After almost a quarter of a century in the same location, just about any business could use a makeover. That certainly was as true for Tank Trailer Cleaning Inc (TTC) as any other business.

The 23-year-old wash rack operator in East St Louis, Illinois, went through a comprehensive five-month overhaul that started in July 2007. By the time it was all over, workers had replaced or refurbished the flooring in all six wash bays; new cleaning solution tanks and work platforms had been installed; and the lighting in the bays was enhanced.

“This was the most extensive renovation we've ever done on this facility,” says Gary Hunter, president of Tank Trailer Cleaning. “We're constantly working on the facility to keep it in good shape and improve the way we serve our customers. However, the wash rack definitely showed the wear and tear that came from heavy use over nearly 25 years.”

Charlie Stock, vice-president and chairman of Tank Trailer Cleaning, adds that the company does as much as it can to make the facility comfortable and inviting to truck drivers and other customers. “We also want to provide the most efficient tank cleaning service we can,” he says. “The changes we made enable us to clean more tanks more efficiently and faster. In short, we modernized our operation and positioned it for success for the next 25 years.”

Impressive facility

Well before the 2007 wash rack makeover, Hunter and Stock had made their mark by developing one of the most impressive, customer-friendly tank trailer service facilities in the industry. Most noteworthy is the restaurant that is open around the clock and provides meals at no cost to customers while their tank trailers are cleaned. Other customer-oriented features include a comfortable shower area, washer and dryer, computer weather center, wireless Internet service, video arcade, and a driver's lounge with a large flat-screen television.

Spread across approximately 25 acres, Tank Trailer Cleaning offers ample room to build terminal facilities for fleet customers. Office space also is available for fleet operations, including dispatch and sales. Vehicle maintenance and repair are offered through AAA Trailer Service.

Despite the diversification, tank washes remain the core focus. Tank cleaning services are available 24/7, and the company operates a 15,000-sq-ft rack with four chemical wash bays and two foodgrade bays. The foodgrade side is Kosher certified.

Cleaning services include caustic and detergent washes, hot and cold water flushes, pre-solve and solvent spins, and passivation. High-pressure steam is available, and the wash rack can provide nitrogen purges.

The wash bays had been in service since 1984, and some of the wash bay floors dated back to the early 1960s. Not surprisingly, they were showing their age after decades of heavy use. Replacement of those floors was a key objective of the refurbishment in 2007.

May launch

The wash rack makeover effort was launched in May 2007, when Danny Banister, a tank cleaning consultant, was brought on board as project coordinator. The renovation effort started in July and finished in November.

“Danny helped with the renovation and with the effort to keep the wash rack up and running throughout the project,” Stock says. “We had to make sure that we didn't sideline any of our customers' equipment that needed cleaning.”

The six-inch-thick concrete floor in the two foodgrade bays was completely removed and replaced. The floor in the four chemical bays was power blasted with high-pressure water and cut down almost to the rebar.

“We did two chemical bays at a time to minimize inconvenience to our customers,” Hunter says. “Most of the floor replacements were done over the course of a long weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).”

Following the power blasting in the chemical bays, workers poured a four-inch concrete cap. The flooring in the two foodgrade bays was a bigger project, though. It took nearly a week to break out the old floor and pour new concrete.

Once the new concrete was poured, the bays were back in use within a week. The new floors were allowed to cure for about a month at which time workers applied an epoxy topcoat with quartz anti-slip protection. The Crown Polymers material was brushed on in an eighth-inch layer and was cured for about 24 hours before tank trailers were allowed on it.

New fixtures

Along with the floor replacement, Tank Trailer Cleaning installed new galvanized steel mezzanines and staircases. The structures were assembled by an outside fabrication shop under TTC direction. Extra lighting was installed in the wash bays to provide a brighter work area. Workers also painted the walls white.

TTC designed new 1,000-gallon stainless steel wash solution tanks, which were fabricated by an outside shop. Five vats serve three of the chemical wash bays and contain hot water, warm diesel, caustic, and detergent. The fourth chemical wash bay is for hard-to-clean products, and the wash system includes four vats that hold hot water, cold water, proprietary stripper, and warm diesel. Hot water for the system comes from a 125-hp Kewanee boiler and a 100-hp Johnson boiler.

The solution tanks are part of a wash system that was assembled in-house. This system was upgraded for higher productivity during the renovation. Pump motors are rated at 75 horsepower and can generate pressures of 230 psi to 260 psi at the point where the cleaning solution reaches the Sellers spinners.

“Typically, we're running the spinners at 230 psi for most of the cleaning operation, but we're using a modern cleaning system that can supply considerably more pressure along with nearly double the flow rate,” Banister says. “Of course increased flow rate and pressure equals improved impingement. Generally speaking, TTC will be operating their hard-to-clean system with nearly three times the impingement available with the average tank wash system.

“We did a number of things to improve performance and lower energy costs in the wash rack. We sized the system from the spinner back to the vats for higher flow and higher pressure. With larger diameter piping and other engineering and equipment improvements, we were able to boost pump efficiency to 80% from 43%.”

Emergency power

In recent years, Tank Trailer Cleaning took steps to ensure that the wash rack and other operations can continue even in the face of power outages. Two 300-kw Cummins Onan generator sets provide enough power to run the entire facility. The generators are fueled with B10 (a blend of 90% petroleum diesel and 10% biodiesel).

“We use the biodiesel blend in all of our power equipment,” Stock says. “We have to remain operational no matter what happens. Our customers rely on us. If the power is down for even three to four hours, we get very backed up.

“We're definitely getting our money out of the gensets. During the winter of 2007, storms knocked out the power for five days. Summer storms in 2007 also brought power outages. Not once did these events affect our most important job: Providing our customers with quality and timely service.”

Tank Trailer Cleaning does everything it can to provide customers with the best possible service. Reliable backup power is part of that effort, as was the extreme makeover in 2007.