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How to wash a semi-truck
Truck wash facility employees show how to wash a semi truck.
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October 27, 2020

Take pride in your ride. Whether you’re a company driver, owner-operator or fleet owner, the cleanliness of your tractor and trailer will showcase your professionalism to other motorists, law enforcement and customers.

We’ve shared previously semi-truck interior cleaning tips, and now here’s how to wash a semi-truck exterior, for both primary methods: by hand and at a truck wash facility.

How to wash a semi-truck by hand

Depending on your role and any company policies, you can use a self-service truck wash or wash your truck at home. Either way, the method is similar:

1. Pre-soak your semi-truck.

Layers of road dirt can build up over time. By quickly spraying your truck, you can save scrubbing time later and get a better feel for which areas you’ll need to focus on.

2. Lather your semi-truck in soap.

Use warm water and a professional automotive/truck soap rather than detergent or dish soap to make sure it doesn’t damage the paint. Depending on how dirty the truck is, you may want to do one side or area of the truck at a time.

3. Scrub and brush your semi-truck.

Use a soft wash mitt and/or foam brush to scrub in harder-to-reach areas. You may also want to use an extended brush to avoid having to use a ladder.

4. Rinse your semi-truck.

Wash the soap and dirt clean. Again, you may want to do one area of the truck at a time to avoid the wet soap dripping off the area you’re cleaning or starting to dry too soon.

Truck driver shows how to wash a semi truck by hand

5. Dry your semi-truck.

You can either let it air dry if the weather will be decent or dry the truck by hand with a soft cloth, being sure not to scratch the surface.

6. Wax your semi-truck.

Once the truck is washed and dried, applying a coat of wax can both protect the paint and help your truck stand out.

How to wash a semi-truck at a truck wash

Automated truck washes or mobile truck wash services that come to you are faster and easier than washing by hand, but you may pay a little more. You should expect to:

1. Check your company policies and truck wash partnerships.

Many large companies, like Schneider, offer truck wash services at major facilities, including either free washes for company drivers at regular maintenance intervals or authorization for pre-paid washes at truck wash vendors, like Blue Beacon. Search for and visit the most convenient truck wash that fits your company’s policies and partnerships.

How to wash a semi truck at a Blue Beacon

Schneider’s Driver Services team can assist at the Charlotte, Gary, Indianapolis and West Memphis facilities, and they can only assist with truck wash vendors.

2. Choose which truck wash services you want.

Conventional tractor-only washes will be less expensive than tractor-and-trailer washes with an advanced under-carriage rinse, for example. Do you want to add protectant? Will you be doing an exterior trailer wash or full interior trailer washout? Will you pay extra for a tire dressing or add polish? Verify your company policies, but otherwise it’s your call.

Frequently asked questions about how to wash a semi-truck

How long does it take to wash a semi-truck?

An automated service could take 10-20 minutes, depending on which package you choose, and of course not factoring in how long the line of trucks is in front of you. Washing by hand is highly variable on how thorough you are, but it could easily take a few hours.

How much does it cost to wash a semi-truck?

A typical automated truck wash costs $35 - $70, depending on the package you choose. Your company may provide free truck washes at regular intervals or discounts to large national chains (Schneider truck wash facilities are free for company drivers, $15 for owner-operators). Of course if you’re washing by hand, it’s the cost of your time, supplies and the amount of water you use.

How many gallons of water does it take to wash a semi-truck?

It’s highly variable, from a few gallons if you’re doing a quick wash by hand to hundreds of gallons with high-pressure nozzles at automated truck washes, especially if cleaning out tanks hauling chemicals.

Truck wash employee shows how to wash a semi truck at a truck wash facility.

How do tank washes work?

Since tanker trailers often haul hazardous materials or food grade loads, tank washes perform an important role in avoiding dangerous chemical mixes or food contamination. Tank washes may take longer, cost more and use more water than described above, and each tanker company will have their own processes.

Washing tank trailers and unloading equipment like pumps and hoses should only be done by a qualified service provider that is vetted by the company you drive for and is properly permitted to provide the services, following regulations including OSHA and the EPA.

Schneider pays for regular truck washes

If you join the Schneider team as a company driver, you’ll be able to get your truck washed for free at regular maintenance intervals through our Driver Services team. Charlotte, Gary, Indianapolis and West Memphis facilities recently upgraded truck washes with improved water lines, high-pressure nozzles, new undercarriage jets and brushes.

About the author
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Schneider Guy loves the "Big Orange." He's passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He's been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he's excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through "A Slice of Orange."