How to Train a New Route Driver

Aug. 13, 2008
Veteran route drivers are often asked to help train newcomers.

As a veteran driver, there is a good chance you will be asked at some time to help new drivers learn the skills that you have mastered. Introducing the new driver to the company and making them aware of how they will interact with other employees is management’s responsibility. When it is time to turn the new person over to the individual who will oversee their driver training, there is a good chance that that person will look to veteran drivers to help in this process.

A wise man once told me that the four steps of training are explaining what has to be done, showing and demonstrating how to execute the necessary tasks, allowing the new hire to perform these tasks, and finally critiquing their quality and progress. I certainly believe that this formula is applicable to route driver training, and now I will elaborate on the different skill areas that must be covered to produce a successful route driver.

Basic Technical Vending Skills

The trainer has taken our new employee to their first stop, showed them where to park, loaded their cart full of product and are at that critical point when they arrive at the first vending bank and begin to open and service the first machine of our new driver’s career.

The first step in training at this point must be the actual mechanics on how to fill a vending machine. This will include simple but important processes like how to release the shelves in a snack machine or rotate the shelves in a food machine to fill it.

A good second step will be to explain how the machine is to be merchandised. The demographics of your customer will play a major role in what products you provide to them and what quantities are required. It is important to explain that each account is different and that to maximize sales you should adjust the menu to meet unique customer demands.

Another important training activity at this time is to demonstrate and explain the cleaning and sanitation requirements of their job. It is critical that new hires understand that dirty equipment will result in lost sales as customers today are more and more discerning as to where they purchase their food items.

Finally, at this point, our new employee should be trained in the basic repair skills they are expected to perform such as clearing coin jams, resetting health timers, e.g. They should also be interested in how and when to call in a machine malfunction that needs the attention of a qualified mechanic.

Before they leave a location, they should be instructed to check that each machine is securely locked to prevent product and/or cash shortages.

The Customer is Always Right

One of the most critical training points for a new route driver is conveying to them that they are in the service business and the most important part of their job is keeping their customers happy.

As a piece of this activity, they must understand how to handle customer requests, customer complaints and refund handling. They should be empowered to address these issues immediately, along with their ability to give customers product samples.

In most cases, the company is represented by impersonal vending equipment more than 90 percent of the time. Of that remaining 10 percent, more than 90 percent of that interval the company is represented by the route driver. Their attitude and service skills will play a major role in the company’s success with customers.

The route driver must be trained in being the person that pays attention to changes at customer locations. A change in client contacts or a visit by competition to the account must be learned quickly in order to protect the business, and a well liked driver will be the company’s first line of defense.

Finally, a new driver must understand that they are route sales people. They are charged with giving the customers what they want and not just filling slots in machines. How they market new products and communicate other changes to customers will play a major role in their success.

Cash Handling/Sales Reporting

Another important aspect of route driver training is proper cash handling and sales reporting.

There are obviously different reporting systems and mechanisms from hand held computers which link with DEX boxes in the machines to issued route tickets. Regardless of which process is used, it is critical to teach the new employee the proper methods to complete the necessary accounting.

In the simple process of collecting each machine, they must be trained in how to collect the coins from the cash box and the dollar bills from the validator. Also, they must be taught to bring the coin mechanism to par so as to not commingle sales with change funds.

The new driver needs to understand their responsibility for managing shortages on their route. They must know company standards and their responsibility for reimbursement of shortages either in changer funds or route sales.

Another important accounting function is taking correct inventories. Whichever system your company utilizes, the new driver must be taught on how to correctly inventory their machines, vehicles and storerooms (if applicable).

The new driver needs to be instructed on how to protect cash from the time it leaves each machine until it is deposited in the cash room. They must be shown how to secure collections on their carts while they are servicing machines and to always put collections in the truck safe and keep the vehicle locked.

It is a good practice to teach them to avoid parking in nonsecure areas, to avoid potentially dangerous situations, and to vary the times they arrive at their locations.

We hope that they are never faced with a robbery situation, but they need to be instructed to not be heroes and fully cooperate with the assailant and protect themselves.

Vehicle Operations

The training of a new driver in vehicle operations is critical. It starts simply with training them in the basics of operating a motor vehicle in a safe fashion. They must also understand and comply with safety rules such as always wearing a seat belt and making sure not to have slippery floors or bumpers.

They must also be taught safe food handling practices for perishable items.

The new driver needs to know your maintenance standards for the vehicle and their responsibility for them. Whether it be a weekly inspection to report operating problems or notifying the company of required maintenance (i.e., oil changes), they must understand what their roles are and meet the requirements.

Lastly, they need to be instructed on how to organize and store product on their vehicle.

Injury Avoidance

Some simple training steps will go a long way to preventing injuries. Teaching employees to lift with their legs and not their backs, safe handling of box cutters and proper use of folding carts can minimize many of the common injuries in the vending industry.

If they order the food items for their machines they need to be instructed on how to maximize sales while minimizing waste. They may also manage paper and condiment usage at their customer locations and they need to know what items to provide and how to minimize product abuse.

They will also have varying degrees of participation in the warehousing function. Whether they shop the warehouse themselves or have their order picked for them, they must learn how and when to place orders.

Another important function is managing their route schedule. They must be taught how to follow the existing route schedule and, in today’s dynamic economy, of their need to provide regular feedback to adjust the schedule based on new conditions at each account.

Finally, they must learn the importance of securing their vending keys.

Ongoing Communication is Vital

While this training is happening, communication with the new employee is critical.

They should be spoken to daily and asked questions to check their learning curve and to discover where additional time and training is necessary.


  • Safe driving
  • Cleaning and sanitation
  • Customer service
  • Cash handling
  • Sales reporting
  • Inventory control
  • Injury prevention
  • Key control