Research Goes a Long Way in Spec’ing Bus Washes

A detailed spec’ing process can ensure your long-term goals with a new bus wash system

Spec’ing is one of the most important steps for any district looking to purchase a new wash system. A good spec process explores system feasibility in several different areas:

Research and Self-Research

A quality spec often begins with quality conversations. Manufacturers have specialized knowledge and experience in their field. Whether it is on the internet or in person, much of the information readily available to a school district is likely to come from a specialized manufacturer. Seek out different wash manufacturers online, research available systems, and consider information that is readily available.

Trade shows, as well as publications like this one, are great places to seek information on bus washing. Trade shows can allow you to talk with multiple experts in a short period of time.

Finally, I encourage districts to reach out and speak to experts early before they settle on their spec’s. At InterClean, we regularly consult customers on washing large vehicles. It is an effective way to ensure that a wash will meet your district’s requirements and be suitable for their specific objectives. There are multiple variables to consider that will determine the optimal solution. We have experienced experts on bus washing and spec’ing bus washes speaking directly with districts for just this reason.

The types of questions that an expert is likely to ask you about are pertinent to determining the optimal bus wash specifications.

Facility: You must ensure that your facility has enough space for certain equipment, and that it is outfitted for utilities (water must come in, and water must go out). Then you must consider the project’s budget – is there enough money to obtain the right system for your needs?

Fleet: How many buses are in the fleet? How many vehicles do you plan to clean per day? 

Environment: The environment of your district will affect the wash design suggested by a knowledgeable manufacturer. Are you in an area where mold and mildew buildup occur due to heat and humidity? Do your buses travel over many unpaved roads? In the winter, are your buses exposed to snow, ice, and corrosion from salt (or other corrosives)? If they do, your wash may need to account for the environmental factors that affect your fleet. 

Washing requirements vary from state to state, but you must always ensure that lights, signs, and bus numbers remain visible. If your vehicles travel on snowy or unpaved roads, it can result in those areas being completely covered by the elements.

You may want to have an in-depth discussion on chassis cleaning as well. With a well-cleaned chassis, corrosion is minimized, and maintenance techs can save a lot of time on routine performance and safety checks.

Service: Lastly, a very important element in your wash system spec’ing is the level of after-sale service that you desire. It is critical that you describe the support you feel is needed to keep your equipment operating effectively, whether that means training employees or providing system maintenance in the event of a breakdown. 

This step of the spec’ing process will add to your regional knowledge base as well as your understanding of the different wash systems. For our part, we utilize a strong network of local distributors. These distributors do not just help districts in spec’ing and purchasing – they are critical in providing after-sale maintenance and support.

When Spec’ing Goes Wrong

An improperly written specification undermines the chances for a successful long-term result from your bus wash project. Equipment that fails to adequately clean your buses is one outcome. Another is that the project cost is greater than it needs to be due to unnecessary items in the spec. Yet another potential outcome is a solution that is not appropriate and causes major problems. 

We have seen examples of districts not properly researching water conditions at wash sites. If you do not ensure that water quality and capacity is adequate at your facility, it might result in septic discharge – and that can completely kill your project.

Another serious risk is that you realize that you bought a system that does not wash enough buses. A gantry system, for example, provides 30 or 40 washes per day generally. If your district is looking to wash 100 buses per day, for example, then you will not have that capability with that solution.

All these issues can be resolved by taking steps during the spec’ing process to give your project the greatest chance for success. When planned for early in the process, nearly any vehicle washing challenge can be addressed effectively with the right wash process design and technology.

Philip Luurtsema is an area manager for InterClean Equipment. Visit for more information