Truck stop pad questions

I’ve done a little reading around here and found a little bit of helpful info. I’ve ran a P/W before, but by no means consider myself an expert. I’m a fireman with a lawn mowing business on the side. I’ve been mowing Pilot Travel Centers for a while, and they’ve asked for a bid to wash the fuel islands, both for the big trucks and the passenger cars weekly. They are concrete and several thousand square feet. It sounds like these fuel stations often want to pay way too little from reading here. I have a good reputation with this company and they know I do good work. I also do not plan on doing this unless I can make decent money, I’m not trying to get business at any cost or undercut a professional washer, I’ll not do it before I go broke to have work. I’ve also read about reclaiming runoff. This station is fairly new, and they have an oil/water separator on site, they currently use their maintenance guys to wash and it all runs into these drains. I’d need to buy a machine, hot water I assume, and chemicals and such.
My questions are:

  1. Given that there are tons and tons of variables, what would a reasonable cost / foot be that would make sense for the customer and still make me a profit? Keep in mind, I already have insurance and the like.
  2. What is the minimum size machine I could get by with for this, keeping in mind it’d be this one station once a week through the summer, and I don’t plan on trying to pick up a ton more jobs?
  3. Is there a rough estimate of time per 100 or 1000 feet that you guys use?
  4. Any other suggestions or comments?

Thanks in advance for helping out a newbie!

Jumping straight into washing nasty, oily truck stop concrete is not the way to go. You’ll have to invest quite a bit to get going. A hot water machine is a MUST, Nothing less that 5.5 gpm, I’d be using my 8 gpm on that. Truck stops pads are really nasty. I don’t think this is a jumping into pressure washing job unfortunately.

Where are you located?

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Harrisonburg Virginia

8-10 gpm 3000+ psi hot water unit. If you get anything less, at once a week you will be washing more than doing anything else.

If I had to guess, you’re talking about 10,000 sq feet of some of the nastiest concrete out there. You’re going to burn through a ton of degreaser and diesel fuel.

They will probably need you to wash it in the middle of the night when traffic is light. You’ll be blocking off lanes and moving a lot to make sure the rigs don’t run over your hoses.

I don’t know if I would get myself into a contract like that. Especially with little to no pressure washing experience. I doubt anyone is going to tell you what to charge. I know where I’d be and they probably wouldn’t accept the bid. But I also don’t like working at night.

I will tell you I charge .10-.15 per sq ft on most concrete with no oil or gum and can clean about 1500 sq ft an hour (rinsing included).

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Is it just the islands or the pads themselves also. A pic would help and if you can take one of the entire area that you’d be cleaning would help us give you a better idea what you’d need. If it’s fairly new and you’re doing regularly, shouldn’t be too bad. Is it just the concrete or do they want some of the asphalt done also? I doubt they would want or even need the auto part done weekly and that’s almost as much space as the truck side 4k ft versus about 5400 ft on the truck side.

I’ll try to get a picture and some measurements today. I think they’re looking more to keep the place from becoming an oil slick than them wanting sparkling white concrete. Currently they don’t do anything through the winter months and they have a maintenance guy hit it once a week or so through the warmer months. They used to have a hot water unit but it’s been replaced by a smaller non-heated one. Given the quality of work I’ve seen from these guys, I think I can do better than what they do.
They gave me the heated unit last year that was “broke”. I put $50 into it and had it running, but I sold it because I had no need for it. And here we are.
Thanks for the advice so far.

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I forgot to get pictures while I was there but the truck pad measure 6000 feet and the car/gasoline side is 4400. The truck side is pretty grimy, but the auto side really isn’t that bad (for a truck stop, they don’t expect it to look like a showroom floor, just don’t want it so greasy people are slipping on it).

You need at least a 5.5 gpm machine, preferably an 8 with a good heater. You’re going to need to run that sucker at least 185 if not hotter. Need to be at about .14/ft to make it worth your while, going to take you probably about 3-4 hours on the truck side - you’re probably going to average between 1500-2000 sq ft per hour counting the raised part the pumps sit on. You’re going to burn about 1 gph in gas and 2 gph in diesel on your heater. Going new - you’re going to have about a $10 - $12k investment in equipment.

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I forgot @Racer will give out his pricing. If they bite at .14 a sq foot weekly. Do whatever you can to lock that down. :+1:t3::+1:t3:

Thanks Racer, that’s exactly what I was looking for. I usually figure 30-35 weeks of mowing, so this would be about the same amount of washes. at .14/foot, that’s $1400 for about 6 hours. $60 in fuel and I don’t know how much degreaser, say $40, would leave me $1300. I’m planning on hiring this out to a coworker (firemen have a lot of time off) and could pay $20/hr leaving me with $1150. At that rate, I could pay for new equipment and have more profit than I make from mowing 2 days a week. Am I missing something or am I in the wrong line of work?

Thanks again for the insight, it helps a lot.

I really doubt they’d want to have car side done as often, if so, they’d be the only ones in the country. Once a month if you’re lucky. I’d split out the 2 in your bid. The good thing is once you have the equipment, they’re periodically going to want to have some of the other stuff around there cleaned, ie sidewalks, weigh station or whatever.

If you’re on FB, see this post. It’s from the owner of EBC, which is primarily what I use. 2 videos in his post which explain the technique as well as before/after pics. I would up your soap cost estimate some on the degreaser side, probably about double, depending on how nasty. Runs about $30/gal with tax. Once it’s been cleaned good a couple of times, then will drop back down.


@Kentucky1234 would probably be .25/ft lol. I’m cheap.

Seriously, if I’m running heat, which takes a lot of fuel and more wear and tear on equipment, using good chems, labor, insurance, working in middle of nite or wee hours in the am on commercial, etc. if you’re not billing out close to $200/hr gross, then you’re not making much.


Lol, close, probably .20 if done on a schedule, that would be my lowest. Like residential better though!

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