You are here

Non-freezing Portable Vehicle Wash Tunnels


For details, please refer to the solicitation details located at FedBizOpps website.

In the event of a foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak in the United States, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza or Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), export markets will be severely impacted until the United States can regain international status as free from the disease.  Freedom is achieved by containing the outbreak, preventing disease spread, and eliminating the pathogen.  A primary mode of spreading disease is by personnel and vehicles contacting contaminated material, including infected livestock, soil or animal bedding, then tracking the pathogen to another location on shoes, clothing, and vehicle surfaces.  Therefore, it is critically important that personnel and vehicles be disinfected prior to moving during an outbreak so the outbreak can be controlled as quickly as possible.  However, if the disinfection process is too cumbersome, compliance may be reduced, thereby increasing risk.

One of the major concerns during an outbreak is economic impact, which not only arises from lost export markets, but also from the cost of controlling the outbreak itself.  Any operation with multiple steps requiring significant labor, supplies and equipment, such as cleaning and disinfection, can greatly increase the cost of the response, and costs escalate the longer the outbreak continues.  Therefore, strategies to minimize labor costs while increasing speed of such an operation can significantly reduce outbreak control time and expenses.  Automated vehicle disinfection is one strategy that can both drastically reduce labor costs and response time, while facilitating outbreak control.  Recent FMD outbreak experiences in the United Kingdom and South Korea indicate that disinfecting vehicles during cold weather conditions is extremely challenging if disinfectant mixtures or disinfectant lines freeze.

Commercial car/truck wash stations can meet the need for automation and freeze-protection, but the stations are typically not located exactly where needed, such as at the entrance to infected premises, and the corrosiveness of some disinfectants may damage commercial equipment.  Although there are portable, non-freezing truck wash stations available commercially, the large automated ones are very expensive and must be moved with a crane, which adds to response cost and delays.  Overall, there is a general lack of ready-to-use equipment for portable, temporary vehicle wash stations, which can be readily acquired, deployed and used.

Therefore, it is necessary to develop portable automated vehicle wash stations that can be easily shipped and installed in the field, either on farms or roadway checkpoints.  The units should be:

  • light-weight – ideally unit can be transported on the back of a pick-up truck, unloaded by 2 – 4 people.  At a minimum, it should be transportable in or on a vehicle readily available to state and local emergency responders.
  • cost-effective (designed to minimize the cost of the unit to the maximum extent possible);
  •  rapidly assembled (set up by 2 – 4 people in less than 4 hours);
  • semi-permanent (operating for days to months at a time); and
  • rugged enough for large volume traffic.  

The units should be designed to: 

  • clean at least a ¾ ton pick-up truck with design scalable to 18-wheeler;
  • address a wide-variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria and spore-formers, using disinfectant solutions which may degrade some material:
    • acids, alcohols, aldehydes, alkalis, biguanides, halogen compounds, oxidizing agents, phenols, and/or quaternary ammonium compounds may be used as disinfectants,
    • a 4- to 6-log reduction in microorganisms (per EPA guidance available at is considered disinfection.
  • prevent freezing in cold weather conditions:
    • unit should be non-freezing to -25C (-13F);
  • achieve complete vehicle treatment including the undercarriage:
    • heavily mud-caked vehicles will likely be pre-treated, but the unit will have to clean some surface debris off the vehicles;
    • pressure would be similar to that used in commercial car washes.  It is assumed a vehicle will be driven into the tunnel, the vehicle will be washed with detergent, rinsed with water, disinfected followed by the required contact time (usually 10 – 30 minutes for common disinfectants, depending on ambient temperature) and rinsed again.
  • collect disinfectant runoff:
    • disinfectant can be recycled if the recycled disinfectant solution is as efficacious as the original solution;
    • disposal of collected water to be handled by others;
    • rinse water must be collected and conveyed to containers provided by others, or treated and recycled as part of system.

Ideally, the units will be cost-effective, user-friendly, have low emissions, conserve energy, and be low-maintenance.  Some of the research and development challenges of this concept include: 

  • Engineering a collapsible, light-weight tunnel which delivers the optimal flow of disinfectant chemicals to all surfaces of a vehicle, including the undercarriage.  This involves materials research to identify/develop light-weight, flexible, yet rugged fabrics and tubing which can withstand traffic, weather, and harsh chemicals under pressure.  For example, bleach is known to degrade certain rubber-like materials and citric acid could corrode metal components so the tubing assembly must be resistant to damage from common disinfectants.
  • Factory-assembling or quickly field-assembling system components with flexible but stable hinges or joints that can be collapsed and erected manually, preferable by a single person.
  • Designing the base of the unit to promote flow of liquids to a single point for pumping to separate collection containers, regardless of the terrain of the premises.
  • Combining the components in a manner to maximize personnel safety during set-up, operations, and dismantling; maximize cleaning and disinfection efficiency and effectiveness; and minimize the need for operations and maintenance labor.

PHASE I: Develop a concept for a new technology or modify an existing technology.  Demonstrate the feasibility of the technology at the bench or pilot scale level.

PHASE II: Develop a fully functional prototype of the unit and demonstrate it in the field.  Full functionality includes the ability of the system to: 1) accommodate personnel and vehicles; 2) contain and collect wash water; 3) pump washwater; 4) deliver detergent and disinfectant solutions to a person or vehicle; 5) automatically deliver disinfectant to all sides of a vehicle, including the undercarriage, at sufficient pressure to ensure complete removal of visible soil on vehicle surfaces including tires; and 6) protect the disinfectant solution from freezing while achieving required contact times.

PHASE III: COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS:Upon delivery and demonstration of a prototype, the technology should be suitable for manufacturing and sale in the commercial marketplace, with some minor modifications acceptable.  The commercial units would be available for purchase/lease by governmental and/or response agencies who would use the units for deployment during an animal disease outbreak to assist the response and recovery effort and contain the outbreak.  In the absence of an outbreak, the units can be used for routine biosecurity at production facilities to prevent an outbreak and facilitate continuity of a high-quality, plentiful, and low-cost food supply.

US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government