Cattle guards are used not just on ranches, to keep the cattle from straying. Another important
use is in construction sites, oil fields, quarries, and other sites where large semi-trucks or tractor
trailers deliver and remove materials. The cattle guard serves as an effective wheel washer for
the trucks, before they return to municipal roads.
1. How it works: The cattle guard has a washing pit or trough beneath it. Driving the
truck over the cattle guard is an effective method of removing rocks and dirt from
vehicle wheels and wheel wells as they drive through it.
2. Purpose: To reduce the amount of dirt, mud, gravel, and rock carried by aggregate
vehicles onto public roads. Using a cattle guard in this fashion greatly reduces the
county’s expenses via street cleaning/sweeping. Lessening the amount of rubble and
stones dragged onto public roads is also a service to the public, helping to prevent minor
and serious windshield damage. Wheel washing creates a cleaner, less dusty site as
well, by collecting the extraneous material in one place—the well of the cattle guard.
3. Location: The cattle guard should be placed between the construction site and the gate
leading to the public road.
4. Types and specifications:
• Wheel washers can range from simple cattle guards with troughs dug beneath them to
concrete foundations with embedded rails. How heavy duty the washer needs to be is
dependent upon the frequency and weight of the traffic and the length of the project.
• The basic wheel washer is a shallow pit filled with water. A cattle guard at the bottom,
can effectively agitate/shake mud and dirt off the vehicle.
• High volume wheel washers will require a concrete foundation. Heavy mud or other
material might require the addition of a mechanized spray washer, for more thorough
removal of the accumulated debris.
• Allow at least 60 feet between the wheel washer and the exit to the road. This allows
the vehicle to come up to speed and leave time for any of the wetted material to spin off
tires before reaching the road.
• A paved exit as opposed to dirt will also help reduce the amount of dirt and rocks
deposited on public roads by vehicles leaving the construction site.
• Cattle guards by themselves, without the addition of any water, will remove a
significant amount of mud and dirt. Site managers will need to assess whether the cattle
guard alone is sufficient, or the use of water is required as well.
5. Maintenance: The dirty water from the cattle guard can be directed to a settling pond
that will allow the solids to sink to the bottom. If that is not an option, the wheel wash
can be cleaned out as frequently as necessary with the use of an excavator.