A Spring Cleaning Protocol for Your Fleet

If you’ve been neglecting the interiors of your service vehicles, now is a great time to get organized

A Spring Cleaning Protocol for Your Fleet

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Consider hosting a spring cleaning party for your plumbing trucks.

Spring cleaning is a concept I’ve reluctantly come to embrace. I’m not a tidy person and enjoy nothing about the cleaning process, but I find that I enjoy the results. Even a natural slob like me has to admit a nice, clean work space is refreshing and relaxing.

Spring is a time for hope, growth, and rebirth. This year that idea is especially poignant as the world sees a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Celebrate the warm, fresh air by sprucing up your fleet.

Start with the cab

Old receipts, fast food wrappers, empty Monster Energy cans, and lots of plumbing dust — am I painting an accurate picture? If that describes the cab of your plumbing trucks, you need a spring cleaning. A plumber’s cab is their office, and a clean office is critical for a productive work day.

Don’t stop at clearing out the trash. I know it’s a plumbing truck, but a full-on detailing of the front cab will have you breathing fresh air and instill a new sense of pride in the job. It’s amazing what a good detailing will do to make even an old crusty plumbing truck feel practically new again.

The center aisle

Regardless of what kind of rig you work off of, odds are there is a center aisle in the back. This aisle should — in theory — be a floor space. It provides access to your bins, holds your larger equipment, and transports materials back and forth from jobs. Instead, it often acts as a catchall dumping ground. 

Start by taking everything out of the center aisle. Clear it completely. Sweep, vacuum, or hose out the inside space before putting anything back in. 

Ideally, you won’t put as much back in as you take out. Be honest with yourself about the condition of items and whether you need them on a daily or weekly basis. Don’t hoard halfway broken items. Purging can be cathartic. 

Anything that has to remain, design a storage system for. Use PVC, bungee, and buckets to find creative storage solutions that will keep items off the floor. The center aisle is a particular pet peeve of mine because it is a huge safety issue. If you have to climb over items to get to your materials bins, falls, trips, slips, pokes and scratches are inevitable.

A messy aisle also puts additional wear and tear on tools and equipment. Plumbing is a hard enough job without adding broken bodies and tools to the mix. Do yourself a favor and organize the back of your truck.

The bins

Hopefully, you have bins. If you don’t have bins, get bins. Plumbers use a ton of tiny parts. Staying organized is key for being able to work in a timely and productive manner. It’s not good for anyone if you are wasting 30 minutes digging through a giant bucket of PEX parts to find the right fitting.

First, get rid of any packaging trash, broken items, or partially used kits. No, you don’t need 15 plastic toilet handles hanging out on your truck “just in case.” Let it go. Marie Kondo would tell you it does not spark joy.

Group items in a way that makes sense for work flow. Drain with drain, supply with supply, tools with tools. Then group by material and size. Plastic sub-dividers or small cardboard boxes are useful for keeping smaller items organized.

If you don’t have a label maker, consider getting one and using it for your bins. Trust me when I say that plumbers are not as good at eyeballing 1/2-inch versus 3/4-inch as they think they are. Labeling your organization efforts will help keep you organized through the year and is great for helpers who are still learning. 

The bins take the longest time. Depending on the state of the truck, it may take several days (yes, days) to get a truck organized and cleaned. The better you are at creating a unique home for parts, the less time cleaning will take in the future.

In an ideal world, every truck in your fleet would use the same storage layout. Of course, I don’t know a single company that accomplishes identical organization down to the fitting. In our fleet, we use the same Knapheide chassis for all of our trucks. While individual fitting organization might not be the same on every truck, you can go to the back driver's side compartment on any of the vehicles and find an extension cord. This makes it easier for the apprentices to be effective helpers.

Don’t forget the body wash

No truck clean-out is complete without a good exterior wash. Make the fleet shine. Hub caps and all. It’s the cherry on the sundae and may even inspire you to update your company photos.

Truck clean-outs are painful, but so cathartic. It’s hard and dirty work, not to mention expensive. You’ll cringe, realizing how many parts are riding around on trucks. The good news is that you’ll find materials you didn’t realize you had and save yourself a little at the supply house next month. 

Painful or not, truck clean-outs are good for business. Put on some music, order some pizza, and make it a party. It’ll help build team morale, instill some pride in the work that you are doing, and give everyone a fresh go into the warmer months.   

About the Author

Anja Smith has worked in the plumbing industry since 2012 in Greenville, South Carolina. You can find her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/anjasmith.



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