Keeping buses clean is vital, not only for a company’s public image, but from a safety standpoint as well. The job, though, of washing buses is accomplished in dramatically varied ways.
Some larger companies have automated bus wash systems in a dedicated garage bay, while others may use a roll-over/gantry system, while some smaller operations simply have an employee armed with a pressure washer who is out in the parking lot, exposed to the elements all year long. Along with the charm of dumping the toilets, it isn’t hard to understand that attracting cleaners may be even more difficult than finding qualified driver applicants.
“This is a family business,” says Randy Charlebois, owner of Premier Coach in Vermont, “and I was washing buses when I was 13 years old. I really didn’t mind it. I was getting some exercise; it’s work you can do while listening to music, and I took pride in doing a good job. Today, like finding drivers, getting people to even apply for a bus washing job is one of the tougher issues we face.”
Premier has four locations and a fleet of 70 motorcoaches for charters, and a couple smaller vehicles for line runs. Charlebois has invested in an indoor wash bay with good lighting, radiant heat flooring and a system where the cleaner pushes a walk-around rotating brush to clean the exteriors. Cleaners don’t need to have a CDL since the buses stay on Premier’s private parking lot during the washing process. If a washer is apprehensive about moving such a large vehicle, they are free to ask someone to move it for them.
Mike Fisher of Fisher Charter Services in Massachusetts simply has a pressure washer outside. As with most operations, the only time buses are on the lot is late at night or early in the morning.
“For three-quarters of the year it isn’t too bad outside,” says Fisher. “We have a responsible young man doing the washing right now, and we do have good luck retaining employees once we bring the right people in because we treat them well. But washing is a tough job. The parking lot is crowded, it’s dark, and since our toilet dumping facility is built into the parking lot, there’s a lot of maneuvering, especially since it is also the cleaner’s job to fuel the bus up.”
Dealing with all that’s left behind
Fisher trains his drivers to remind passengers to gather their belongings.
“It’s very time consuming to be on the phone regarding lost items,” he said. “We’ve found everything from Apple watches to wedding veils to musical instruments, and of course laptops and wallets.”
Time is money, so to help defray the cost of mailing items back, Fisher now requests that people send a shipping label.
“We still have to box it and take it to the post office, but at least they’re paying the postage.”
Charlebois has found the gamut of items, including machine guns left by military personnel.
“One of the biggest ways we combat the problem of phone calls and mailing items back is to do a walkthrough at the end of each trip. It’s a lot easier to keep the customer happy by doing a walkthrough and getting people their belongings at that time,” Charlebois says. “Even if there are signs that say, ‘We aren’t responsible for lost or stolen items, at the end of the day, the walkthrough with the customer helps with us not being the bad guy when someone can’t find an item.”
“After the item is in the lost and found, it’s up to the salesperson to contact the customer, arrange for means to get the item back. “The whole business of the lost and found is costly, so we try to head that off at the pass with the walk through, but some items aren’t found until the cleaning crew steps in, and that’s where the background check helps with our peace of mind on our cleaners turning in everything that they find.”
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