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 Need for a Truck Wash
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.
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.
Five Approaches to Getting 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.
Each one of these methods of washing trucks depends upon:
- your location;
- the tools and resources at your disposal;
- the length of time you have to spend; and
- the money you are (or your trucking is) willing to invest.
In this photo, professional driver Mike Simons is washing the truck that he drove as a company driver — at home using his own water, soap and equipment.
Obviously, not every professional truck driver has the tools and means by which to wash his/her own truck at home.
Even if you have the desire to wash your own truck yourself, there are certain factors to bear in mind.
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.
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.
Window cleaner may not be the most effective solvent for getting rid of salt on windows.
Good old soap and water may be better.
Windows may need to be cleaned on the inside to match how clean they are outside.
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.
Trucks That Haul Freight Are Going to Get Dirty
There’s an old proverb that reads:
“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean,
But much increase comes by the strength of the ox.”(1)
In other words for the purpose of this page, if you’re going to use a truck to haul freight, it’s going to get dirty over a period of time.
Also, it may be harder to keep clean certain colors of tractors, like white and black.
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.
The Impact of a Clean or Dirty Truck
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 also 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.)
Tractor Washes Only For …?
When we were at the headquarters of the trucking company for which Mike drove 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 was their choice, not ours.
Trailers Also Need Washing
Observe the photo here, of a refrigerated van with its rear doors covered in road dirt and salt.
Refrigerated trucks most often haul refrigerated freight (perishable foodstuffs, beverages and other products that need to be kept cold).
Some shippers may refuse to ship their foodgrade products on a dirty truck.
If the doors are dirty, then the seals around the doors probably need to be cleaned, too.
The seals help protect the freight inside a trailer from anything that could make its way inside during transit.
When you get a refrigerated van washed, make sure that the small access door also gets cleaned.
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.(2)
Payment and Discounts
Mike says that he is aware that Blue Beacon accepts:
- Credit cards,
- Comcheck, or
- Fleet account payment.
If you are a frequent user of a commercial truck washing service, ask about getting discounts for a bundle of services.
Before you buy, understand all of the terms of a bulk purchase.
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.
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.
1. Proverbs 14:4