
Money saving tip: Assuming that you shower on the road at least twice a week and that the cost of the service is $10, you can save $20 a week by using the shower credit or driver reward points. Over the course of a year, you would save over $1,000.
As stated above, there can be an actual cost to not being clean and presentable before customers –- in the form of freight you never haul. Present yourself before your customers as the professional that you are and you won't go wrong.
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