How To Scale Your Business With Fleet Washing

When I began cleaning I remember August of 2015 I cleaned a parking lot and made over $3000 on the job.  The work was done in 2 days and I was mind blown on the type of money that came in from this industry!


However, November of 2015 hit and I barely made $700.  This was an eye opening month and made me realize this isn’t the perfect business, or a business that you can get rich quick in.  I began picking up overtime at the police department because I already had it in my mind that I failed and that this business was just a stroke of luck in the few months that were good.  I allowed my negative energy to take control of my destiny, rather than being rational.  Mentally I gave up in December when we only cleared $1200 and realized this industry wasn’t it for me.


At this point in my life I had an unsuspected pregnant wife with a second child and we would soon find out our first born child was autistic and would require therapy just to learn how to communicate.  Between what I made from cleaning and my salary at the police department, my bills were higher than what was coming in.  I was getting ready to borrow money just to buy groceries at this point in my life.


At the beginning of January 2016 I received a phone call from my uncle Pete Bullmore who works for Alklean Industries https://www.alklean.com/ and he told me there was a guy about 90 minutes away from me who needed his garbage trucks washed.  My instinct was “Hell no I am not washing them.”.  But because of my current circumstances I gave this man a call.  When I called him he made it clear “you aren’t going to tell us what you charge, I am telling you what we pay”.  He was very blunt and pretty aggressive over the phone, almost like he was making the sale and not me.  He told me he would pay $40 per garbage truck and $15 per pick up truck.  They needed them cleaned weekly and there were a total of about 20 trucks.  


In my mind I thought “wow this is roughly 1000$ a week every week!”.  


Now let me tell you, the first time I washed the trucks it was no honeymoon… 


The first time I washed the trucks it was a total of 3 hours of drive time and 14 hours of wash time.  Why?  I had no idea what I was doing!  I had a power washer with no water tank and limited resources.  I had Home Depot soaps which worked about as well as bubbly water and no hot water.  The smell coming from the trucks was so strong that I sometimes had to wash with one hand to use the other to hold my nose (at this time I had no idea face shields were a priority).  


I still had a bad feeling about this because after I finished this job, I didn’t get paid.


I was on a net 30 and didn’t get paid until 45 days later.  I did our first cleaning at the end of January and didn’t get that check until mid March.  I had to borrow money just to clean the first few weeks because I ran out of money to clean the trucks.


Why do I bring this up?  Because some of you readers are going to have gone through this exact struggle and I want you to know where I come from. I want you to realize I am not a guy writing to you who was handed anything and struggled to get my business going.


By April 2016 I went from taking 14 hours to washing all of these trucks to 8 hours.  The profit margins became better and I was finally seeing checks coming in the mail and my hard struggles came to an end financially.


By May 2016 I had a pretty good rhythm and I hired a part time employee to help me wash the trucks so that I could finish the work faster.


Now get this!  What I found is when I knew I was making $4000 a month every month I could then be less desperate and the days of me charging 120$ for a driveway just to get food on the table were over.  My pricing went up because I was no longer in desperation to survive and I had more CONTROL over my finances and more importantly my life.


When I developed a system for these trucks I found myself getting hungrier.  What did I do?  I worked harder on Linkedin that wasn’t providing me with any customers after working on it for 6 months.  By the beginning of 2017  I acquired 5 more fleet washing accounts, 4 of them from Linkedin.  We were grossing $13000 to $17000 a month washing trucks in 2017 and we were grossing another $3000-$5000 a month just doing residential washing and our periodic commercial jobs.  Our first month to break $25000 was February 2017 and what was odd is prior to February of 2017 we never had a month greater than $12000.  After February 2017 we never had a month LESS than $12000 coming in.  I have fleet washing to thank for this, because it provided steady work and allowed me to hire employees that I could give more steady work hours to.


The main thing to know about fleet washing is developing systems for each fleet.  You can know how to wash a truck and still suck at washing trucks.  The whole principle to cleaning trucks is SPEED.  If you can wash trucks faster, you can make more money and acquire more trucks.  Where heat isn’t necessary for washing trucks, it does make rinsing faster.  Rinsing faster equates to making more money.  Are you getting into this business to save money or make money?  Ask yourself this every day and this saying will resonate with you more and more.


What we did discover is having the right soaps for the right job is very important.  Also knowing when to say no is important.  Here is a brief overview of the different soaps and what to and not to do with certain trucks.


R Soap I is formulated to clean the painted and aluminum surfaces of over the road tractor trailer and other type of commercial vehicles without damage (when used as directed). Removes carbon stack stains and magnetic road film from vehicles without brushing. It works well in both cold and hot water. R Soap I is a heavy duty cleaner and the nation's top performing all-purpose truck wash. 

 

R Soap 2 : This soap is a 14 pH soap that is also a brush soap but intended more for heavy duty equipment cleaning (excavators, cranes and tractors) and not the best for washing painted trucks.  This is not safe to use on polished aluminum or stainless.


R Soap 3 : This soap is a 9 pH soap that is also a brush soap and has a built in wax.  This is safe to use on polished aluminum and what we recommend to use on polished fuel tanks or polished tankers.  This also works well on stainless and does not streak.  This also works on dark colored cars and prevents hard water spotting

R Lumina : This is a hydrofluoric based aluminum brightener and works very well on un-polished aluminum.  This will completely streak polished aluminum and this should never make contact with polished aluminum.  This chemical also can be used as a step 1 soap if you are the type who uses 2 step.  Also note if this makes contact with bleach (sH sodium hypochlorite) it will create phosphine gas and is extremely toxic (in some instances lethal).  If this makes contact with your skin, we recommend neutralizing it with a high pH soap and heavily rinse.  Once you do this we do recommend also seeking medical attention.


This thread isn’t intended to be a soap sales pitch.  I have this here because I wish I knew this information when I started and I was using the wrong soaps for cleaning these trucks until I slowly discovered more soaps.  There is also a soap I purchased from Alklean Industries https://www.alklean.com/ called Lonestar, that was a brush soap, and it worked very well and wouldn’t even streak if I accidentally let the chemical dry before rinsing.  This was my go to chemical before we opened our store and had our own line of chemicals.  The Purswells who own the company are more like extended family to me than a competitor and I think credit needs to be given where it is deserved, and their truck was soap worked well.


Alright soaps have been covered. The next thing to consider is making sure you have the right equipment.  You don’t need to have an 8 GPM pressure washer to do fleet washing.  Ideally 3 to 5.5 GPM is your target.  There are many things to know about equipment in fleet washing:


  1. High GPM does not make you clean faster.
  2. High GPM creates more of a mess and more water run off to clean up.
  3. High GPM pressure washers cost more money with no added benefit.
  4. You don’t need the water to be 200 degrees to be effective, 150 to 170 degrees is acceptable.

One thing that you also need to know is about insurance.  Insurance for fleet washing is slightly different from other insurance policies.  If you are moving the trucks onto a berm for you to recover the water from, you need additional insurance for moving the vehicles.  Sometimes you need to move the trucks because they have a designated wash bay with their own built in recovery system.  So when you are finding the work these are questions you need to ask if you need to move the vehicles, and have a system in place for doing so if they are expecting this.


I am not going to write much about add ons because you will find what the customers will want extra up front.  But just in case your customer DOESN’T know what else you can offer, you can offer the following as upsales:


  1. Cleaning under the hood (focused on engine, be careful you don’t want to use high pressure and damage electrical)
  2. Aluminum brightening
  3. Undercarriage Cleaning
  4. Spot free detailing (I hate doing this, and will walk from a prospect if they want this)
  5. Vacuuming the inside (nearly all of them will ask if you do this, I really am not fond of this one either, but it will make the jobs easier to sell)

One thing when selling these jobs is you will realize quickly the majority of the fleets are needing to be washed on the weekends.  I have had some companies who run 24 hour operations, these NEED to be scheduled on the weekdays because you have so many that require you to wash on the weekend, this gives you the opportunity to have a 3rd day fleet washing which can give your employees nearly 40 hours of work in 3 days.  Also most importantly, it increases your ceiling for revenue.


I am going to go over the basic fleet washing rig next.  If you plan on ONLY washing fleets this is the ideal basic setup:


  1. 325 to 525g water tank
  2. 2000 PSI at 4 to 5.5 GPM cold water pressure washer that can pull from a tank
  3. 2000 PSI at 4 to 5.5 GPM hot water pressure washer that can pull from a tank
  4. 1 garden hose reel and 2 pressure hose reels (I recommend them being 18 inches instead of 12)
  5. 65 gallon soap tank
  6. 35 gallon aluminum brightener tank

You can always go bigger or smaller but this is ideal for starting up and specifically doing just fleet washing.  There are many instances you will also want to have a separate 200 gallon tank and a water recovery system which goes into a whole new thread we will discuss in the future.


Something important to be aware of is if you are cleaning trucks in a parking lot and you are allowing the waste water to enter the storm drain, you will likely lose your contract and put yourself at risk of getting fined by your local jurisdiction.  What we recommend is having an additional tank and sand snakes to keep the water from reaching the drains.  


One important thing to know is if you are cleaning on a concrete or asphalt parking lot you MUST have these trucks parked on a berm (like the Latimat).  When your chemicals (especially aluminum brightener) reach the ground, it will ETCH the concrete and you will have an ANGRY customer.  


As we move forward I will be making more videos on systems on cleaning trucks.  I wanted this to be an introductory fleet washing guide for you so that you can decide if this is really something for you.


I highly encourage any contract cleaner to have at least 1 fleet washing account just to keep their equipment running every week.


A lot of people are critical towards fleet washing because you aren’t making 300 dollars an hour washing houses.  But the work is steady, consistent and most importantly SCALABLE!


Fleet washing is what SCALED my business and turned us into what we are today.  Linkedin is the tool I used to acquire the customers that made washmart.com the company it is today.


For consultation on transitioning to fleet washing, reach out to sales@washmart.com or 972-922-0404 / 713-203-4094.

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If you have questions about pricing refer to our pricing guide here: 


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