Fleet Cleaning: You Get What You Pay for, and Here’s the Math to Prove It

Posted by Skye Robinson | April 22, 2015 | Newsletter

Calculator-with-handYou’ve probably heard the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” and chances are you’ve had an experience that proved that saying to be true. Sometimes we know straight up that we’re paying for less to get less, like when we choose to eat fast food on-the-go over eating at a nice sit-down restaurant.

Sometimes, however, we mistakenly think paying less is going to save us money but deliver the same quality. For example, perhaps you ordered clothes online that were cheaper than what you’d pay at a brick-and-mortar store. And when the clothes arrived at your house, you realized the fabric was cheap, the sewing faulty, and the size wrong—which means you didn’t save any money at all because the clothes were unusable.

You’re not alone! We’ve all been there!

But what happens in our personal lives affects only our own lives when we try to go cheap. At work, it’s a different story. Trying to cut corners to cut costs can have an impact on much more than our wardrobe!

Take fleet cleaning, for example. There are fleet managers who want trucks and rigs washed as cheaply as possible, but they’re not realizing the real cost of that decision. As with all things in life, you get what you pay for. And when you pay less for fleet cleaning, you get less.

For example, if a fleet manager is paying only $8.00 per unit for fleet cleaning, the vendor can’t make any money—unless the vendor does a bad (or no) job, with hardly any time spent on each vehicle (or no time at all). Sadly, that is quite literally what happens. In order to come in as cheaply as possible, a fleet cleaning vendor bills for work wasn’t performed, or they simply do a spray down and never get the vehicles truly clean.

Only do the math, and you’ll see $8.00 per unit can’t work. The vendor has all kinds of costs inherent in providing the fleet cleaning service, including labor costs, fuel costs, the cost for supplies and equipment, etc. If a vendor charges only $8.00 per unit, and pays a crew of three people a minimum wage of $8.00 per hour, that vendor has to wash a minimum of 3 vehicles per hour to barely cover payroll, and another vehicle to cover fuel expense, and yet another vehicle to cover travel time and supplies. That means to break even, the vendor will need to wash a minimum of 5 units per hour. But wait, it gets worse: To make a standard markup for profitability, plus cover payroll taxes and benefits and other overhead, they will need to wash 10 or more units per hour. That’s 6 minutes per vehicle! Can you get a truck clean in 6 minutes? No, no one can. And that leads to shoddy work.

Sure the fleet manager saved money, but he didn’t get a clean fleet. And then thereare the hidden expense of a poor fleet cleaning job which probably haven’t been considered:

  • Dirty trucks are bad for branding.
  • Dirty trucks are dangerous, with dim headlights and foggy mirrors and windows.
  • Dirty trucks are subject to faster decay and corrosion.
  • For those in the food transportation business, a dirty truck is against the law.

All of these consequences come with very real costs that won’t ever show up on a balance sheet. And in addition to these kinds of indirect expenses, there’s an environmental impact too, because the cheap vendor is probably not using a water reclamation system, nor investing in environmentally sound cleaning products.

For fleet managers who know the importance of a quality job, one that’s thorough and professional, a reputable fleet cleaning company is worth every penny.

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