Bright future

VEGETABLE oil built Savannah Kleen Truck & Tank Wash. More precisely, a vegetable oil processor provided the motivation that led to the launch of the foodgrade wash rack.

Located in Port Wentworth, Georgia (just off I-95), the two-bay operation opened for business in April 2006. The kosher-certified wash rack occupies a prime location just a few miles northwest of the historic port city of Savannah, Georgia. Not far from the wash rack is an edible oil processing plant run by Fuji Vegetable Oil.

“This wash rack came about because Fuji Vegetable Oil asked Prime Inc (a large refrigerated and flatbed trucking company that also operates foodgrade tanks) to open a cleaning facility close to the oil plant,” says Chad Clay, Savannah Kleen general manager. “Fuji managers wanted a commercial wash rack that could provide high-quality service, including kosher-certified cleaning.

“Fuji requires all tank trailers hauling its products to be washed out at Savannah Kleen prior to loading. That gives us a significant customer base.”

Basic services at Savannah Kleen include foodgrade tank cleaning and exterior washes of trucks, trailers, and other commercial equipment. Every tank is cleaned to kosher standards and sanitized for the transportation of foodgrade product. The wash rack is open from 7 am to 6 am, Monday through Friday, with weekend and after-hours cleaning by appointment.

Business has grown steadily since the wash rack opened last year. Four wash workers on two shifts are processing 12 to 16 tank trailers a day, and the goal is to hit 100 a week by this summer. In addition to vegetable oils, the rack accepts tank trailers transporting a wide range of edibles, including sweeteners, molasses, juices, USP foodgrade chemicals, alcohol, flour, and sugar.

Customer relations

Prime Inc management took up the wash rack challenge as a way to strengthen relations with a good customer. It didn't take long to find an existing building that had previously housed an exterior truck wash.

Prime bought the building and invested about $1.5 million in remodeling and upgrades. The exterior wash bay was retained and upgraded, and a foodgrade tank cleaning system was installed. Outside lights, perimeter fencing, and closed-circuit television cameras were installed for security.

Part of the remodeling included repainting the building inside and out. Among the painters who showed up were Niki Bowers and Miranda McCorkel. When the painting was finished, they stayed on as the first tank wash workers hired by Savannah Kleen.

Bowers and McCorkel make up the tank wash day shift and administrate the overall tank cleaning process. Clay credits them with developing most of the tank cleaning procedures and wash recipes used at the facility. “They set the standard for the service level that our customers have come to expect,” Clay says. “They certainly made it possible for us to achieve a 100% acceptance rate on tank cleanings.”

Quality control

Quality control at the wash rack starts with a pre-wash tank entry on every trailer cleaned. This is a permit-required entry, and tank cleaners are careful to follow all Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety procedures.

The reason for the pre-wash entry is to ensure that heels are fully removed before the tank is cleaned. Cleaners also remove built-up product around internal valves and other hard-to-clean areas to ensure that the cleaning process is complete. Savannah Kleen charges a removal and disposal fee for any heels over five gallons, and all heels are contained for proper disposal.

For tank cleaning, the wash team uses a Floyd Peacock Model 636 high- pressure/low-volume, single-pass unit that generates its own hot water and steam. In addition to hot water, Savannah Kleen also uses Peacock 517 foodgrade detergent and a USDA-approved sanitizer. Sellers AA 190 spinners also are part of the tank cleaning equipment.

“This unit gives us 210°F hot water at 22 gallons per minute continuously,” Clay says. “We can take the unit up to 325°F for steam, although we don't use it very often. This Peacock machine gives us enough capacity to clean in excess of 100 tank trailers per week. In addition, the Peacock system does not use recycled water, thereby eliminating cross-contamination issues.

“We chose the Peacock system because it meets our cleaning requirements, is easy to learn and operate, and has good vendor support. The Peacock people are great to work with.”

Cleaning routine

Vegetable oil tanks predominate at the wash rack, and kosher requirements call for those tanks to be cleaned with detergent and hot water that is at least 200°F for 20 minutes. That is followed by a rinse cycle with hot water above 200°F. The full cleaning process takes 50 to 80 minutes.

Product hoses and pump are cleaned with the tank trailer. Standard procedure at the wash rack is to disassemble the pump, wash and sanitize all parts, then reassemble the pump completely. In addition, workers remove all gaskets from the product pump and hoses. The gaskets are cleaned, inspected, and replaced as necessary.

Cleaners wash the pump cabinet, inside and out, hose tubes, and rear head. Hose fittings and the pump are sanitized according to USDA recommendations.

The tank interior is dried after cleaning, and workers conduct a final inspection to ensure that the tank meets requirements for being clean, dry, and odor free. When required by customers, cleaned tanks can be swabbed to check for bacteria. A final step in the process is to seal all access points on the trailer. Savannah Kleen uses tamper-evident plastic seals from E J Brooks.

If a customer wants an exterior wash, the tank trailer is sent through Savannah Kleen's Whiting System gantry-style automated wash unit, where the exterior cleaning crew ensures that all exterior surfaces are brushed and cleaned. The exterior wash service also is available for most commercial vehicles, including tractors, straight trucks, and van and flatbed trailers, as well as automobiles.

Along with cleaning, the wash rack offers trailer shuttle service. “We have a shuttle tractor, and we can stage customer trailers at the Fuji plant after cleaning,” Clay says. “We'll even take the trailers to the Fuji plant for loading and allow customers to drop their dirty trailers on our parking lot so drivers simply bobtail to Fuji to pick up their loaded trailers. We believe that is an important benefit for our customers and their drivers.”

Clay adds that Savannah Kleen has achieved most of the goals that were set when the facility opened last year, and growth is on track. “We've come a long way with this operation in a relative short time,” he says. “While we still have some work to do on exterior wash volume, we're very optimistic about the future.”

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