Route driving is where the money is made and where there is the most pressure. If done correctly, route driving can be efficient and enjoyable. If done incorrectly it can take forever and feel like a chore. Which one do you want?
It all begins with loading your truck.
Everything in your truck should have a place, so when you need to find something quick, you can. Shelves are your friend. Everything will stay organized and everything will stay in place. Remember that there are two states you have to plan for in the back of the truck; when it's stationary and when it's in motion.
Things to keep in mind
- When I refer to front, I'm referring to the area that is closer to outside the truck than the back, but still in the storage area of the truck.
- There should be ample room to maneuver and work. You want to be able to move around quickly in order to get in and out of your truck. Otherwise, loading can take a long time.
- Place the things you use the least in the areas that are hardest to get to and place the things you use the most often in areas that are the easiest to get to.
- Particularly important is the placement of heavy objects. In general, the heavier an object is, the easier it should be able to move out of its storage area. This is because you want to minimize back pain caused by excessive lifting and twisting of your back. If that case of energy drinks forces you to bend and twist, you are much more likely to hurt yourself.
- When loading, work from the back of the back of the truck to the front and work from the walls to the floor. When I say back of the truck, I'm referring to the back of the storage area closest to the cab.
- Obviously it will be difficult to move large heavy objects to the back of the truck if there are items blocking your way that sit on the floor. If you must put lots of objects on the floor, then make sure to clear a path that is wider than your foot when it is turned. You can easily have an accident if you stick your foot in vertically, turn to reach something, get your shoe caught between the product on the floor, and fall.
- Keeping your truck clean is extra work, but it pays off by letting you work more efficiently and letting your brain be uncluttered by thoughts that are unnecessary. It is difficult to work if you're constantly pulling your focus away from the task at hand to look for the tool you need or step in and around things on the floor.
How to load your truck
- Take everything out that is on the floor and place it outside the truck. Working with a clean space allows your mind to take inventory of the shelf space faster.
- Load heavy items first and lighter items last. If you have too much product to deliver and you can't manage everything in a place where you can move around or access everything, then make sure to load the product that you'll need for the first one or two locations on last. Especially on a small truck, the amount of space you have to maneuver drastically changes throughout the day as you offload product. It's easier to move around a constricted space when you know that in two locations you'll have full range of motion in the storage area again.
- Chips should go up higher, because the cases are lighter and soda should sit inside cubby holes or on the floor.
- Snacks, in particular, should be easily accessible from their cases, because unlike soda or water, you will most likely not carry in an entire case of chips to a location. Cut holes in the cardboard to allow for easy access to chips. This is not necessary for snacks that come in smaller quantities. Pop tarts, for instance, come in packs of 6, so you can take the whole pack.
- In a pickup truck or van, store heavy items, and items you'll use later in the day, in the back. Store lighter items, and items you'll use sooner, in the front. If you can, organize it such that you have access to a variety of product from your entry point of your vehicle, so you don't have to pull out - and put back - cases of product every time you make a new stop.
Minimize injury while loading
Vending is a physically demanding job. If you load using incorrect posture or technique, you will wear out your body faster and make yourself sore more quickly. This will reduce your speed of movement and, in some cases, your morale. Here are some tips to help reduce your potential for injury:
- Try not to lift all the way from the floor if you can. The extra energy you spend lifting from the floor to about waist high will be considerable. Instead, try to keep things on carts or stacked on other things, so you're only lifting objects from the floor a few times during a load, not every time.
- When loading the truck, it is helpful to set up objects in the back so that they give a flat surface between your waist and shoulder height. This will provide a landing area in case you need to store things up in cubbies. By doing this you create two discrete movements to putting the product away. The first is to get the product inside the truck. Once landed in the landing area you can then reorient how you pick up the product, and use the best lifting motion to put it away, If you don't have a landing area, you will more easily give into to the habit of twisting your body to put away product faster. This may sound good in the short run, but if you hurt yourself it will kill your efficiency.
Prepare for the truck to be in motion
The product will most likely move a bit while you are in motion. You will be accelerating and decelerating and making right and left turns. Also, you have to account for the sideways rocking motion that happens when your truck hits a speedbump at any other angle than dead on. This is the most deadly experience you can have in terms of the product in the back of your truck.
If loaded correctly a truck can handle accelerating and decelerating in a straight or curved line, but sideways rocking can cause product to shoot across the back of your truck in even the most well-loaded set up. Be aware of any train tracks, bumps, or other aspects of your route that may cause your truck to do this. The entry and exit to gas stations is another such place that causes this sort of motion.
To guard against this:
- Secure all product on shelves with bungie cords or other such things that keep them in place. In general, every shelf should have at least one bungie cord or ratchet strap across it, to keep product from falling off the shelf during a turn. This is doubly true for product that is stacked. Water is notorious for falling over during a turn if not properly secured, but soda is a major factor as well, since it's stored in cardboard flats or encased in slick cardboard fridge packs. These slide really easily.
- Use gravity by installing racks that slope down towards the outside walls of the truck. This will help keep your product in place without having to use too many bungie cords.
- Anything left on the floor should be stored such that braking and accelerating do not force it to topple. This means that they should be stored with the long side parallel to the walls of the truck.
- Use milk crates, especially those that stack on each other. These will aid in keeping the work area organized and prevent toppling. Try to keep all of your loose items in these crates. Crates can easily slide, which allows you easier access to the items inside and the product you store behind them. In addition, the fact that they stack cuts down on the amount of the floor that is occupied by objects and allows for a larger empty work area.
Keep one or two empty crates on the truck if there is space. Use them to hold expired or short-dated product that you take out of machines. This can help organize product later in the day. You can also use them to hold loose items that you want to bring into the location with you. This can even be your primary method of delivering snacks to your locations, particularly if your snack machines are low volume or you prekit your product.
Typically, a standard milk crate will hold enough product to fill machine that has generated about $70 in sales, depending on your pricing. In addition to large milk crates, it's helpful to also have plastic trays in which to place beverages. Get some that both stack well and fit snugly on top of your crates to minimize the amount of space they take.
Beverages weigh a lot and, if improperly stored, they can create an imbalance in your truck, which in turn slows the efficiency of your truck and increases the cost of gas and maintenance . It's also more dangerous to drive and, if its balanced incorrectly, you may even get a ticket. To combat this, try to keep the amount of beverages you have on each side of the truck roughly the same. If your truck doesn't allow for this, use the product you load on the floor as counterbalance on the lighter weighted side of the truck. In one of our trucks, the soda is almost all on the left side, which even with the water on the opposite side, creates a huge weight imbalance. To rectify this, when I load, I load everything on the floor on the left side.
What else to load on your truck
In addition to product make sure to have a checklist of all the extra things you'll need during the day. It sucks when you show up at a location and forget your customer's request! You may find it easy to keep this on your calendar.
There are your truck tools.
If you have dedicated baskets for your snacks, stack them close to the very back of your truck. You want to be able to easily access these, since you may use them many times a day.
Make sure there is ample space for your cart inside your truck. This should be last thing that you load. Secure it either by laying it down or attaching it with a bungie cord to the side of your truck. If you leave it laying down, make sure there is no product laying near it on the ground as this could lead to punctures. In general, try to keep any steel or pointed objects away from your beverages. Your knife should be retractable and if you use bungie cords, the hooks should point away from your product. Even a dull object can easily puncture through a nearby soda can if the back of the truck experiences enough centrifugal force.
Cold items like candy should be stored at the very least inside a cooler, depending on the season. If it's 30 degrees outside and the back of your truck is like a refrigerator, this is not necessary. The aim is to keep snacks, pastries, or other cold food items from melting or thawing. If it's hot weather, depending on how many cold food machines you have, it is good to have a dedicated refrigerator on your truck. This also allows you to keep more cold product on the truck and decreases the amount of loading you have to do each day.