WHEN it comes to marketing their services to the tank truck industry, wash rack operators must appeal to fleet management and drivers. Both play an important role in the wash rack selection process.

Unfortunately, drivers often don't get enough consideration, which can be a serious mistake. Many tank truck carriers, both large and small, give their drivers a great deal of say in which wash rack is used. This is especially true in areas served by multiple tank cleaning facilities.

William O'Donell, president and chief operating officer of Superior Carriers Inc, says his company definitely listens to drivers when considering which wash rack to use. “We won't force them to use a commercial wash rack they don't like,” he says.

O'Donell goes on to say that the commercial tank cleaning sector needs to pay far more attention to driver facilities. Driver amenities need significantly more consideration. Drivers do a lot of waiting, and they need a decent place for that. It helps them feel good about their jobs, and improves their attitudes.

Driver waiting rooms need to be clean and comfortable. The rooms should be spacious with ample seating, a television, pay phones, and video games. Facilities should include both men's and women's showers, because growing numbers of women are driving trucks. Clothes washers and dryers would be a good touch.

An Internet-ready business center with work stations would be a definite plus, because of the rising percentage of drivers who now carry laptop computers while out on the road. Other business services could include copiers, fax machines, and automatic teller machines.

Foodservice may be the weakest aspect of the driver amenities at many wash racks. According to tank truck drivers, there are vast opportunities for improvement in this area. At the least, a waiting room needs some basics, such as snack and beverage vending machines.

Some of the better driver lounges that we've seen in recent years provide hotdogs, popcorn, pizza, and a variety of breakfast cereals. A Mexico wash rack has an outdoor café that serves meals and beverages to waiting drivers. One of the nicest of US wash racks provides hot meals at no cost in a spacious dining room.

Parking facilities could use improvement. Parking lots should be paved. An added attraction in today's operating environment would be electrical power outlets so that drivers wanting to rest in their sleepers could run the tractor air-conditioner or heater without idling the engine.

The comments in this editorial certainly are not intended as a blanket criticism of the tank cleaning industry. Some wash racks have put tremendous effort into providing a pleasant and relaxing environment for their driver customers. Drivers vote their approval through repeat business.

Still, the tank wash community must develop greater awareness of the needs of the drivers who are waiting for trailers to be cleaned. This is a topic that is as important as environmental and technology issues. It should be a consideration in the design and construction of every new wash rack. Driver comfort should even be included on future agendas of the National Tank Truck Carriers Tank Cleaning Council annual meeting.