Running between Banff and Calgary, this airport shuttle exceeds expectations for quality and cleanliness
By Richard Tackett
The team at Banff Airporter Inc.® prides itself on high-quality transportation not often associated with airport runs. The company’s scheduled service on the 90 miles between Calgary International Airport and Banff, a resort town in Alberta, Canada, has run for more than 20 years.
Mark Yawney, general manager of Banff Airporter, said the company tries to exceed passenger expectations about airport shuttles.
“We’ve recently upgraded our entire airport fleet, and we now feel exceedingly proud of the quality of every vehicle in our airport and charter services,” he said. “With high-end Grech Motors coaches and Mercedes-Sprinter vans, we want to constantly surprise passengers with how good an airport shuttle can be.”
The search for automatic washing
Yawney said that he was first cognizant in 2017 of the pressure this influx of new vehicles placed on his employees. Banff Airporter’s high standards for vehicle cleanliness and presentation translated to significant labor by the team assigned to bus and automotive detailing.
“We were giving them more and more buses to clean, and not really changing the formula of how they were being washed,” he said. “They were just using brushes and high-pressure water.”
Yawney said he initially wanted to revolutionize Banff Airporter’s bus washing out of a desire to make work more enjoyable for his employees.
“Obviously, as an employer, I want to give people jobs that they like,” he said. “And, to be honest, it was clear that washing buses for us was becoming too laborious to be enjoyable.”
He said he first discovered gantry, or rollover, bus wash systems while searching the internet for single-brush, “walkaround” power washers. An automated gantry system is functionally similar to an automated car wash – except the driver does not need to sit in the bus during washing — and requires significantly less labor from employees tending it.
“I realized very quickly that, by installing one of these systems, we were going to save a huge amount of time in our wash bay,” Yawney said. “It would lighten the load for the detailers so that they would be much happier at work.”
Yawney began calling companies he had researched but received mixed reactions. Most were interested in talking to him, he said, but seemed to think Banff Airporter was not entirely serious about the required investment. The systems he was researching seemed better suited for a municipality or multi-regional business.
“They were saying, ‘You don’t want a system this big unless you’re washing many more buses per night,’” he said. “But our motivating factor wasn’t necessarily the number of buses. We’re entrepreneurs trying to create a work environment that’s fun and sustainable, and where people are happy.”
The Banff Airporter team narrowed the search to a few suppliers with distribution chains in Alberta, receiving three quotes before ultimately settling on InterClean Equipment, an Oakland Industries company, and its exclusive West-Canadian distributor NoviClean Inc.
InterClean Equipment, LLC, established its manufacturing in 1984. Based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, InterClean has more than thirty years of history designing, manufacturing, and commissioning heavy duty bus, truck and train washing systems for transit, municipal, and commercial fleet markets, as well as other, more specialized products for markets such as mining, and military/defense.
As an InterClean-exclusive dealer and service network, NoviClean is one of the most experienced members in InterClean’s global distribution infrastructure. The amount of NoviClean employees in Alberta and able to directly service the Banff Airporter headquarters had a significant impact on Yawney’s decision to go with an InterClean gantry wash system.
“Automated wash systems have service requirements built into their operation,” Rob Forbes, co-owner of NoviClean, said. “Our ability to provide regular preventative maintenance service, as well as parts and warranty support, improves our offerings to potential customers. With its resort-bound, luxury-focused clientele, clean buses were a paramount concern for Banff Airporter. Our location and our ability to work with InterClean to custom-tailor a system suited exactly for their needs at a competitive price made us the perfect choice.”
Delivery, installation and training
The system InterClean and NoviClean delivered to Banff Airporter is the Ultra automated gantry wash, which was configured as a three-brush machine. The Ultra is highly configurable and able to be supplied with friction (brush) cleaning, as in the Banff Airporter case, or completely touchless cleaning. This spectrum of cleaning options allows the machine to be configured for a wide variety of vehicle types and fleet sizes. In addition to the various wash actions available, the machine can be coupled with InterClean’s water recycling and treatment technology to minimize environmental impact and maximize the sustainability of a customer’s wash site.
Banff Airporter is using a three-brush Ultra model, with two vertical brushes and one horizontal brush. It has a two-step (high and low pH) chemical application followed by a final rinse. This relatively simple configuration was ideal for Banff Airporter in that it minimized system complexity but allowed for the flexibility to wash Banff Airporter’s entire range of vehicle types.
“Wash systems with more moving parts, operated in a wash bay with constant moisture and chemical use, tend to wear out faster than the InterClean system,” Forbes said. “Simplicity in design and flexibility in wash options — customizing a wash to a vehicle — are very important. That’s where InterClean has come to the table, providing a design which can be customized with standard equipment to address the exact needs of fleet owners.”
Yawney said the installation by NoviClean took approximately 10 days to complete.
“It was a smooth process,” he said. “Their team was a delight while they were here, and they cleaned up everything before leaving.”
Working with InterClean’s in-house team of application and design engineers, NoviClean programmed the system for Banff Airporter’s five vehicle types (with two wash settings per vehicle), allowing for detailers to automatically wash any bus in the fleet with the press of a few buttons.
“I thought that I would be doing at least a half day of training to learn the system,” Yawney said. “But we have pre-set vehicle types which include specifications for our Sprinter vans, Grech buses, sedans and Cadillac Escalades.”
“When I train new staff,” he added, “it usually only takes about 15 minutes to introduce the system and how it works.”
“We’ve designed the user interface so that it’s very, very simple,” Greg Harvey, CEO of Oakland Industries and InterClean, said. “At the most basic level, an operator just has to hit a few buttons and this machine does the rest. But the software is written in a hierarchical way with different passwords and different access levels which authorize different layers of the program, thus allowing for complete customization, and configuration by appropriately trained technicians.”
Quality in cleanliness
Yawney said that most of the reviews for his company on Trip Advisor mention the cleanliness of his vehicles, a source of pride for Banff Airporter.
“If you’re going to run a high-end service, muddy buses are unacceptable,” he said. “Our buses are representative of the quality of service we provide.”
He said his staff could not be happier with the InterClean Ultra system, with one of his most tenured detailers describing the new washing process as “amazing.”
That means that, while InterClean delivered Banff Airporter a purpose-built, basic three-brush machine, the underlying software is agile, modularized and highly customizable for a variety of specifications.
The system support by InterClean and NoviClean has been fundamental to the success of the installation at Banff Airporter, Yawney said. The technology in the system allows for NoviClean techs to diagnose and correct issues remotely, and monthly preventative maintenance sessions allow the Banff Airporter staff to learn on the job.
“Every time we go there, we show the staff what we’re doing so they can absorb it,” Forbes said. “It’s a nice, gradual handoff of information.”
“Overall, we’re very satisfied with the installation,” Harvey added. “We’re happy the machine integrated well and is effectively washing the Banff Airporter fleet. But, ultimately, parts must be replaced, and our philosophy is to provide maintenance and replacement parts out to our customers as fast as possible. That is doubly true for a customer with round-the-clock service and quality-conscious clients like Banff Airporter.”