MBM drivers typically deliver to the same group of restaurants and over time they develop a good working relationship, says Luttrell, vice president of customer and supplier development at MBM Corp., a $7bn food distribution to major restaurant chains now owned by McLean Group. "When our drivers arrive at a restaurant, they know where to put the products and exactly what the restaurant owners want," he says.
Drivers also are the only MBM employees that restaurant owners regularly see, Luttrell adds. "They are the face of our company and that's very important."
Maintaining these relationships is one of primary reasons that MBM focuses a lot of attention on driver retention. Another is cost control. "Our industry operates on paper thin margins, so spending a lot of money on training new drivers is not something we like to do," says Luttrell.
With a growing shortage of commercial drivers, retaining good drivers is a challenge. Pay is always a big factor, says Luttrell. "MBM stays competitive with pay. We are not the highest paying distributor out there, nor are we the lowest."
Other issues that MBM is addressing to keep its drivers happy are routes that allow drivers to spend more nights at home with their families rather than on the road, and benefits like health insurance.
Despite these efforts, MBM does lose drivers, so it also has a robust driver recruitment program. “The issue for the industry right now is that we are borrowing and stealing from each other because not a lot of new drivers are coming into the system,” says Luttrell. “We have to figure out how to make the job as easy as possible by applying new technology. Equipment like pallet jacks or lift gates can enable drivers to make deliveries without having to lift every box on the truck.”
Companies also need to work with customers to see if they can help shorten drivers’ wait times by speeding receipt of deliveries, perhaps allowing night deliveries when the restaurant is not open for business, he says.
“Our drivers are a very important part of our business and we want to make sure we are a company they will want to work for long term,” says Luttrell. “We are working very hard to make sure we do whatever is needed to draw drivers in and to keep them here.”
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