Managing a Foodservice Fleet

Temperature and food safety concerns up the ante for fleet managers in the foodservice sector.


Fleet managers have a lot on their plate—a bevy of industry regulations, driver shortages, and budgets that are continually stretched to the maximum. When it comes to the foodservice side of the business, managing a fleet becomes even more complicated with refrigerated equipment, time- and temperature-sensitive product, and a less forgiving supply chain when exceptions occur.

Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza take-out and delivery chain in the U.S., with roughly 2,600+ establishments domestically, which are served by 10 distribution centers operated by PJ Foodservice, the parent company of Papa John’s. The demands on its fleet are among the toughest in the industry.

 

Delivering a perfect pie

Like many fleet managers, Eric Hartman, senior director of logistics for Papa John’s, is faced with a number of federal transportation regulations that are in various stages of implementation. Not only are the regulations far-reaching in their impact on an organization, the constant changes and delays have made it incredibly difficult to plan and prepare for their inevitable implementation.

The federal Hours of Service (HOS) rule is one example. It’s been amended several times and the latest version is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2013. However, there’s a good chance it will be delayed due to several challenges currently winding their way through the courts.

“Although we really don’t know if the new HOS rule will take effect on July 1, the 34-hour restart change definitely has the potential to tighten capacity in the marketplace and drive up rates,” says Hartman.

The change also threatens to make the driver shortage problem more acute. “We’re looking at different strategies for dealing with the driver shortage,” acknowledges Hartman. So too is the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which has proposed research on a graduated commercial driver’s license as one way to help mitigate the shortage of drivers in the industry. The idea is to target potential drivers in the 18-25 year-old range who could undergo more extensive training and help fill the labor pool.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program is another regulation that is being rolled out in phases. Although the trucking community, in general, supports the goal of CSA, there are some aspects that have come under fire. One of those is the lack of accountability when there is a crash.

There are also some challenges with how CSA classifies fleets, according to Hartman. “We’re somewhat unique because in one respect we’re an over the road carrier, yet we’re also a very urban delivery carrier.” The absence of a classification that accurately captures a fleet operation like Papa John’s “puts us in a position of less strength when it comes to reporting and comparisons.” Nonetheless, Hartman believes CSA is helping those in the industry “make more informed decisions regarding performance and safety, and that’s a very good thing.”

Papa John’s is unique in other ways. Hartman suggests his fleet’s drivers may have one of the hardest jobs in the transportation industry. “Not only are they driving, but they’re unloading freight by hand and there are typically 10 to 15 stops on a route. It’s physically demanding and it pulls the driver away from home for 36 to 40 hours at a time.” The driving demands are equally rigorous. “Our drivers encounter very difficult parking situations in urban environments, like strip malls. Or, sometimes they’re driving to truck stops out in the middle of Wyoming, for instance, and fighting severe weather. And that’s the easy part, because once they get there, they’re stocking and delivering with their hands and a handtruck anywhere from 100 to 400 pieces or cases of product. Then they’re counting it for accuracy, because we may only go there two times a week. Afterwards, they’re responsible for cleaning up after themselves as well.”

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