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Truck Wash Savings Guide for
Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers


When researching how to save money on a truck wash, it was disappointing to us to find that most of the savings were directed to the businesses, not to the drivers. However, money saving tips are available. The Blue Beacon truck wash at one of the many truckstops in the USA.

Depending on the freight you are hauling, you may be required to clean your vehicle -- inside, outside or both –- on a regular basis. Since we have hauled primarily dry vans, we have no experience whatsoever with refrigerated van wash outs or tanker wash outs. In fact, we have never had any of the trailers we hauled washed at all, just the tractors.


A purple Kenworth tractor covered in road dirt and road salt, badly in need of a truck wash. We fully realize that different drivers have different makes and styles of trucks. For the purposes of this page, we have written generically from the standpoint of a driver with a high profile, "condo-style" tractor, because those have a lot of vertical surface area to clean.

At left is shown a purple Kenworth tractor covered in road dirt and road salt, badly in need of a truck wash.



When it comes to truck washes, there are five basic approaches:

  • Go to a commercial facility (such as Blue Beacon);
  • Have a mobile service come to your facility;
  • Do it yourself at your trucking company's facility;
  • Do it yourself at a car wash type facility (making sure ahead of time that it has the vertical clearance that you need for your truck); or
  • Do it yourself at home.


In the photos below, professional driver Mike Simons is washing the truck that he once drove for his trucking company at home using his own water, soap and equipment.


Professional driver Mike Simons washes his company's tractor at home with his own soap, water and equipment. Washing the truck by hand is professional driver Mike Simons. A DIY truck wash performed by Mike Simons on the truck he drives for his trucking company.


Environmental Concerns

Folks who run a commercial truck wash have to be concerned about such matters as detergent, water run-off and environmental issues. You may need to check on these issues for cleaning your truck at home or in a parking lot somewhere.



Hand Drying

We have never paid to have our vehicle hand-dried following a truck wash. However, the advantages of drying your vehicle include no water spots and not attracting road dirt on the droplets. Windows may need to be cleaned on the inside to match how clean they are outside.



Aluminum Brighteners

Whenever Mike has paid to have his truck washed, he has always requested the aluminum brighteners for the wheels. This does a magnificent job of sprucing up the look of the tractor.



Clean Truck Advantages

The advantages of having a clean truck are:

  • A good reflection on the company;
  • A positive example to the driver;
  • Less scrutiny by the DOT;
  • Emphasis on customer satisfaction;
  • Less road dirt on the truck either weighing it down or causing wind resistance; and
  • Less opportunity for winter road treatments to adversely affect the equipment.


A black Peterbilt tractor covered in road dirt and road salt, badly in need of a truck wash. A white Volvo tractor which, even in the shadow, is badly in need of a truck wash.

If a trucking company does not think highly enough of itself to pay for a truck wash for each truck in its fleet at least once every quarter, what does that say about

  • the company,
  • its equipment,
  • its overall operations management, and
  • what management thinks about its drivers?


Think about it: What are all of the ramifications of having a dirty truck? Among them are

  • the build-up of road dirt (working its way into the mechanical areas of the tractor, creating extra weight and potential wind resistance) and
  • the build-up of various road salts such as sodium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride (which can lead to rusting and corrosion).





Theoretically, a shipper could come to the conclusion that if a trucking company is unwilling to take care of its own equipment, it won't take care of the freight being shipped by its trucks either. It could result in a loss of business. (Disclaimer: We haven't heard of this happening; but in a tight economy, having a good, clean company image can make the difference between getting and keeping business and losing it.)






When we were at the headquarters of the trucking company that Mike drives for in December 2009, he learned from one of the guys operating a mobile truck wash unit that the company had not paid for any fleet tractors to be washed for the last 13 months (that is, since November 2008). The only cleaning that they were doing was on trucks being assigned to new hires. We personally disagree with this philosophy, but this is their choice, not ours. Workers with a mobile truck washing company wash a truck at the Epes Transport headquarters. Notice the extra long handles they use to clean the high areas of the tractor.

Trailers can also be badly in need of a wash.
The back of a refrigerated van, covered with road dirt and road salt. The back of a dry van, covered with road dirt and road salt.


Budgeting Time for a Truck Wash

Among your concerns should be timing. A mobile truck washing service might be able to wash tractors at trucking companies while they are parked at a terminal. If you go to a commercial facility, you may have to wait in line for the service, and then wait while the service is performed on your truck. One expert estimates that it should take between 20-30 minutes to properly wash a truck.*





Payment

The Blue Beacon sign at one of the many truckstops in the USA. Mike says that he is aware that Blue Beacon accepts:
  • Cash,
  • Credit cards,
  • Comcheck, or
  • Fleet account payment.


Conclusion

Based on everything we've read about this subject, it is foolhardy not to practice good external truck cleanliness as a means of protecting one's investment in trucking equipment. Leaving a truck unwashed for months and months at a time may seem to be a direct cost savings, but in the end it could end up leading to even greater indirect cost outlays.






truck drivers money saving tip icon

Money saving tip: If you're looking for ways to save money on truck washes, consider the following:

  • Frequency: Contrary to conventional wisdom, the less often you wash your truck may not save you money. Consider the wear and tear that road dirt and road salt has on your equipment.
  • Amount of work done: You may not need a wash with "the works," but can make do with the basics. Consider the pros and cons of getting a wash or rinse that will get rid of road salt, especially in the winter.
  • Discounts or coupons: Does the service offer these and if so, what do you have to do to get and use them? Are there time limits involved?
  • Frequent washer rewards: Some truck washes may offer a reward based on volume washing or give a free wash after so many have been paid for (like "buy 9 washes, get the 10th one free.") Ask if the washes must be done within a limited time period or apply only to the same truck.
  • Referral bonus: Sometimes companies will issue a reward of some kind to an existing customer who refers a new customer. At least ask if this is available.

Please note that independently owned truck washes are not required to accept driver reward points in exchange for services. In fact, we've never seen any advertisements to the effect that a commercial facility on the grounds of a truckstop would accept driver rewards points. However, it is possible that given enough driver requests, such a set-up can be made sometime in the future.





* Reference: http://ezinearticles.com/?How-Long-Should-It-Take-To-Wash-A-Truck&id=448313






Return from Truck Wash Savings Guide for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers to our Truck Operations page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.







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