Not long ago, someone asked me how I felt about the future of the mobile car wash industry. What I thought were some of the challenges in the future. Indeed, I see many, and having run such a company for nearly 30 years before retirement, there are many problems I see which will impact the small business people who run these types of businesses. One of the biggest concerns is the crackdown with the EPA and the local storm water ordinances.
You see, the environmental regulators really don’t understand the business model, and they find mobile car washing and auto detailing to be big polluters of storm water. The reality is that a little bit of soap is good for the environment and most of these mobile operators only use between 25 gallons per car anyway. Further, in the future hybrid and electrical vehicles don’t get as dirty, and the dirt does not stick to them as much because the petroleum distillates and exhaust which is very sticky will not be a problem in the future.
What I’m saying is the dirt that is on the car probably blew onto the car from the dust on the ground. That dust is already in the environment isn’t it? You see, when it rains all that dust which is not on the car, but is on the ground washes into the storm drain anyway. Also, a little the soap is good for the environment as it breaks down things that should be in the environment but also gets the storm drain. Things such as grease and oil which are on the parking lots, which leak from the engines of cars are also washed into the storm drains, which is a nuisance 100-times worse for the environment.
Mobile car washers are not really big polluters, but in the environmental regulatory compliance arena, they are out in the open, and they appear to be. The environmental regulators for storm water should be much more concerned with the fertilizers and nitrates which runoff from the sprinkler systems in the center medians owned by the city itself. The other thing that environmental storm water compliance people don’t understand is that mobile car washers and auto detailers generally clean the outside of the car, not the undercarriages, as they do at the car wash.
The increased regulation on these types of small businesses is liable to take many of these companies out of the marketplace, and put them out of business. It does cost money to buy the equipment to block off storm drains, vacuum up the water, and then take that wash-water to the sewer treatment plant for treating. It also takes time to do that, often taking more time to block out the storm drains and vacuum up the water that does actually wash the car.
Because of this mobile car wash operators and auto detailers will have to double the price. If the price is doubled in this current economy, there will be most likely 80% fewer people buying the service. And therefore the mobile operator will have to drive to more locations, polluting the air, or go out of business. Sometimes the rules become too stringent, and they are nonsensical. Indeed, I care about the environment just as much as the next person but being very close to the mobile cleaning industry I also understand it more.
If the storm water regulators and the EPA really cared about the environment, they would prevent stores from selling toxic soaps that people might use in their driveway to wash their own cars. Mobile auto detailers and mobile car washes use professional grade products, most of which will not hurt the environment. The only person who wins in this over regulation of the small businesses will be the people who own all the car wash, and in fact they are lobbying hard to get the mobile operators shut down. Indeed I hope you will please consider this.