Dawson City Transportation, Fleet Detail Crew- Al Sider
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As a member of the Holland America-Princess Yukon/Alaska team, working as a Fleet Detailer in the vicinity of Dawson City, Yukon, this job seems thankless and unrewarding. Please understand that it only seems this way….because with the correct attitude this job can be most rewarding. In reality, it is the Fleet Detailing crew that is the ‘blood-line’ of the entire Holland America Operation. This is not to take away from the many wonderful people also employed that do their work with utmost efficiency, but it is the Fleet Detailer who makes the vehicles meet or go above the guests expectations. No guest wants to travel in a filthy vehicle to tour an area.
Windows must be clean, spotless, streak-free, to enable clear photo opportunities. The floors (especially under each seat) and seats must be clean, as well as the stairs, and if there is one on the bus, the restroom must be as clean as possible. However; buses are not the only vehicles within the Holland America Fleet. There are jeeps and vans that are also used for tours. These must be cleaned daily, whether used that day or not. The vans and jeeps that do not travel on a tour on a given day may not require cleaning on the interior, but the outside can be quickly sprayed down as it is often very dusty in this location, as here the streets are not paved.
To clean the jeeps and vans after a day of touring is quite simple and can seem tedious at times. The jeeps or vans are driven onto the wash-pad where the Fleet Detailer may begin his/her work. You may clean the interior first or last it is up to the individual detailer, but the interior must be vacuumed, seats, mats, floor coverings, and any carpeting must be vacuumed. The console must be dusted and as necessary the use of “Armour-All” is required on all vinyl or leather upholstery. It is important to note here, while the steering wheel and its components get dusty, you may use “Armour-All” on every part of the steering wheel EXCEPT the wheel itself, the place where guests will place their hands to steer. Then the interior windows must be cleaned, sometimes just a dry clean is adequate, but most often the use of “Windex” and paper towel is preferred. However; this method does at times leave the windows with streaks and a second wiping of the windows with a dry paper towel is recommended. This exact same method of detailing jeeps is to be followed when detailing vans and also if requested, staff vehicles. Also, do a superb job and the reward is immeasurable.
Then comes the washing of the exterior of the vehicles, it is important to follow these directions exactly as recorded here, otherwise you end up needing to re-do the whole vehicle. Always begin by washing the wheels and wheel-wells, and begin at the rear of the vehicle. With buses be certain to wash all exposed parts in the wheel-well, the air bags, the air brake, any rods or hoses that can be covered with mud or dirt. These all need to be made dirt and mud free to the best possible condition. Then after cleaning the tires and rims you begin at the TOP-REAR of the vehicle. This is usually the area with the heaviest dirt or grime and requires the most time to complete. Begin at the top of the vehicle, with a bus this requires some serious stretching, but slowly move across the top of the vehicle, removing any mud or grime from around the clearance lights (for the person who does not know what clearance lights are…these are the lights that are situated around the top of a vehicle, usually buses, trucks, and large vehicles have these lights). All of the dirt and grime must be removed from around these lights and if there is a ledge just below these lights, the dirt and grime must be removed from there also. Then in a slow left to right motion (as if slicing layers off of a piece of chocolate) slowly move down the entire back of the vehicle. Do this motion until the entire back is clean. Then you may proceed with the side of the bus or other vehicle. Be certain to use the same right to left motion as you clean the sides, and always begin at the top. Gravity will bring dirt to the bottom so if you clean the bottom first, dirt from the top will stick and remain on the already cleaned bottom of the vehicle.
Weather conditions will determine when you should squeegee the bus windows. If it is sunny and hot, it is best to clean the first four (4) windows down to the bottom of the bus then return and squeegee the first two (2) windows. Return to washing the next two windows down to the bottom of the bus then squeegee the next two (2) windows in the order. Continue in this manner until the entire bus is washed. On occasion it is necessary to scrub the exterior of the vehicles with soap and water and a brush with an expandable handle. This is done to remove any oil or greasy substance from the exterior of the vehicle. If working alone, spray the vehicle to get most mud and grime removed, then with the brush in soapy water scrub the whetted area, then return immediately to power wash the soap suds and remaining grime off the vehicle. Do this until the entire vehicle is cleaned. With a bus—Do Not go beyond two (2) windows before using the power washer again to remove soap and grime. If you go too far with the power washer and wash the entire side of the bus before using the squeegee, go back and wet all of the windows again and then use the squeegee to dry each window.
For the jeeps and vans and any vehicle that is not a bus, you should follow the same procedure as the bus to clean the exteriors. However; for smaller windows and mirrors we have a small six (6) inch wide squeegee with sponge. This is ideal for use on small windows or windows with serious curvatures. When using this squeegee always go across the window, left to right motion, DO NOT GO UP AND DOWN. Use a towel to dry the squeegee after each pull across the window or mirror. After these vehicles are cleaned, completely, then drive the vehicle to the front and fill up each vehicle before you park it for the night. If a vehicle appears to be full, fill it anyway, it may not require much, or it might require plenty. Check the fluid levels of the vehicle, (window wash, oil, transmission, brake fluid) and top up as required.
Now, to talk about equipment. All of the tools are supplied to you, squeegee’s, brushes, “Windex”, tire cleaner, hose, power washer, vacuum, garbage bags, vacuum cleaner bags, tire pressure gauge, cleaning supplies, rags, paper towels and so on. Use this equipment properly and it will last the season and longer. Disposable items like “Armour-All” and “Windex” can be purchased by you on account (locations of account holders will be disclosed as needed) but only if needed. When you unravel the water hose, stretch it out fully before attaching it to the water supply or the power washer. This will insure an untangled hose and unrestricted movement as you need to move about the wash pad. Always coil the hose before putting it away at the end of each day. In fact, at the end of each day be certain that all equipment is put away neatly in its proper place. Clean up any garbage which may have been discarded by you as you cleaned the vehicles and put it all in a trash bag and place the bag in the garbage box provided for the purpose.
After all items are put away, return to the office and clock out, and at this time find out what will be going out the next day and if you might be needed to arrive early for your shift to do a transfer. A transfer is where you are required to accompany another tour (Such as the raft tour) to its drop off point, and drive the raft van back to their destination in town.