The washing industry is struggling as it struggles to keep up with demand, and a new report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) suggests that one of the reasons is that there are fewer car wash workers in Australia.
The EIA is looking at how Australia’s car wash industry is doing and why it might be getting better.
“We’ve had a decline in car wash jobs in Australia,” says EIA chair of the report, Andrew Smith.
“So we are trying to understand why, and the answer is we have fewer car washing workers.”
A decline in the number of car wash employees has been on the rise in recent years, from 1,600 in 2011 to 2,600 today.
“That’s a big drop,” says Smith.
In 2011, the average car wash worker was working around three hours a day, and Smith says it was not enough to keep pace with the demands of the industry.
The number of people working at the washing facility fell from 10,000 in 2010 to 9,500 in 2012, and then to 7,000 this year.
“There’s not enough people working,” Smith says.
“The number of washing workers is going down, and that’s going to impact on the quality of the washing.”
The EAA says car wash facilities are facing a shortage of workers and a lack of money.
“If we’re going to continue to have the capacity of a washing centre, we need to get our money out of the vehicle washing business,” Smith tells Al Jazeera.
“And we need the money to reinvest in the business so we can grow.”
The report finds that, of the 14 industries where car wash employment is increasing, car wash operations are most vulnerable to a decrease in the supply of washing facilities.
Smith says the biggest concern for car wash operators is the effect on quality.
“Quality is the most important factor in the success of any business,” he says.
“[Quality] is really about having a workforce that can make a difference.”
According to the EIA, car washing facilities are currently operating at less than half the levels they were in 2006.
Smith thinks the current rate of turnover in car washing operations could drop further.
“What we need is a turnover rate of 10 to 15 per cent,” he explains.
“To get that turnover rate, you need to see a significant improvement in staffing levels.”
He says it is important to note that, while car wash job losses are increasing, overall employment in the industry is rising.
“I think the biggest change that’s taking place in the car wash is the rise of the online business,” says Taylor.
“It’s all happening online.
And that’s creating a lot of opportunities for businesses to take on new staff.”
A recent survey by the Car Wash Industry Association (CIA) found that the number in car work is down from about 9,000 people in 2011, to around 5,000.
The report found that car wash operating turnover fell from 7 per cent of total business in 2010, to 3 per cent in 2012.
Smith is confident that the car washing industry can continue to grow if more people join the industry, but he is worried about the long-term prospects.
“One of the things that I’m really worried about is the quality that car washing provides,” he tells Al Jazeeras.
“Because it’s all about the quality.
So what we need are people that can really give that quality and can really make a dent in the overall quality of our product.”
Smith says he is optimistic about the future of the car washes in Australia, but thinks the industry needs to start thinking about its future more broadly.
“You can’t really get rid of all the people, you can’t just move them all out of there,” he points out.
“They need to be trained.
You need to make sure they’re trained to work on the best practices.”