The Ultimate Guide: How Much Water is needed to Pressure Wash a Tractor-Trailer?

Wash a tractor-trailer

Are you looking for the ultimate guide on how much water is needed to pressure wash a tractor-trailer? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re a seasoned trucker or a newbie in the world of big rigs, maintaining the exterior cleanliness of your tractor-trailer is essential for both aesthetics and longevity. But figuring out the right amount of water to use can be a bit tricky.

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you get your tractor-trailer sparkling clean. In this article, we’ll delve into the specific water pressure requirements for different parts of your tractor-trailer, such as the cab, cargo area, and undercarriage. We’ll also discuss the importance of using the correct water temperature and cleaning solutions to efficiently remove dirt, grease, and road grime.

Additionally, we’ll provide expert tips and techniques to ensure a thorough and effective pressure washing process. By the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped with all the knowledge you need to tackle your next tractor-trailer cleaning project like a pro. So, let’s get started and get your rig looking as good as new!

The amount of water required for pressure washing a tractor-trailer can vary depending on several factors, including the size and design of the tractor-trailer, the cleaning equipment being used, the level of cleaning required, and the operator’s techniques. Generally, pressure washing a standard-sized tractor-trailer can require anywhere from 50 to 200 gallons (189 to 757 liters) of water per hour.

Here are some key factors that can influence water usage during pressure washing:

  1. Water Pressure and Flow Rate: The water pressure and flow rate of the pressure washer play a significant role. Higher pressure and flow rates will generally result in more efficient cleaning but can also consume more water.
  2. Cleaning Equipment: The type and efficiency of the pressure washer equipment matter. Some pressure washers are designed to be more water-efficient while still providing effective cleaning.
  3. Cleaning Objectives: If the tractor-trailer is heavily soiled and requires thorough cleaning, it may use more water to remove dirt, grime, and contaminants effectively.
  4. Technique: The operator’s technique can affect water usage. Skilled operators can use water more efficiently by targeting specific areas and avoiding excessive overspray.
  5. Preparation: Pre-soaking the tractor-trailer with detergent or a pre-wash rinse can help loosen dirt and grime, potentially reducing the amount of water needed during the pressure washing process.
  6. Recovery and Recycling Systems: Some pressure washing systems include water recovery and recycling systems, which can significantly reduce water consumption by reusing and treating the water during the cleaning process.

It’s important for operators to be mindful of water conservation practices when pressure washing tractor-trailers. This includes using appropriate pressure and flow settings, avoiding excessive spraying, and considering the use of water recycling systems when feasible. Water conservation not only helps reduce operational costs but also benefits the environment by minimizing water wastage.

What residual waste water disposal is required when pressure washing a tractor trailer big rig

The disposal of residual wastewater generated during the pressure washing of a tractor-trailer, also known as big rig, is subject to environmental regulations and best practices to ensure it is handled safely and responsibly. The exact requirements may vary depending on local, state, and federal regulations, so it’s essential to consult with your local environmental agency or authorities for specific guidelines. However, here are some general considerations:

  1. Containment and Collection: To prevent wastewater from contaminating stormwater drains or nearby bodies of water, it’s crucial to contain and collect the wastewater during the cleaning process. This can be done using various methods, such as creating berms or using collection mats to direct and capture the wastewater.
  2. Recovery and Recycling: Whenever feasible, consider investing in a wastewater recovery and recycling system. These systems can treat and filter the wastewater, allowing it to be reused for subsequent cleanings, which minimizes water consumption and disposal requirements.
  3. Wastewater Disposal Permits: Depending on your location and the volume of wastewater generated, you may need a permit for the discharge of wastewater. Check with your local environmental agency to determine if permits are required and to understand the associated regulations and fees.
  4. Proper Disposal Facilities: If wastewater cannot be recycled and must be disposed of, it should be taken to a licensed wastewater treatment facility or disposal site. Avoid discharging wastewater into storm drains, streams, or other environmentally sensitive areas.
  5. Proper Filtration and Treatment: Prior to disposal, wastewater should be filtered and treated to remove contaminants and pollutants, such as oil, grease, and chemicals. This may involve using settling tanks, oil-water separators, or filtration systems.
  6. Hazardous Waste Management: If the wastewater contains hazardous materials, such as certain chemicals or substances, it may be subject to additional regulations governing hazardous waste disposal. In such cases, it’s essential to follow hazardous waste management protocols.
  7. Record Keeping: Maintain records of your wastewater disposal activities, including the volume of wastewater generated, its chemical composition, and disposal receipts. Accurate record-keeping is often a requirement and helps demonstrate compliance with regulations.
  8. Training and Compliance: Ensure that your staff is properly trained in environmental compliance and follows best practices for wastewater disposal. Ignorance of regulations is not typically an acceptable defense if violations occur.

It’s important to note that improper wastewater disposal can lead to environmental harm, regulatory penalties, and legal liabilities. To avoid such issues, it’s crucial to understand and adhere to local and national regulations governing wastewater disposal and pollution prevention. Consulting with environmental experts or regulatory authorities in your area can provide valuable guidance on how to handle residual wastewater responsibly.

Tractor Trailer and Fleet Washing Wastewater Disposal Requirements

Regular fleet washing is essential to preserving the image of your business and safeguarding your investment, regardless of the number of trucks you own—five, fifty, or more. Maintaining a clean fleet can save maintenance costs by extending the life of your trucks, keeping cars in excellent operating order, and projecting a professional image to customers and bystanders. Proper fleet washing is not a simple or quick operation. You must first set aside time for your employees to finish the cleaning of their allocated or personal vehicles, whether you plan to handle it yourself or have them handle it for you. After you have that figured out, you need to gather the appropriate tools, chemicals, and read the instructions on how to use them. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, you must decide how to handle the wash water that will be left over.

Wastewater of any kind could be thrown away easily in the past, before we learned of the consequences that contaminated runoff water sources could have on the surrounding ecosystem and the people who live there. It doesn’t matter if you use it to water your flowers or let it drain into the sewer! On the other hand, most communities these days have wash water laws in place. One of these cities is undoubtedly Portland, which has its own set of regulations and stringent guidelines that you have to follow when disposing of wash water from fleet washing. Disregarding these procedures may lead to various fines, which will consequently put pressure on your business. Your alternatives for disposing of wash water inside Portland’s city limits are shown below.

Rinse Water Limitations

First of all, there are several locations where wash water cannot be disposed of or allowed to enter. Stormwater systems, such as catch basins, storm sewers, and storm drains—it is forbidden for wastewater to enter any type of stormwater runoff system. These systems frequently discharge pollutants into rivers and streams with little to no filtering, which means the pollutants end up in urban waterways.

Water Spilling onto City Property: 

It is forbidden to direct wash water onto any sidewalk, street, easement, or right-of-way in the city without first obtaining permission from the city, even if it ends up in a dead-end collection area.

Onsite Sanitary Sewer Drain: 

If you dispose of your wash water through an onsite sanitary drainage system, you will get polluted wastewater that cannot be adequately filtered or disposed of since it contains contaminants like oil, grease, and road debris. That is the reason this is prohibited.


Even if the wastewater is on your property, it cannot be disposed of by sprinkling it over grass or other vegetation. In addition to doing more harm than good to your landscaping, the wash water can also enable contaminated water to seep into groundwater reserves, which could result in a much more serious issue.

Containing and Gathering of Wash Water

The next best thing is collection, since letting wash water escape into storm drains or other places would have detrimental effects. When fleet washing is finished (generating enormous amounts of effluent), there are several possibilities for collecting.

• Dead-End Sump: You can direct wash water to a dead-end sump or grit trap if you have one on your property. However, your job is not done. The wastewater you have collected needs to be pumped or siphoned out and disposed of properly in order for this approach to comply with state and local requirements (I’ll go over how to accomplish that here in a moment).

• Vacuum Recovery System: a portable vacuum recovery equipment, sometimes referred to as a vacuum boom or berm, can be used to collect runoff water by gathering wastewater. Although assembling one of these can be a little challenging, this approach can be rather successful when applied properly. Even your least expensive models, though, will set you back thousands of dollars for a system big enough to manage the volume of wash water generated after fleet washing. The next best choice is to rent an apartment, but it might be nearly impossible to find one that meets your needs for short-term use.

The Water Recycling Receptacle is a portable vacuum recovery system that often takes the shape of a buggy that can be easily connected to a trailer. Having said that, these machines are too costly to buy outright, and even while renting one isn’t cheap, operating one still calls for additional personnel (and training).

Getting Rid 0f Wash Residual Water

When you’ve completed cleaning your fleet and gathered the leftover wash water appropriately, it’s time to dispose of it correctly.

It is important to confirm that the institution you are visiting has the authorization to receive and handle wash water from an industrial wastewater treatment facility.

• Water Recycling System: Use this system to properly filter your wash water if you happen to have one lying around (which would be quite the feat, considering a secondhand model online can cost you a whooping $20,000). In the future, this water can be used once more for cleaning.

• Sanitary Sewers: pressure washing enterprises “must apply for and receive a mobile washer discharge authorization” if they wish to employ pressure washing to clean surfaces and then discharge the wash water to the sanitary sewer, according to Portland city ordinance.

Dispose of the Water properly

Breaking these regulations may lead to inquiries, fines, and the need for the city to take corrective action. That’s a long list of potential problems, and I haven’t even discussed fleet washing itself. In addition to using the right techniques for gathering water, you also need the correct tools, detergents, and equipment to finish washing your fleet. You need also factor in how long it will take your staff to wash the fleet. Let the experts handle the task and spare yourself (and your staff) the hassle of having to deal with the long list of possible fines associated with inappropriate wastewater disposal. 

LazrTek has years of experience cleaning trucks and other industrial gear. There isn’t a better alternative for fleet cleaning available thanks to our unique 2-step procedure, specially developed equipment (including a self-contained wash water recovery system), knowledgeable personnel, and professional standards. Achieve a spotlessly clean fleet without the hassle by contacting LazrTek right now! Visit or call (469) 536-8478.

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