One of those not-as-often-talked-about businesses closely related to mobile detailing is fleet washing. Business owners that invest thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars in trucks, vans, or other fleet vehicles usually understand the need to keep them clean from time to time.
After doing a quick Google search for fleet washing services in my area, there nothing really stood out. Sure, you’ve got pressure washing companies, but very few options for fleet washing as compared to mobile detailing.
In this blog, I’ll break down the ins and outs of fleet washing, plus 8 tips to know about when getting started.
#1: Acquire Corporate Accounts for Repeat Business
As opposed to detailing, one of the main differences in washing trucks or other fleet vehicles is really the relationships. While you do have repeat customers in mobile detailing, fleet washing is highly dependent on who you know and what accounts you currently have or can acquire.
Since you will mainly be focusing on corporate accounts, an important strategy for acquiring new business is to approach fleet managers to sell them on your services. Even if they already have a vendor, one strategy you can use is to include a free truck wash to showcase your services.
Even if the customer has a contract in place with another company, they most likely will be open to a free wash.
#2: Be Consistent in your Wash Quality
It may seem like an obvious tip, but your wash quality should remain consistent with your pricing structure. For example, if you are performing a simple two-step wash you should let the customer know what the expectations are for this pricing point. A lower pricing point means you likely won’t touch the vehicle, including cleaning mirrors or windows by hand.
On the other end of the spectrum, you should be consistent in providing a higher level of service if your customer is willing to pay for it, going over the minor details with each wash. Some customers may look under wheel wells, look for spots on side mirrors, as well as numerous other spaces.
Always set the expectations for service prior to an agreement so both your crew and the customer know what to expect.
#3: Select the Right Business Model
When it comes to washing trucks, the amount of profit you can expect all depends on the business model you choose. Many people think that there just isn’t good money in washing fleet vehicles, but it depends on whether you are prioritizing volume of vehicles or quality of service.
Pricing low based on high volume
This business model of relying on high volume in order to charge low prices will not only require more equipment repairs and manpower but also more accounts to stay profitable. Some fleet washers charge $15-25 per truck which requires an enormous weekly volume to make sense for most beginners.
The advantages with this model are obviously a better price point for customers, but it becomes very difficult to maintain a consistent wash quality over time when you have to focus on washing several trucks in a single afternoon.
Pricing high based on quality and low volume
As an alternative to the first pricing model, many people focus on finding the right corporate accounts that are willing to pay more for a more complete wash (and detail). Owners of gas tankers (for example) will sometimes want these polished instead of simply cleaned which usually means more money in your pocket. Targeting drivers that own their trucks is a great way to set your foot in the door without committing to larger jobs right away.
Other commercial accounts may want windows cleaned, tire shine applied, as well as a coating of wax and polish. It all depends on what the fleet owners prefer in your area and the services they are looking for. I would recommend this business model for beginners since it is much easier to become profitable by conserving resources.
#4: Have the Right Equipment
Unlike the mobile car wash and detailing business, fleet washing companies also usually specialize in pressure washing (but not always) which means you will need a pretty large water tank and generator to power your fleet washing business. Below is a list of some of the basic equipment you are likely to need prior to starting a truck or fleet washing business:
- (1) Commercial pressure washer
- (1) Dual-axle open trailer with spares
- (1) 500-gallon water tank
- (2) Separate holding tanks for two-step wash chemicals
- (1) Water recovery and filtration system
- (1) Low pH acidic detergent
- (1) High-pH alkaline based detergent
- (1) Aluminum brightener
- (1) Generator to power pumps and other devices
- (1) Retractable hose reel
- Hoses and pumps to feed your pressure washer
Unless you have the capital to purchase industrial-grade equipment you will need for fleet washing, you may want to use your current detailing setup (with a larger tank) just to get started.
#5: Reclamation Systems for Backwash
Since many municipalities have penalties and fines for water runoff and contamination, having a water reclamation system for your backwash is a great idea for mobile fleet washing. In addition to blocking water from entering storm drains (where it could potentially pollute other freshwater sources or the environment), a water reclamation unit can also help you conserve water in your tanks.
Some cities like Houston even have police forces that monitor this type of activity, so it’s never a bad idea to check with your local officials. If you are looking into reclamation, Mi-T-M makes several of these units you can read more about on their website here.
#6: Consider a Two-Step Wash Process for High Volume
For most people entering the truck washing world, your equipment will likely consist of a commercial pressure washing unit and two different types of chemicals used in what is called a two-step wash.
How it Works
Be applying a low-pH or acidic chemical to the surface, it helps break the electromagnetic bond that is responsible for causing dirt to cling to the surface of the vehicle. The second step of this process is usually an alkaline soap like Strikeforce.
This soap contains surfactants which will allow the soap to lift the loosened dirt away from the vehicle. Agitation using a brush is the best way to remove dirt, but may not be practical depending on your business model.
#7: Join the UAMCC
The United Association of Mobile Contract Cleaners (UAMCC) is an organization that is made up of cleaning contractor across the country that was created to help provide resources for entrepreneurs looking to grow fleet or pressure washing businesses.
Fleet Washing Certification
Membership to this organization also includes access to fleet washing certification which can definitely help you win some of these corporate jobs. They also provide unlimited job leads for certain levels of membership, discounts on pressure washing supplies, local networking seminars, and much more.
If you are new to the industry, it’s definitely worth taking a look at to help grow your business as quickly as possible.
#8: Pay Attention to the Little Details When Cleaning
For DOT inspections, paying attention to the small details can really take some stress of fleet managers come inspection time. For example, trucks may not pass inspection if there are smudges or grease covering the springs or (pancake) brakes.
While these areas might take a few minutes extra, fleet owners will appreciate this level of detail and it’s something to mention in your sales pitch to set you apart.
While this site is dedicated mainly to detailing and washing cars, fleet washing is definitely not a bad option for some people. If you have the right equipment and connections it can be one of the more consistent revenue generators, since you are dealing with other business owners that understand the value a clean fleet of vehicles has on their reputation.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips to add that have helped you!