September 14, 2011

Trucking 101: Cleaning Out

Good morning from California! Obviously we didn't go load another load of drilling sand! At least, not yet. We are in Petaluma, CA. Petaluma is on US 101 almost on the coast and just north of San Francisco. To get here, we took highway 37 around the north edge of San Pablo Bay.
I haven't done a Trucking 101 post in a while, and so today I thought I'd share with you about the challenges of getting the inside of our trailer cleaned! We haul all sorts of products in this trailer. Often people ask what sort of things we haul, and my answer has become, "anything that can be dumped in the top, and then sifted out the bottom."

If you've been reading the blog for a while, you've probably noticed we haul quite a variety of products. For this trip, we hauled wheat mids, or wheat screenings. Basically this is what is produced from cleaning the wheat. Its pretty much dirt, chaff, and bits of broken wheat berries. It looks and feels a lot like sawdust.
Wheat mids are used for feed. We deliver this stuff most often to dairys. This load came to a mill that I believe is making dairy feed. And in order to load this product, we were required to wash the trailer out.

We don't always have to wash the trailer. For instance, we hauled the load of sunflower seed to Fargo, ND, and then we loaded another load of sunflower seed south of Fargo and took that to Colorado. Since it was the same product, we didnt' need to wash. Malcolm just climbed into the trailer and swept out any stray sunflower seeds left in there from Fargo. If we hauled fertilizer, and then we go load pearlite, we can just sweep out really good.

But say we haul a load of crushed glass, like we did last December, and then need to go pick up a load of sunflower seed...
...or perhaps we have a load of poultry meal and then need to load organic apples...
...then for obvious reasons we need to get the trailer washed out.

Sounds simple enough, but it can actually be quite a challenge. There are a number of truck wash chains out there. Its not really that hard to find a truck wash.
not my picture
But a number of the truck washes out there won't wash out a hopper trailer! They site liability issues as the reason, because to wash out a hopper trailer, you have to climb up on top and into the trailer. Its understandable, but no less frustrating.

We have pinpointed as many truck washes that we can find that will still wash out hopper trailers and we try to frequent them for all our washing needs, to encourage them to continue servicing hoppers. They are becoming fewer and fewer.

We found one near Denver that will wash us, and so that's where we went to get washed out for this load.
Some truck washes use hoses with high water pressure to wash us out, kind of like power washing. In fact that's what most seem to use. But we've run across a few, one in particular in Sacramento, that charged us $80 to wash out the trailer, and then proceeded to get up their with their garden hose and take about 5 minutes to spray us out. I highly doubt that the trailer was actually clean after that.
Most washouts cost us anywhere from $25 and up. They tend to be on the lower end of the scale, but you do get those that take advantage of the situation. They know we can't argue The washout in Denver yesterday cost us $63.

We were told recently that the one and only truck wash in Spokane that will washout a hopper is going to close its doors next month. They said they just aren't doing enough business to warrant staying open. This creates a big problem for us. We frequently haul birdseed to Spokane and we almost always have to get washed out in order to reload our usual loads from that area! We're running into this situation more and more.

Another problem we encounter frequently involves our deliveries to rural areas. Say we take a load of fertilizer to the local co-op, and then we're going to load barley 30 miles east of there. There are two towns. One has a bar and a post office, the other has more to offer but its really only a one intersection type of town. Do you think they have a truck wash? Right!

And so the solution is...
A surprising number of self serve car washes have a spot for trucks. Well most of them are intended for campers or such, but we happen to fit into them. And a number of them do actually indicate that trucks can use them. You should see some of the looks we get though, when we have to get creative!

Malcolm does the washing, while I stand by and pop in the quarters every time the machine starts beeping for more money.
Its actually a lot cheaper doing it this way. We usually can get through it on about $15 or so. We keep an empty Gatorade bottle in the truck and dump all our quarters in it. And since we've run into car washes that didn't have change dispensers, we've learned to stock up on quarters when we do find a change machine.
It's a wet slippery job. He has fallen and hurt himself before, and he always comes out mostly drenched, but the trailer is always 10 times cleaner than it ever gets at the truck washes!
We've also found some livestock washouts that we can use, and on occasion the place where we deliver will have a spot where they wash out their equipment and they will sometimes allow us to use their facilities. But usually we just find a car wash somewhere.

We don't have to washout between every load, but when we do need to, it can be quite a challenge to get the job done.

Jake asked how often we have to change the oil in our truck. We try to change the oil every 20,000 miles. It generally costs about $230 each time. We also get the truck and trailer greased every 10,000 miles. In fact, we had that done on 9/3 and its time to do it again. We're stopping this afternoon to have that taken care of. It costs about $40 each time. Malcolm said he could do it himself, but he most times he just doesn't feel like crawling under the truck to do it. I feel like its worth $40 for him to be able to supervise someone else do it, while he takes a break.

We are unloaded now and heading to Stockton to reload. We're getting fertilizer and taking it to Idaho. Since its just fertilizer, a good sweet out is sufficient, so we won't have to go to the livestock sale barn down here and wash out. Sweeping out still involves climbing into and around inside the trailer. Its not an easy job. But at least Malcolm won't have to wear soggy clothes this morning.


TexWisGirl said...

sounds like you do plenty of work in between loads... a tough life.

Dreaming said...

Ah, more things we commoners don't know a thing about... and at least in my case, haven't really thought about! But, it all makes sense (duh!) and I'm glad it is done when I think that so much of what we ingest has been hauled by a truck or train.
So you must own your trailer as well. Do you own different types of trailers or do you only haul stuff that would go into a hopper trailer?

Louise said...

I was wondering how you went about doing that. I know that, when shipping LTL, there are all kinds of rules about what kinds of hazardous materials you can ship with other products, or other hazardous materials, and I was assuming that you had similar rules to prevent contamination, even if what you are moving isn't hazardous. Nice to know how it is done.

Annette said...

That was very interesting. I will never look at a hopper trailer the same again! Poor Malcolm getting wet...but the inside sure looks shiny clean.

thecrazysheeplady said...

Interesting. I love behind the scenes stuff!