By John Holl
In southern New Jersey, the Kramer Beverage Company has been in the drinks delivery business since 1924. Founded while the country was in the throes of Prohibition, it first transported wooden crates of soda. After Repeal the company began delivering beer, later adding wine and non-alcohol beverages. Having been in business for nearly 90 years the company has learned a great deal about running a successful business, embracing innovations in the field, and staying ahead of the competition. When it comes to its fleet, operations manager Jack Gant says the mindset is “fundamental driven business practices and safety initiatives.”
Gant says this includes all aspects of driver conduct from seatbelt policies, cell phone usage, training to avoid distracted driving, use of high visibility clothing, and more. Over the course of the last year the company has worked to redefine existing policy, going beyond just relying on state laws; Kramer is making safety a company policy.
First management sought input from its sister company, as well as union management, and their insurance carrier. It looked at a number of areas to target and then began looking at solutions to make the drivers safer, as well as other motorists on the road. Immediately a discussion on cellular telephones and other two-way communication devices started. In New Jersey it is illegal to text while driving, so the company worked to enforce that by making it a company policy as well. Although Federal law allows for drivers to operate a vehicle with a Bluetooth or other hands-free device, the company decided it would be a good policy to ban use of those devices by employees while on company time or in company vehicles. “This goes for the union and non union side, all the way up to the owners,” says Gant. To drive home the point, Gant worked with transportation officials and retired law enforcement, as well as using internet videos to underscore the severity of what can happen while driving distracted. Another way Kramer Beverage is working to keep fleet drivers safe is through reinforcing existing seat belt laws, again making it company policy, and working to debunk the myth that drivers wouldn’t be impacted if they were in an accident because of vehicle height. “We used national highway statistics, about deaths and commercial vehicles, and pulled more videos from YouTube—it’s been a great resource,” says Gant. The company even took the extra step in retrofitting the seatbelts on all company vehicles with reflective tape, visible from the outside of the vehicle, allowing for spot checks before trucks roll out from the warehouse.
Then there is the clothing situation. Gant says the idea for high visibility clothing actually came from their sister company, Origlio Beverage of Philadelphia, which began requiring warehouse workers to wear clothes that made them easy to spot.
Previously, drivers had been wearing dark clothing, blue or black pants and jackets, and often work around dawn or dusk. Kramer Beverage began ordering additional uniform items for workers. This includes brightly colored baseball caps, and t-shirts, along with vests similar to the kind worn by highway transportation workers. In the colder months there are knitted caps with reflective embroidering and striping, along with hooded style and plain brightly colored sweatshirts.
The visibility initiative does not stop with clothing, however. Since the company delivers to crowded areas like Atlantic City, Cherry Hill and Camden, often drivers are forced to maneuver through crowded streets and park in locations that are not always ideal spots. The company purchased 28-inch tall bright lime green traffic cones with reflective tape that drivers can request for their vehicles and that can be placed around the delivery vehicle while the driver is loading and unloading.
“It’s just another way to make sure the people around the drivers are aware they are there,” says Gant. “Safety is important to us, to all levels be it in the warehouse or on the street.”