I‘m sort of a neat freak when it comes to keeping our family cars clean and tidy (which will surprise the hell out of my college roommates, no doubt, who knew me as ‘King Slob‘ of our living quarters back in the day).
My wife isn‘t a big fan of this behavior, gritting her teeth when she sees me vacuuming or washing one of our aging rides - telling me on more than one occasion that, “If you are such a clean freak, why aren‘t you cleaning the bathrooms?” Well, you don‘t take the bathroom over to the neighbor‘s house, nor do you take the neighbor‘s kids and the rest of the soccer team in the bathroom to games. The bathroom doesn‘t pick the boss up at the airport, nor does it help your friends move to a new home.
The point is that vehicles become an extension of ourselves, in a way, when we interact with others, either for fun or for business. Their condition sends a message just as a loud and clear as personal dress and grooming habits. I once got a cargo facilities tour from a public relations professional in their personal vehicle and it was so dirty and foul smelling that it made me ill.
Most truckers understand how their vehicle‘s appearance - interior as well as exterior - impacts how they are perceived, which extends to their personal appearance as well. But it‘s not just about looking good - keeping your truck clean also helps it last longer.
Tim Brady, one of our excellent contributing editors and former owner-operator himself, told me he used to keep a small pressure washer handy in his truck so he could clean off all the road salt and grime off his rig at regular intervals - reducing the affects of corrosion. As Brady worked in the moving business, he added that keeping his truck clean helped immensely on the public relations front, too, as he‘d be parked in front of someone‘s home for long stretches of time.
Keeping it clean for me extends to keeping my rides regularly maintained as well - with the crankcase filled with clean oil, the transmission with clean fluid, the radiator with clean green coolant. Keeping tabs on those metrics helped make my S-10 pickup last 16 years and my Jeep go 11 years - and that‘s some pretty good life cycle value, if I say so myself.
Highway tractors take a lot more pounding in some wretched conditions than anything I ever faced, of course (and my vehicles never pulled 80,000 pounds on a daily basis, either), but I‘ve seen first-hand the benefits truckers can get by keeping their rigs in tip-top shape.
More times than I can count, wending my way along the parked rigs at the Mid America Trucking Show, among others, I‘ve been struck by how many 10-year-old (or more!) tractors I see out there, weathered but clean, ready to roll out and haul more freight. Their drivers show them off with obvious pride, and it‘s hard not to notice the clean dashboards, seats, tidy sleeper berths, etc., they maintain. They might not be show trucks, but they are always clean as a whistle and ready to roll.