Things I’ve Learned About Production and Processes in Cleaning Fleets of Vehicles

Prior to retirement, I ran a mobile truck washing franchising company, and about a dozen years ago, I went in with 4 of our franchisees in the greater Phoenix AZ area to secure an account with the big water and power company there to negotiate a contract to clean all of their vehicles. It turns out the utility company already had a nationwide fleet washing company cleaning their vehicles. In fact they were doing the vehicles for only $2.80 each. You might think that price is far too low, and so did we at the time, at least my franchisees did, but I was more than happy to undercut my competitor.

One thing you need to understand when cleaning fleets of vehicles is the money is in the time, not the job. And when you have 100 work vans, “all the row” and all the same size, it’s really easy to clean 60 to 100 vehicles in an hour with a small crew. We should’ve taken that account, but we didn’t. Later we ended up with a cable company with about half as many vehicles and our crews bid only three dollars per vehicle and made a lot of money because they had the production process, and system down to a science, similar to an assembly-line.

Later, they went back to bid on the contract for the utility company, but by then the utility company had signed a three-year agreement, renewing the old agreement with a competing company. A lesson learned I suppose.

Another thing I have learned about cleaning fleets of vehicles is to always have long hose reels for both the fill up tank, a 300-400 feet long 1-inch industrial hose, and 250 to 350 feet or more of high pressure hose with quick disconnects every 50 to 75 feet. This will allow you to fill up with water while your washing is under full production. If you keep the team moving while you are cleaning, it is amazing how many vehicles you can do per hour.

Indeed, you must think about fleet vehicle washing in terms of production, assembly lines, and systems, and not look at each vehicle as a separate entity to be cleaned. Further you should care more about the time you spend on the job to adequately do quality work, than the price per vehicle that you will be billing. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and learn some of the lessons that our company learned the hard way. If you do this, I believe in the end you will make more money.

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