Finding the right pH balance
Producers may also have differing opinions on using acid-based versus non-acid-based washing products. Cleansers that contain muriatic or phosphoric acid can effectively remove concrete residue quickly and efficiently. But they have a downside.
Using these products requires increased employee training and hazard awareness. Employees must be properly protected and handle cleaning solutions with care to avoid burning their eyes or skin. They also must be aware of any special storage requirements for the material.
A two-step product, such as Zep's X4996 “pink acid” cleanser, used with XT3600 neutralizer, can protect trucks from the corrosive effects of harsh acid residue. The cleanser contains a colored pH indicator that turns white when the neutralizer is applied so drivers can be sure all the acid is removed.
Non-acidic cleansers are being touted as an environmentally friendly alternative. Producers' reasons for using these products range from reducing toxic washout water to a companywide philosophy of environmental responsibility. An operations manager for a large East coast producer explains that he likes non-acidic products because they help cut long-term costs. “We save money on maintenance down the road because we don't have to replace as many rusted parts,” he says. “The non-acid-based products are easier on our trucks.”
Along with tightening operating costs, new EPA regulations are causing fleet managers to adopt safer methods of truck washing. Using large quantities of acid or highly toxic cleaning solutions is being abandoned for greener materials.
It's a common problem all producers share, not just those with ready-mixed fleets. And producers who have adopted a proactive approach to equipment cleaning have discovered that, along with better managing their cleaning costs, these new wash products have improved their operations.
Washing methods ultimately vary depending on the condition, age, and type of trucks. Regardless of these differences, the money producers invest in maintaining and protecting their fleets is more than just money spent on soap and brushes. It buys more time for the trucks on the road, postpones big-ticket expenses, and represents a down payment toward attracting new customers.