Extreme clean: Deluxe evolves into specialized facility

Oct. 1, 2020
Family-owned truck stop in St. Joseph MO develops elite food-grade tank-cleaning capability through relationship with local industry

Deluxe Truck Stop isn’t your typical truck driver destination, where road-weary warriors refuel their vehicles and stomachs.

The St. Joseph, Missouri truck stop, family run for 40 years, still offers diesel and doughnuts, too, but now it specializes in the most challenging truck and trailer washes, including food-grade and Kosher tank cleaning, thanks to nearly 20 years of servicing the fleets of food and ingredient processors and manufacturers in the area.

The company’s most recent evolution includes the addition of two new tank wash units, doubling cleaning capacity.

“We take cleaning to the nth degree, because the people we work for are very particular with what they do,” said Nick Wollenman, general manager at Deluxe.


Deluxe Truck Stop, opened in 1979 by Nick’s parents, Bob and Connie Wollenman, is located in a commercial district north of Kansas City, where the local food processing industry helped dictate the business’ diverse path. After leasing the property for nearly 20 years, the Wollenmans bought the land in 1997—for the originally agreed upon price of $60,000—and began growing the operation with the construction of a three-bay facility concentrating on exterior washes, cold and hot trailer washouts, and cold pneumatic trailer washouts in 2003.

“In 1995, I had two jobs,” said Nick, who grew up at the truck stop. “One was working at a driving range in the summer, and then in the winter and fall months, when the driving range wasn’t operational, I washed trucks outside of the truck stop. I actually started doing that when I was 12, 13 years old, helping the guys scrub trucks and that type of thing, in terrible inclement conditions outside because we didn’t have an internal bay.”

After graduating high school, Nick left St. Joseph, earned an engineering degree from DeVry, then traveled the country selling parts before returning in 2008. His responsibilities have grown over the last five years, and he took the lead role in January, when Bob decided to turn over day-to-day management of the business to his son, so he could focus on the activities he enjoys most, including local volunteer work.

“Nothing has changed,” Nick said. “We just continue to drive that goal of making the business the best it can be.”

Evolving business

The facility built in 2003 included a tire service center bay (Deluxe is a Michelin tire dealer), and fuel islands were updated to eliminate gasoline as an offering due to lack of space. But the biggest change took place that fall, when Nestlé Purina approached Deluxe about washing out tank trailers utilized for hauling the inedibles associated with making their Beneful and Fancy Feast pet foods.

“This opened our eyes to opportunities that existed in tank trailer interior cleaning,” Bob recalled.

Deluxe also has the advantage of a direct connection to a wastewater pretreatment plant serving the processors in the southwest section of St. Joseph, allowing it to safely send non-hazardous waste downstream. The gray water from the pretreatment plant then is sent to the St. Joseph wastewater facility for final treatment.

Nick said their success cleaning Purina’s particularly nasty trailers convinced them they could clean anything—with the right wash system and product-cleaning guidance. “I’ve never gone out and solicited any business,” he says. “I’ve never gone out and said ‘Hey, we do this, we can handle this,’ or that type of thing.

“It’s always just been, ‘Hey, Deluxe is here, and we can clean anything.’”

Diverse operation

Deluxe still cleans tank trailers for Nestlé. Nick estimates they wash five to eight trailers a day for the company, 22 days a month, which works out to about 130 trailers a month—and more than 1,500 per year. The truck wash turns out 16 to 25 total trailers a day, including all types of tankers hauling various food-grade and inedible products, livestock trailers (which are cleaned in a separate five-bay facility on the property), refrigerated and dry-van trailers, and hopper trailers.

In large part through the lobbying of local processors, the family finally added food-grade and Kosher washouts in 2012 after acquiring a Peacock wash system, which Bob said was compact enough to fit their space. “Our key customer in that was LifeLine Foods, who sends basically all of the cornmeal/corn starch to Frito-Lay, for all of their Doritos and Fritos, and they wanted a higher-quality wash then what the industry was providing, because they were rejecting over 60% of the trailers that were washed coming into their facility,” Nick said.

Nick credits their success with food-grade cleaning to their relationships with customers, who provide critical guidance by setting the criteria for cleaning their products and for what a clean tank trailer looks like. Regular customers now include MGP Ingredients—which makes food-grade industrial alcohol for food, personal care products and pharmaceuticals and medicines; and distillery co-products, including corn oil, distillers feed and fuel-grade alcohol—and AGP Ag Processing, which has a soybean processing facility in St. Joseph.

Food-grade and Kosher washouts follow U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, and Deluxe reserves one of its two wash bays exclusively for these washes. Kosher washouts are highly regulated and the company’s procedure is Vaad Hoer certified. “We have a rabbi who visits, and ironically enough the day we were firing up our second new machine, he showed up for his annual visit,” Nick said. “And they are very particular. They deal with a lot of food processers and manufacturers in the area, who are a lot of our customers, and so we have to be very specific in our conversations, because he knows what our food manufacturers require.”

Equipment expansion

Nick says Deluxe put more than 8,000 hours on its original Model 660 tank cleaning system, which served them well. But when they decided it was time to increase capacity, and add a second unit to meet the growing needs of their customers, it made more sense to upgrade with two new 660s than to refurbish the old one.

“We were going to take that old machine that had the hours on it and overhaul it, but at the end of the day it was cheaper to buy a new machine, and have the warranty and all the capabilities of a newer machine, vs overhauling an old machine,” he said. “And so we added a second stainless steel Peacock machine, and that changed everything for us.”

Deluxe also added a new boiler room this year to support the increased capacity. Throughput immediately went from 15, to up to 25 trailers cleaned per day, without much additional effort, Nick said, meaning drivers aren’t waiting around as long, and customers’ equipment is back on the road making money.

“This allows us to better meet the needs of our customer growth,” Bob said. “We recognize that time spent waiting for a wash is critical for transport companies who are meeting the needs of shippers and receivers.”

Deluxe Truck Stop offers tank washouts from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Its livestock trailer wash bays are available 24 hours a day Monday through Friday, as are the reefer, dry van and hopper wash bays.

Visit deluxetruckstop.com or call 816-232-000 for more information.