IT'S A TRUISM among real estate agents that the three most important considerations in choosing a property are location, location, location. Based on that, Tanker Wash USA must be perfectly positioned for success.
Affiliated with GKA Enterprises Inc, the three-bay foodgrade wash rack is in a prime location just off I-5 at the Charter Way exit and adjacent to the Port of Stockton, California. Of particular appeal to truck drivers, Tanker Wash USA lies within easy walking distance of restaurants, motels, and truck dealerships.
“We couldn't have asked for a better place to put a foodgrade wash rack in the Stockton area,” says Gary D Alegre, co-owner of Tanker Wash USA. He and his father, Frank Alegre, each own 50% of the venture. Gary also is president of GKA Enterprises Inc, a transload and tank truck operator that has its main office at the wash rack location.
“Large volumes of liquid and dry bulk edibles are hauled by truck throughout the Joaquin Valley, and that should translate into substantial tank cleaning business,” Gary adds. “Foodgrade cargoes moving in the Valley include sweeteners, flour, brewer's malt, yeast, wine, and edible oils. A significant amount of that traffic passes through the Stockton area. We're in the final stages of getting kosher certification for the wash rack, which should increase its appeal for food haulers.
“While foodgrade cleaning is the focus of this wash rack, we are looking at other activities including washout of aggregates — sand, fly ash, and cement — using a dedicated, self-contained system. We also plan to add a fueling operation in the next year to year-and-a-half.”
Gary and Frank spent years studying the foodgrade traffic flow as they planned the wash rack. “We started the planning back in 1998,” Frank says. “We had some hurdles to overcome, and we wanted to make sure we did everything the right way so that we can offer high-quality tank cleaning.”
Open since December 2004, the three-bay wash rack has been steadily expanding its cleaning volumes. While the rack is open to the public, most of the cleaning work has come from the GKA Enterprises fleet (45 trailers that are used to haul plastics, brewer's malt, bentonite, and wine wastewater). Flour trailers from the Frank C Alegre Trucking Inc fleet also are being cleaned. Alegre Trucking belongs to Gary's brother Tony.
GKA Enterprises hauls a thousand loads of flour each month in the California market. Alegre Trucking transports 600 to 700 loads of flour a month. Dry bulkers in flour service must be cleaned every seven days.
“Our fleets certainly have benefited from this new wash rack,” Gary says. “At GKA Enterprises, for example, we give tank cleaning a lot more attention now. The wash rack definitely has raised our fleet image.
“We're cleaning about 10 trailers a day right now, and the wash rack is open five to six days a week. Our goal in 2005 is to clean 25 tanks a day and be open seven days a week. As currently configured, the rack could handle a maximum throughput of 50 tanks a day.”
The three-bay wash rack sits on a three-acre site that is fenced and gated for security and fully paved. The fence is topped with razor wire, and security cameras are strategically placed around the facility. A concrete barrier completely surrounds the facility to contain spills.
Offices in the administrative side of the building are used by the wash rack staff and the GKA Enterprises management team. Also on the administrative side are a driver lounge and waiting area and showers.
The wait usually isn't very long. Tanker Wash USA is outfitted with a custom-built, high-pressure/high-capacity sanitary wash system. Trailers can be cleaned simultaneously in all three bays — two of which are fully enclosed, with the third being open on one side. Plans are to enclose the partially open bay as cleaning activity grows.
The cleaning system in place at Tanker Wash USA was designed to run at 650 psi. “It's a system that offers flexibility as our cleaning operation grows,” says Michael Vilarino, wash rack manager. “We're cleaning primarily flour and sweetener trailers right now, and we're using just hot water. If needed, though, we can clean with foodgrade detergent and caustic.”
Components in the system include two-inch Edwards pumps with electric motors and a manifold arrangement for injecting cleaning solutions into the hot water flow. A Raypak four-million-Btu water heater provides steam and hot water.
Sellers and Tankmaster spinners were specified for the operation. Bay one has three spinners, bay two has one, and the third — partially open — bay has two spinners. “Right now, we're running 50-gallon-per-minute spinners, and we'd like to switch to 25-gpm spinners to reduce water use,” Gary says.
Flour trailers account for a majority of the cleaning activity, and the three-man crew gives them close attention. Cleaning starts with removal of heels, which are blown into a storage trailer and later transported to a local animal feed plant.
While the spinners are in place washing out the interior, each compartment is cleaned thoroughly. “We even use a modified snake to clean out the piping on the dry bulk trailers,” Vilarino explains.
Clean trailers are dried with air from high-capacity blowers. “This is one of the most important steps in cleaning a flour trailer,” Vilarino says. “The air can be damp in northern California during the winter months, which inhibits proper drying and allows for the development of mold spores if the trailers are not properly dried.”
Wastewater from the cleaning operation goes into a sophisticated treatment system with four 25,000-gallon separation tanks. Following pH adjustment and the addition of oxygen, the wastewater is released in batches into the city sewer.
“We're planning to add two more 25,000-gallon tanks,” Frank says. “We're also adding oil/water separation capabilities and a filter press for compacting waste solids. We see wastewater treatment as a business opportunity in its own right.
“Within a few miles of this wash rack, there are 40 to 50 wineries. Many are small operations that can't afford their own wastewater treatment systems. We can save them money by transporting their wastewater to our treatment plant. Four wineries have already signed on.”
Vehicle fueling offers yet another growth opportunity for Tanker Wash USA. Within the next year and a half, the fueling system will be in place. Initially, it will service just the GKA Enterprises fleet, but who knows where it will go from there.