Metro Express Car Wash was started in 2004 by car wash industry veteran and Car Wash Hall of Fame inductee Bill Martin. Metro Express has served as an example of the rising and continued success of the express exterior business model at their two locations in Idaho and Colorado. In addition to boasting a double-tunnel facility at their Sheridan, CO location — the largest express car wash in the U.S. — Metro Express prides itself on its environmental consciousness while still delivering an exceptional product to its customers.
The success of Metro Express and their business model came with its own challenges. Since express exterior car washes require the customer to ride along in their vehicle during a wash, there is a higher likelihood of human error causing an incident inside the tunnel. The opportunities for collisions are further amplified by Metro Express’ high production volumes and, in the case of Sheridan, the higher demands of operating two tunnels simultaneously. “You have the ability to process significantly more vehicles,” says Sheridan Operator John Fery, “but you have twice the headaches; twice the things that can go wrong; twice the things to watch.”
To combat mid-tunnel collisions, Metro Express resorted to a standard method: dedicating employees to watch for pileups. “In Coeur d’Alene, we actually posted a person in the tunnel. We bought them all this rain gear because they’re in a wet environment,” says Martin, “that’s how serious the problem was.” According to General Manager Jordan Kuhn, the poor visibility and stressful conditions made this solution unreliable.
Metro Express then moved the attendant outside the tunnel, where they would watch a live feed of the car wash and manually trigger emergency stops. However, this was only slightly more effective and still placed stress on employees. “We drove that fear into our employees by saying, ‘if you don’t catch this, look what happens. If you’re not paying attention, look what happens,’” says Fery. “There’s a constant fear when you’re at load-on that if you screw up, something big and horrific was going to happen.” Metro Express also developed a thorough load-on procedure to aid in mitigating collisions. However, this process could not address human error inside the tunnel. Metro Express needed a solution capable of actively preventing collisions.
"In our business, speed is the essence for us. Every second we can shave off makes us better than the guy down the street. NoPileups is a huge competitive edge. The people who have it have the ability to wash more cars more safely than the guy down the street.”Bill MartinCEO
Metro Express sought to reduce the number of in-tunnel collisions at both their Coeur d’Alene and Sheridan locations. At the same time, Martin and others knew any method used by Metro Express would need to:
- Outperform their current solution for preventing collisions
- Alleviate employee stress related to actively watching for incidents
- Have minimal impact on production
In November 2016, following a live demonstration of the service, Metro Express had NoPileups installed at their Coeur d’Alene location. Their Sheridan location followed suit in March 2017.
What is NoPileups?
NoPileups is a car wash enhancement service that uses advanced technology to detect and prevent accidents caused by hopped rollers, driver error, and other unexpected events inside an automated wash tunnel. NoPileups integrates into a car wash’s existing cameras and tunnel controller to quickly and reliability stop collisions and increase production. The service’s dedicated support team analyzes every site to offer customers greater insight into operations and further reduce pileups.
The impact of NoPileups was, in the minds of Metro Express, beyond expectation. According to Kuhn, annual damage costs decreased by roughly 50 percent after using the service. NoPileups also allowed Metro Express to reduce labor expenses. “It’s more cost-effective for us,” says Kuhn. “We don’t have to have that extra staff.”
While the number of collisions did decrease, the real value of NoPileups was found in its ability to drastically improve production and efficiency. Metro Express found many of the precautions they implemented to safeguard against collisions were now excessive when compared to NoPileups’ efficacy. Martin realized the spacing between vehicles, originally expanded to create a safety buffer, could be reduced to leverage NoPileups’ speed. “We can save one roller. We can get the car one closer roller to the next one,” says Martin. “With that, at the end of the day, we’re gonna wash an extra 100, 200 cars...that’s real money.”
"The benefits of [NoPileups] is huge. You’d be stupid to not do it. You’re not only saving yourself money, but you’re saving yourself customers. You're upping your customer retention, and that’s what this whole business is about.”Jordan KuhnGeneral Manager
In addition, according to Fery, NoPileups’ tunnel monitoring allowed managers to greatly reduce the time spent resolving incidents. Normally, managers would need to commit nearly eight hours to resolving a single incident between customers. With NoPileups, mnagers had definitive, impartial evidence to establish fault. This now allowed managers to resolve issues in as little as 30 minutes.
Having used NoPileups for over a year, the team at Metro Express cannot imagine operating a car wash without it. While the reduction in mid-tunnel collisions was a tangible benefit of the service, Metro Express found the operational performance improvements to be the real value of NoPileups. “In our business, speed is the essence for us,” says Martin. “Every second we can shave off makes us better than the guy down the street. NoPileups is a huge competitive edge. The people who have it have the ability to wash more cars more safely than the guy down the street.”