With a demand for increased productivity, many fleet managers are opting to contract out of the job of drum and plant cleanout. Fleet managers have also determined that by hiring a company that specializes in this difficult job, they have not only happier employees but also greater production capacity.

Knox Concrete Industries, Houston-a company that specializes in mixer drum cleanout, truck washing, and concrete plant rehabs-has noticed that most operations deliver concrete all year round and don't have time available for drum cleanout. Many producers use seasonal production slowdowns to increase their sales-training efforts. But the most common reason to hire outside cleaning services is safety.

Over the past few years, OSHA has applied regulations on confined-space work procedures and prevention of airborne silicosis to the concrete industry with a strong fervor. Rather than the paperwork and managerial follow-up for drum cleanout, many producers find it easier to let professionals do the job. With 10 to 11 crews working in the Southeastern and Eastern states, Knox has developed a system that complies with each region's interpretation. "The key is gearing up to do the job right," says president Keith Knox. Along with the breathing devices and training, each crew has full range of pneumatic tools, ladders, and cleanout hand tools that have been customized to meet the tight spaces of a drum or plant.

Knox's business has expanded into other maintenance services. A maintenance program allows two or three nightly visits per year. "So we began to also offer a truck washing option," says Knox.

On a recent job, Knox's crew went into a precast plant to clean all the hardened concrete buildup around the company's forms. "What was nice about the job is that we went in over a weekend, when the operation was shut down and had everything ready for the maintenance crew on Monday morning. The plant was ready for operation by the next shift," says Knox.