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Management FAQ 2

Q:I’m a little confused about all the terminology on truckmounts – slide-in, CDS, PTO. What should I purchase?

A:Interesting comments about truckmounts. Got my first in ‘72 I think.

When you cut through all the marketing rhetoric, a truck-mounted cleaning plant is one that is attached, more or less permanently, to the body of the truck – that is until you’re T-boned by a semi! The power source or amount of power doesn’t define it.

In theory, as least, you could take any portable, remove its wheels, bolt it to the truck, get a long enough extension cord and, voila, you have a truckmount.

More realistically, the power source of a truck mount is an internal combustion engine (ICE) that’s on-board as well. Could be a small industrial motor, or could be the engine of the truck. Either way, you have a truck mount. The size of the engine is determined by the brake horsepower requirements of the components, usually a water pump and vacuum blower. A decent size blower will require some 8-12 horse power under static test conditions; less when in use. With a size 4 blower, you need at least 16 HP to operate the components efficiently, especially as engine efficiency diminishes over a few years of use. Power ranges on quality units typically is from 18 to 300 HP for direct-drive units, which is a bit of overkill to say the least.

There are or have been three types of TM units in produced in the industry: (1) those powered by small ICE engines, (2) those powered by hydraulic pressure generated by a small ICE or, more often, by the truck engine itself, and (3) those powered by a clutch-drive system and the truck engine.

Those powered by a small industrial ICE (Kohler, Briggs, Onan, Honda, Kawasaki) that is mounted on the unit itself, are called slide-ins: the whole unit slides into the side door. They are the most popular because of the range of size and prices available.

The hydraulic units weren’t very practical due to the extra weight of the hydraulic fluid, heat generated, leaks, safety, etc.

There never were many power take-off (PTO) units, although that term was tossed around quite a bit. PTO implies that a second drive shaft coming off the transmission of the truck to power the cleaning unit components, much like farm tractors have PTOs to power various pieces of equipment. Typically, when you hear the term PTO, what you’re really looking at is a direct drive or clutch drive system (CDS). An extra drive shaft runs along the side of the engine with a belt-driven clutch on the front end, and with the rear end powering the unit’s components.

Unless you’re an experienced mechanic, you’re probably going to have a lot more maintenance to perform on the slide-in; lots of vibrations, sympathetic resonance, and all that. Truck engines are reliable, have to be. The power requirement of the components is so low, that truck manufacturers are willing to provide extended warranties, in spite of engine operation; in other words, there’s virtually no wear on the engine when it’s humming along at optimum RPM for coolants and lubricants to circulate, and the components are requiring only 8-12 HP for operation.

I could talk about the comparative efficiency of various units, particularly between portables and truck mounts, but we’ll save that for another day.

Q:What do I do about a subcontractor who is taking away my business? Is there a noncompete agreement I can get him to sign?

A:I sympathize!

You need a lot more than a noncompete clause in a subcontractor’s work agreement. Although we publish a sample in the chapter on Subcontracting in our book, Fire’s Out! Now What?, I still recommend that you spend a few bucks with a lawyer in your state. There are variations from state to state on labor laws, and contracts related thereto.

Do it right (legally) or don’t waste your time.

Q:Do you have any advice anywhere about setting up a commission program for a cleaning technician?

A:Commission programs for both technicians and salespersons are included in our Bishop Marketing and Management Manual. We’ve been using them for years and I recommend them highly.
The problem lies in setting up a good one. It must address management objectives like: motivation and teamwork, care of assets, quality assurance, profit for the company, sales motivation, reaching goals. Most of the commission compensation programs used by company owners and managers are illegal: they violate the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The cost in back pay and penalties, if you ever get a Department of Labor audit, is tremendous.
Set it up right the first time, or risk a big hit later.

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