The government often imposes requirements on companies and individuals to achieve certain results. This may include rules to protect firms from unfair competition, provide safer workplaces and products, and clean water and air.
In Florida, the state has no required licensing or fees for commercial car washing, but it does have an administrative code. This rule authorizes a general permit for any person constructing or operating a car wash treatment, disposal, and recycling system.
One requirement is that waste oil collected from oil/water separators must be disposed of by a licensed used oil recycler. Another is facilities that provide waxes, drying agents, and other additives shall install a system that recycles wash and rinse water with no discharge to state waters. These are commonsense rules designed to minimize pollution and ensure the proper disposal of waste.
Similarly, there is no licensing or fees for car washes in St. Petersburg, but the city does have a code of ordinance that applies to car wash and detailing. Some of these requirements relate to design, such as building setbacks, minimum lot size, vacuum height, buffers, fencing, and by-pass lanes.
Other requirements relate to operations. For example, waxing and detailing must be conducted in a completely enclosed building, and sound from radios, stereos, or other sound amplification devices shall not be audible from anywhere off the site. And the site must be closed between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
Things are quite different in California. To begin with, all businesses engaged in car washing and detailing must register with the state for an annual fee of $300. Required documents include legal formation, proof of worker’s compensation insurance, proof of compliance with local government regulations, and a $150,000 surety bond.
Businesses must also complete a tax authorization form and comply with employee recordkeeping — maintaining three years of accurate information such as employee names and addresses, hours worked, wages, wage rates, gratuities, etc.
Similar requirements are in place in New York City. Attributes of a bonded car wash are a guarantee of full earned wages, fringe benefits, gratuities, and interest. The bond protects employees from employers taking advantage of them financially and legally. The bond is considered welfare since the employees are protected.
Unfortunately, government regulations don’t always pan out as expected.
According to recent estimates, over 116,000 migrants have flocked to NYC since last spring, and most are making ends meet working in the illegal underground economy. These new migrants are accepting next-to-nothing wages. As a result, this is driving down wages and taking jobs from the established labor pool.
Major cities such as LA and NYC have huge budget issues, and enforcement is one of the first departments to get cut back. Perhaps more onerous for the car wash industry is the continued push for minimum wage regulations.
Three states have reached a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Fast-food workers in California are set to get $20 this year, while healthcare workers earn $25.
Consequently, if the current minimum is $12, an increase to $20 would pump the full-time equivalent from $25,000 a year to $41,600. No doubt this would help workers, but at what cost?
Some experts say $20 an hour would result in higher prices, smaller portions, and more automation and customer self-service.
Since the current administration has taken over, there have been 54 environmental policies created and 43 more proposed. These deal with Clean Air and Water Acts, the “guidebooks” of which have hundreds of pages of fine print. A complete description of these acts is contained within the Federal Code of Regulations, which numbers thousands of pages of even finer print.
Quite frankly, my time as a public servant in the past showed that many people don’t know these regulations exist let alone how they may impact their lives or how they conduct business.
Unfortunately, the government makes it the responsibility of the business owner to understand the rules and regulations that apply to their business.
Bob Roman is a car wash consultant and can be reached at email@example.com.