Answering The Call
While every package delivery service has the same final goal – on-time (or earlier) delivery with no fuss (or breakage) – how they refer to their respective delivery fleets is quite different. For every “package car” and “walk-in truck” there’s a whole slew of “van” styles, from “sprinter” to “cargo” to, maybe most appropriately, “delivery.”
While they may use different terminology for their rolling stock, they do have this one descriptor in common: “ubiquitous,” defined as “found everywhere.” It’s difficult to go minutes these days, let alone hours or days, without seeing some sort of delivery vehicle driving down the street. While there have always been service vehicles for rental car agencies, auto dealers, plumbers, hotel/motel shuttles and heating/air-conditioning companies, the growth in the delivery vehicle market has been steady for the past two decades, driven in large part by the rise in online shopping. This has created a new market niche that is known as “last-mile delivery,” or services that are provided by companies that specialize in the transportation of goods from a distribution hub to the final delivery destination, which is typically the front door of the purchaser.
The last-mile delivery market really kicked into overdrive in 2020, however, when the shelter-in-place orders that were a mainstay of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic forced more and more people to do their shopping via a computer screen, rather than through in-person perusal of the aisles at the local grocery or department store. Sparked by the success of last-mile delivery during those trying times, there is an expanding list of businesses that were previously housed exclusively in brick-and-mortar storefronts that are now eligible to be an at-home option, from vehicle repair to veterinary services, pet grooming, and nail and hair appointments.
New Vehicles, New Challenges
So, while the growth of the delivery/service vehicle market has been truly significant and impressive, what has remained constant is this: the fleet must be kept in tip-top shape lest operators incur excessive downtime that will hamper their ability to meet demanding delivery and appointment schedules.
While keeping the fleet rolling is obviously paramount, another critical consideration is its appearance. That vehicle is the face of the delivery company, meaning that it must be kept nice and clean, as a dirty, grimy, greasy exterior is off-putting to many customers. This must prompt the operators of delivery/service companies to invest in a vehicle wash that is capable of efficiently and reliably delivering a clean vehicle once it returns from its long hours on the road, many of which can feature difficult traveling and climactic conditions.
The problem that is inherent in achieving a spic-and-span delivery vehicle is that many of the newer model units are taller than the old-school plumbing vans and hotel shuttles that stand 7.5 feet (90 inches). In fact, many of the next-generation delivery vehicles stand a non-traditional 108 inches, or 9 feet tall.
This means vehicle washes that are built for vans of a traditional height are too small to accommodate the newer models. Some wash manufacturers do offer bus washes that can service vehicles that are up to 144 inches (12 feet) tall, but if the fleet operation also features normal automobiles, the clearance between 12 and 6 or 7 feet is too big to cover consistently, accurately or efficiently. And not many fleet operators are willing to install two different sizes of washes, whether they be tunnel, in-bay automatic (IBA) or drive-thru technology.
The final challenge revolves around time, namely the amount that is needed to successfully complete the wash process. It stands to reason that a larger vehicle will require more time to wash. That not only keeps the vehicle sidelined longer but can also result in higher water usage and electricity bills.
So, the sweet spot in developing a wash that can meet the needs of the new fleets of taller delivery vehicles would be one that meets the height requirements, but can still service smaller vehicles, and do so in an optimized amount of time with no excessive amounts of water or electricity required.
Making The Best Even Better
The seeds of a solution were actually planted 30 years ago when Belanger, Inc., Northville, MI, a respected leader in the tunnel/conveyor wash industry for more than 50 years, developed the insta-KLEEN™ Drive-Thru Fleet Car Wash System. Based on Belanger’s proven Classic™ (now known as Legend By Belanger™) tunnel wash line, insta-KLEEN was created as a severe-duty, drive-thru vehicle wash system designed to meet the unique needs of car dealers, rental car agencies and other businesses that employed a fleet of vehicles.
The insta-KLEEN system was built on the foundation of Belanger’s Legend wash line: a heavy-duty, aircraft-grade aluminum framework that housed minimal moving parts. Instead, when motion is required, the system actuates the wash process through the use of automotive-rated bearings and lube-free pivot points that are built for reliable, maintenance-free operation and long service life. Additionally, unlike “rollover” systems that require the entire wash unit to sweep over each vehicle, the insta-KLEEN framework remains in place, allowing it to achieve the highest level of structural integrity.
But what truly separated the insta-KLEEN from the competition was the promise that it could deliver a clean vehicle in 60 seconds or less. This not only gets the vehicle back on the delivery route quicker, it also means that less water and electricity are needed to facilitate the wash process. Energy is also saved through the fact that the system doesn’t have to move over the vehicle, meaning it can require as little as 4 horsepower of electrical power per wash. In terms of water consumption, freshwater usage is minimal, especially if the wash is outfitted with a water-recovery system.
Belanger, which became part of OPW Vehicle Wash Solutions (OPW VWS) in 2019, was not willing to rest on its laurels when it came to optimizing the ultimate capabilities of the insta-KLEEN. With a little bit of “necessity is the Mother of invention” serendipity, two years ago an OPW VWS client specifically asked if the company had a vehicle wash that could meet the height requirements of the increasingly popular sprinter-type vans. OPW VWS had also periodically received inquiries as to whether or not it offered a taller drive-thru fleet wash.
While OPW VWS did not count a wash like that among its product portfolio at the time, the decision was made to take the proven insta-KLEEN technology and modify it – which mainly consisted of adding some additional supports to the design – so that it could be used to wash the taller vehicles that were starting to flood the market – all while still being able to meet the wash needs of traditional fleet vans and automobiles.
The result was the insta-KLEEN XT™ Drive-Thru Fleet Wash System, which was introduced in 2020. Most notably, the insta-KLEEN XT has a vehicle clearance of 114 inches (9.5 feet), which enables it to accommodate taller vans, while maintaining the ability to wash a vehicle of that size completely and reliably in 60 seconds or less.
The insta-KLEEN XT also offers the same features as the original system: port-proof drive-thru design; stationary aircraft-grade aluminum framework; automotive-rated bearings; lube-free pivots; guardrails that guide the driver through the wash; bolt-on wear parts that easily accessed, serviced and replaced; and soft-start motor controls that protect the equipment.
The insta-KLEEN XT can also be customized to meet the unique needs of the operator’s wash offering through the availability of accessories like Prep Jet, Blast Arch, Water-Reclaim System, DuraTrans® XD Conveyor, Presoak Arch, Wave Low Side Washer™, DuraScrubber® Tire Cleaner, Spot-Free Rinse and a wide array of Dryers.
Whatever you choose to call them, the next generation of delivery and service vans have definitely become ubiquitous. Keeping them clean and presentable should be a front-of-mind concern for the operators of these fleets and an exciting new way of doing that has entered the vehicle wash market in the form of the insta-KLEEN XT system. The features, benefits and capabilities of the insta-KLEEN XT are built on the three-decade in-the-field successes experienced by the original insta-KLEEN system. At the rate the new delivery vehicle market is growing, there may even be a day where the insta-KLEEN XT will be described with that “U” word.