Search Articles

Portland, Maine’s High-Tech Vehicle Wash Saves Money while Protecting the Environment

  • November 21, 2019

When the City of Portland decided to move their Department of Public Works Operations Center and Parks and Recreation from the Bayside area of Portland to a new location on Canco Road, they looked at how to best renovate the existing buildings to meet their operational needs and incorporate a vehicle wash for maintaining their fleet of vehicles and service equipment.

The City faced two issues with its fleet of cars, truck and other vehicles: salt used for snowmelt and other road chemistry was corroding vehicles causing increased service demands and shorter chassis life cycle at great expense to the City.
Additionally, the City was mandated to have a wash facility constructed at the new location before any relocation efforts could be made.
Finally, the City needed a vehicle wash system that protected the environment from harmful runoff, which is a DEP requirement.

As Maine’s most populous city, it’s critical that the City of Portland keep its Public Works vehicles well-maintained and in good working condition to keep roads open for emergency vehicles and the public at large especially during blizzards, sleet and freezing road conditions.  
The old facility in Bayside didn’t have a vehicle wash facility available and no program for washing vehicles to extend their serviceability. Like other municipalities, Portland is required by the Maine DEP to properly manage vehicle wash run off to ensure that pollutants from vehicles do not flow into storm water systems and public water ways.

Aware of other municipalities’challenges and experiences with their large vehicles washes, the City of Portland Public Buildings Director reached out to Maintenance Tech., Inc. directly to tap into the company’s more than 27 years of experience with design and construction of successful large vehicles washes. Maintenance Tech., Inc. (MTI), a large vehicle wash design/build company, often works in conjunction with engineers, architects and general contractors to create customized solutions for vehicle wash facilities.

Maintenance Tech., Inc., a Portland-based company, is known for its extensive knowledge and experience with municipal vehicle washes and often builds specialized equipment at their Portland, Maine facility to address specific challenges. As always, MTI was quick to respond the City’s inquiry and provide a solid solution to their vehicle wash concerns.

Through a series of educational meetings with the city’s professional team, MTI learned about the challenges the city faced in preserving their vehicles from corrosive ice melt, dirt, and chemicals and about the scope of the project.

“The most productive way to begin a new wash system design process is to start a dialogue with the people who will be responsible for operating it, along with those who will actually be driving their vehicles through it. We operate under the premise that the better we can understand what, where and when these vehicles are being washed, the easier it will be to figure out precisely how to design a large vehicle wash that truly works.”

-Michael Snow, MTI President

During the initial phase of the project, MTI assisted with several feasibility studies including new building construction, additions and renovations.Based on those studies, the City of Portland decided the greatest value would be realized if the large vehicle wash could be incorporated in their newly acquired buildings that were formerly occupied by PepsiCo on Canco Road in Portland.

The design team at MTI assisted in the development of a customized wash system and renovation plan for the city including accommodations of large vehicles, such as 10-ton snowplow trucks with wing and plows attached, and huge front-end loaders, as well as the large fleet of cars, pickup trucks, lawn mowers and other specialized equipment.

“We had an excellent experience working with Maintenance Tech.
From the beginning of the project to the end, they followed through on every detail. They took the time to train our staff on how to properly use the equipment. We're seeing positive results by having a tool that reduces labor /material costs while extending the life of the equipment.”

Kathy Alves, Public Building Dir., City of Portland

The building was retrofitted so that trucks, with plows attached, can be washed in a single pass through the large vehicle wash bay, saving employees time and further protecting the city’s assets. Previously, trucks were not washed without removing the plow, which is a labor-intensive process.

The large vehicle wash uses vehicle sensor and computer programming to automatically wash trucks and equipment of all shapes and automatically open the bay door. Once the vehicle enters the wash, sensors and specialty software inside the bay automatically adjust equipment to accommodate the size of the vehicle and triggers the washing mechanism followed by a rinse as the vehicle exits the bay.

Portland uses the new facility to wash fire trucks, police and municipal cars, lawn mowers, sidewalk plows, front end loaders, dump trucks/wheel loaders, construction equipment, bucket trucks and more, for both the Department of Public Works and Parks and Recreation – saving the City a considerable amount of public funds.

“Maintenance Tech was great to work with. They came into the project as a sub-contractor under Benchmark and played a critical role in the project providing the city with a complete wash bay. MTI was able to meet the city’s requirements without additional cost. It’s such a specialty system so it was great to work with a company that knows how large vehicle washes need to work.”

– Jason Jendrasho, Benchmark Construction

The custom vehicle wash includes a high impact under-chassis wash that removes contaminates from under the vehicle where they often collect while plowing city streets. When exiting, vehicles are rinsed with a high-pressure water rinse that includes a rust prevention treatment.

The City of Portland now captures, treats and disposes of vehicle wash water and is compliant with Maine DEP regulations. Removing the chemicals and dirt greatly extends the service life of vehicles, protects vehicles from early deterioration from chemicals and dirt and reduces City expenses by extending the life of vehicles.