Executive Briefings

Special Skill Set Needed for Drivers Who Deliver Through the Front Door

We hear a lot about how consumers' changing lifestyles and shopping habits are impacting retail supply chains in areas like demand planning and inventory management. Much less is said, however, regarding the impact of these trends at the very end of the supply chain, where professional drivers deliver the last mile.

Special Skill Set Needed for Drivers Who Deliver Through the Front Door

At Penske Logistics, we are well aware of this impact because we work with many dedicated contract carriage clients who  require delivery drivers to do much more than back a truck up to the dock. In numerous situations, our drivers are delivering through the front door rather than the rear, and they are wearing uniforms and driving vehicles that bear our customers’ names and logos. This makes our drivers responsible not only for the goods on the truck, but also for the brand reputation of the shipper. This is a new layer of responsibility for delivery drivers and requires a set of "soft skills" that must be incorporated into the driver recruitment and selection process as well as into training programs.

In such cases, specific driver requirements are carefully tailored for each customer based on their expectations for in-store deliveries. With one fresh food market, for example, our drivers are delivering temperature-controlled fresh products, such as pre-made salads, sandwiches and fruit cups, as well as freshly baked items like doughnuts and croissants. The chilled items are stored in the cooled front half of the trailer, and separated by a bulkhead from ambient products that are stacked in the rear. As part of the delivery, drivers must place fresh products in the store’s refrigerated area and arrange baked goods in a display case, following the customer’s planogram. And drivers often are performing these duties during store hours. Bringing deliveries in through the same door where customers are entering and leaving, and placing product in cases while consumers are shopping, requires a whole other level of care and attentiveness.

This also holds true for the environment outside the store. The restricted confines of a busy retail parking lot are something of a minefield for drivers, who must be cognizant not only of navigational hazards but of shoppers, who may be annoyed by blocked parking spaces. The training we give our drivers in the Smith System of defensive driving―as well as a great deal of patience―are needed in the parking lot every bit as much as on the busy city streets these drivers traverse between stops.

Given what’s required, hiring standards for these jobs go well beyond our norm, which already is among the industry’s highest. We hand pick only drivers with outstanding experience, who have demonstrated the technical skills, safety consciousness, maturity and personality these jobs demand. Penske employs in-depth interviews as a primary screening tool. We fully explain the job requirements and ask a lot of questions that help us identify drivers with the right personality to deal with such potential challenges as complaints from a consumer in the store. Remaining calm and resilient in such situations actually is the type of temperament that would be an advantage in any driving job, but is particularly important when a driver is dealing with our customer’s customers.

If a driver is joining an existing operation, the most useful form of training is to pair him or her with a mentor driver for a week or two. The mentor driver knows the routes and the customer’s requirements and can significantly decrease the time it takes for a driver to understand the job and reach full productivity. When it is a new customer and a new contract, comprehensive training is required for a full staff of drivers. In these instances, we actually set up a “practice” environment that mimics delivery conditions at the customer’s stores. Drivers come in for multiple sessions to learn how to handle the product, where to place it in the stores and how to execute proof of delivery and any other customer requirement. They also are trained on such issues as monitoring the temperature of chilled products to make sure the quality and safety of food products are never compromised. Thorough training ensures that drivers are ready to meet customer expectations on day one.

Of course there is always the potential for issues that come up en route. It is imperative that the customer, dispatcher and driver be able to effectively communicate throughout the delivery cycle. We make that as easy as possible. A driver may use his mobile device to let us know, for example, that a store on his route had been too busy to get empty trays ready for return. We would then inform the next driver that he will have extra trays to collect. This open dialog also is valuable in the case of the unexpected, such as a store losing power. The driver could respond by delaying that store’s delivery until later in his route or temporarily leaving chilled goods in the refrigerated unit of a nearby store.

Drivers who exhibit flexibility and resiliency do well in these jobs and are rewarded with customer service incentives, similar to Penske’s safety incentives for all drivers. They also drive new, well-equipped vehicles and are able to plan their family life around regular, pre-determined routes. These factors help keep drivers on board for the long term, which provides continuity and further solidifies our customer relationship. Penske Logistics has achieved one of the highest driver retention rates in the industry.

The scope of driving jobs will continue to change over time as markets evolve, but what never will change is the crucial role that professional drivers play in the success of logistics operations. They are the very core of what we do, and they prove that every day of the year.

Source: Penske Logistics

At Penske Logistics, we are well aware of this impact because we work with many dedicated contract carriage clients who  require delivery drivers to do much more than back a truck up to the dock. In numerous situations, our drivers are delivering through the front door rather than the rear, and they are wearing uniforms and driving vehicles that bear our customers’ names and logos. This makes our drivers responsible not only for the goods on the truck, but also for the brand reputation of the shipper. This is a new layer of responsibility for delivery drivers and requires a set of "soft skills" that must be incorporated into the driver recruitment and selection process as well as into training programs.

In such cases, specific driver requirements are carefully tailored for each customer based on their expectations for in-store deliveries. With one fresh food market, for example, our drivers are delivering temperature-controlled fresh products, such as pre-made salads, sandwiches and fruit cups, as well as freshly baked items like doughnuts and croissants. The chilled items are stored in the cooled front half of the trailer, and separated by a bulkhead from ambient products that are stacked in the rear. As part of the delivery, drivers must place fresh products in the store’s refrigerated area and arrange baked goods in a display case, following the customer’s planogram. And drivers often are performing these duties during store hours. Bringing deliveries in through the same door where customers are entering and leaving, and placing product in cases while consumers are shopping, requires a whole other level of care and attentiveness.

This also holds true for the environment outside the store. The restricted confines of a busy retail parking lot are something of a minefield for drivers, who must be cognizant not only of navigational hazards but of shoppers, who may be annoyed by blocked parking spaces. The training we give our drivers in the Smith System of defensive driving―as well as a great deal of patience―are needed in the parking lot every bit as much as on the busy city streets these drivers traverse between stops.

Given what’s required, hiring standards for these jobs go well beyond our norm, which already is among the industry’s highest. We hand pick only drivers with outstanding experience, who have demonstrated the technical skills, safety consciousness, maturity and personality these jobs demand. Penske employs in-depth interviews as a primary screening tool. We fully explain the job requirements and ask a lot of questions that help us identify drivers with the right personality to deal with such potential challenges as complaints from a consumer in the store. Remaining calm and resilient in such situations actually is the type of temperament that would be an advantage in any driving job, but is particularly important when a driver is dealing with our customer’s customers.

If a driver is joining an existing operation, the most useful form of training is to pair him or her with a mentor driver for a week or two. The mentor driver knows the routes and the customer’s requirements and can significantly decrease the time it takes for a driver to understand the job and reach full productivity. When it is a new customer and a new contract, comprehensive training is required for a full staff of drivers. In these instances, we actually set up a “practice” environment that mimics delivery conditions at the customer’s stores. Drivers come in for multiple sessions to learn how to handle the product, where to place it in the stores and how to execute proof of delivery and any other customer requirement. They also are trained on such issues as monitoring the temperature of chilled products to make sure the quality and safety of food products are never compromised. Thorough training ensures that drivers are ready to meet customer expectations on day one.

Of course there is always the potential for issues that come up en route. It is imperative that the customer, dispatcher and driver be able to effectively communicate throughout the delivery cycle. We make that as easy as possible. A driver may use his mobile device to let us know, for example, that a store on his route had been too busy to get empty trays ready for return. We would then inform the next driver that he will have extra trays to collect. This open dialog also is valuable in the case of the unexpected, such as a store losing power. The driver could respond by delaying that store’s delivery until later in his route or temporarily leaving chilled goods in the refrigerated unit of a nearby store.

Drivers who exhibit flexibility and resiliency do well in these jobs and are rewarded with customer service incentives, similar to Penske’s safety incentives for all drivers. They also drive new, well-equipped vehicles and are able to plan their family life around regular, pre-determined routes. These factors help keep drivers on board for the long term, which provides continuity and further solidifies our customer relationship. Penske Logistics has achieved one of the highest driver retention rates in the industry.

The scope of driving jobs will continue to change over time as markets evolve, but what never will change is the crucial role that professional drivers play in the success of logistics operations. They are the very core of what we do, and they prove that every day of the year.

Source: Penske Logistics

Special Skill Set Needed for Drivers Who Deliver Through the Front Door