6 Week New Driver Training

Aug. 4, 2014
When service matters, training your route drivers is as important as hiring them.

When someone asks how good your company is, what is your reply? We used to say, “We are only as good as our worst route driver.” When we got a puzzled look, we would follow with, “but we hope our worst is as good as our competitor’s best.” That statement drove our commitment to train our drivers to consistently provide our customers with the best service.

Training is important

It seems simple enough, this training thing. An operator hires a new employee; shows him how to fill a machine, gives him a map and sends him out to run the route. What a recipe for disaster that would be! The frustration alone on trying to find a location and then do all the necessary things to fill a machine, will probably make him or her quit after the first day, if not after the first stop. Now the operator is back at ground zero, looking for another body to hire. In the meantime the accounts on that route have to be serviced by either the operator or route driver supervisor. This takes valuable time away from what their jobs really are – to run the company and supervise the other drivers. I would also caution operators from thinking that if they hire someone with experience, training will be easier. Remember, that person comes with habits picked up from his last job and the operator may spend even longer trying to change those habits and get him to adjust to the company’s system.

Allow me to give some suggestions based on how my company trained its new drivers. After the initial interview, we tried to check any references they may have and their driving record to make sure our insurance company would insure them. We then began the training schedule which would last for 6 weeks. We made sure that the supervisor who was to train the new driver was clear of his main duties which were picked up by other supervisors for the duration of the training.


The new route driver, who we will call Nick, arrives on the first day. He is met by the supervisor who shows the Nick around the warehouse, introduces him to other drivers, shows him the process of signing in, and signing for keys and change funds. Nick is then taken to the stock room to get that day’s order of fresh pastries and to load them onto the truck in order to start the day. During the first days, Nick is mainly a helper. He watches how to get to each account, helps carry product into the account and watches the supervisor fill the machines. By the third or fourth stop, Nick can be shown how to fill the snack machine, rotate product, take the money and fill the changer. Later in the day, the supervisor should let him try a few by himself to gauge if he has paid attention during the filling process. The supervisor is also looking to see if Nick jumps in to carry product, load the bins for the next stop or asks questions about the work day. By judging these actions, the supervisor can see if Nick is starting to understand the daily routine.

Back at the warehouse the supervisor should show Nick how to turn in the collections,, review the work scheduled for the next day before loading the truck with product and how to do any paperwork required. Show him how to turn in his route keys and sign out to end the day. He should also get a copy of the Policy Manual to take home and read so that the next day the supervisor can answer any of his questions and have him sign the document stating that he has read and understands all the cCompany policies. This routine is followed for the first three days, after which Nick should be filling all the snack machines. On that day, the supervisor should let him drive back to the warehouse from the last stop. This will show how he handles the truck and traffic.


This week, Nick, our new route driver, drives to all the accounts with the supervisor in the passenger seat, in order for him to learn the roads. He fills all snack machines and gets product ready for the next account. The supervisor can teach him how to fill other machines, such as sodas and food. Also teach him about the special needs an account may have, like an extra row of a particular item or certain healthy snacks, etc. The supervisor should write these down for Nick, so he can check the next time before going into the account. By the end of this week the supervisor should have a good idea about whether he will be able to do the work.


At this point the new driver should know how to get everything he needs in order to do the day’s work. He should also know how to get to most of the accounts and now the supervisor becomes the helper. The supervisor is riding along to make sure Nick is doing everything right and is not forgetting anything. Nick should be filling every machine by himself so that the supervisor can determine how long it will take him to do an entire day’s work. He should be getting faster with each day’s repetition.


If the supervisor is comfortable with his progression, then it’s time to allow Nick to go on his own for three days, preferably Monday-Wednesday-Friday. The supervisor still rides along on Tuesday-Thursday. This week the supervisor can really see how Nick handles himself and how long it takes him to do a day’s work.


Let Nick go by himself on Tuesday-Thursday, while the supervisor rides along Monday-Wednesday-Friday to check on the accounts Nick did by himself the previous week and correct any mistakes he may have made.


The supervisor reverses the scenario of the previous week and goes with him on Tuesday-Thursday to check those accounts.

Congratulations. The driver is now fully trained. If the supervisor feels comfortable with his understanding of the operation’s system, the way he loads his truck and maintains cleanliness, his handling of the collections, etc., then it’s time to let him go on his own. But don’t get complacent and forget him. About 4 to 6 weeks later, a supervisor should go with him for a couple of days in order to acquire some peace of mind that the accounts are being filled correctly and to make sure that the customer is happy with the service. This seems like a long process, but if the driver stays and works for the company for a couple of years, then it was well worth it. Of the 40 routes we ran, I can say over 90 percent of the drivers were with us for more than 2 years, and 50 percent of them longer than 5 years. We continually tried to make the work easier by showing them different ways to be more productive while using less time.

At the end of this process you should have a well-trained employee that you can trust to do the work as you would do it. In time, as his performance gets better, he will become the factor on which you judge the quality of your company.