Hundreds of people see your fleet trucks on the road each day, so it is important that those vehicles look their best. Because image matters the condition of your trucks impacts your customers’ perception of your business.
It could also influence the perception of inspectors who have their choice as to which vehicles they pull over for a roadside inspection. It is possible that a vehicle’s appearance could mean the difference between your driver being pulled over or not. An inspector often assumes that a truck that looks shoddy on the outside is less likely to be properly maintained. Additionally, a clean and shiny truck can aid in driver recruitment and retention.
David Foster, vice president of maintenance at Premier Transportation, agreed.
“In addition to frequent washing to protect trucks from corrosion, a good vehicle image adds to driver satisfaction,” he said.
While winter is the worst, cleaning is a year-long battle
Don’t let the chemical remnants of winter road salts cling to your vehicles. It is important to wash them off frequently before they damage the paint surfaces of the fleet’s trucks.
There are many different deicing treatments for winter roads, and most have one thing in common: a high chloride content that can turn into a perfect recipe for corrosion when mixed with moisture and splashed on metal vehicle surfaces.
An ongoing attack from the corrosive sprays, which coat the bodies and undercarriages of equipment, eat at and rust away vehicle structures, compromising the exposed metal surfaces. Trucks that actually plow or apply the deicing salts take an extra heavy beating. If not addressed, rust will accelerate the deterioration of the vehicle structure and shorten the service life of these costly assets. At minimum, a good preventive maintenance plan should include regular washing to remove the chlorides from vehicle bodies as quickly as possible.
A variety of different road chemicals are used in various parts of the country.
“The worst is calcium chloride, which can corrode metal surfaces and paint,” said Brian Michael, field maintenance manager for Ryder Truck Rental. “This is why the first thing we want to do for our customers is protect their image by making sure they have a clean and well-maintained vehicle.”
Ryder has established a vehicle-washing schedule of 26 times per year for rental trucks, which includes washing after every preventative maintenance and inspecting undercarriages. In addition, the program includes a deep cleaning of vehicle interiors.
Image is important, especially for food trucks, which are a moving billboard for their products. Ryder offers varied vehicle washing systems in many locations across the country.
More than just washing
A power washing system can be very effective in cleaning commercial fleet trucks, especially when high-quality cleaners and detergents are used.
At a minimum, a good preventive maintenance plan should include regular washing of fleet vehicles to remove the chlorides from truck bodies as quickly as possible.
One good wash additive for this purpose is Cortec’s VpCI-406, which contains powerful surfactants to remove grease and grime at the same time it washes away the chlorides. It also contains corrosion inhibitors to protect against flash corrosion during washing and for a few hours after.
The wash produces moderate foaming and does not leave streaks. It also does not contain phosphates, giving it a better profile for disposal. It can be diluted and metered into automatic or power wash systems (up to 1:50) or applied by bucket wash.
Another wash additive option is FlashCorr VpCI, specially targeted to neutralize and remove heavy chloride buildup and provide flash corrosion protection. It can be used alone in the wash when the main concern is removing chlorides and not grease or grime, or it can be used as a follow-up wash in conjunction with VpCI-406 for extra protection against flash corrosion.
When possible, a good vehicle underbody coating such as Cortec’s VpCI398 should be applied for long-term protection. It provides a corrosion-inhibiting barrier to protect the vehicle undercarriage directly while driving around on winter roads exposed to high-chloride road spray.
The fight against winter vehicle rust is an ongoing battle, but regular use of corrosion inhibitors within a good maintenance plan can go a long way toward minimizing corrosion and promoting an extended fleet service life.
Additional benefits of clean vehicles include making it easier to detect potential problems like chaffing lines, cracks damage to components and rust.
Rodney Pugh, vice president of operations for IOWA80 Group, agreed that there are many benefits to keeping equipment clean and protected in winter, but he added that there are also good reasons to continue the practice throughout the year.
For instance, during summer months removing bug splatters because they become corrosive if left on truck surfaces. The sun bakes the splattered bug juice and the acidic residue is harmful to painted surfaces.
“We offer a hand brush wash, which means we do not have to use harsh chemicals to wash and maintain a truck. We use high-pressure soapy water to remove dirt, salt residue, and road grime. We follow this up with a soft-brush soap and water treatment to remove any dirt that might be left after the high-pressure spray,” Pugh said.