Delivery driver safety begins before driver ever leaves the store

2009 July: Safety FirstIn the time between when the pizza leaves the parlor and the delivery driver returns to the store, any number of mishaps can occur. While millions of pizzas are delivered safely in the United States everyday, a prepared parlor is less likely to run into the types of trouble that can plague delivery drivers. Let’s face it: your drivers are easy targets for crime. They are unarmed, they come to the house and they carry cash. In Rochester, New York, there were two separate incidents last October where delivery drivers were shot after being robbed at gunpoint. But robbery is not the only danger drivers face. Because they spend so much time on the roads, pizza delivery drivers are at increased risk of encountering speeding motorists, slick driving conditions and other dangers of the road. In fact, over the years there have been quite a few deaths and injuries that have been blamed on speeding delivery drivers.

Still, the job itself does not have to be high risk, says Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications at Domino’s Pizza, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “This is not an inherently dangerous job,” says McIntyre, citing the more than one million pizzas Domino’s alone delivers daily to households across the United States. “The vast majority of those deliveries are made without incident.”

But Domino’s takes few chances, says McIntyre. For starters, a driver must be older than 18 (with at least two years of driving experience), have no speeding tickets and no “at fault” accidents to be eligible for employment as a Domino’s driver. “You need a better record to drive for Domino’s than to drive a police car in 37 states,” claims McIntyre. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Domino’s had a 30-minute or less guarantee, something they have since done away with to avoid lawsuits alleging that the guarantee caused accidents due to excessive speed. Domino’s is careful to keep their delivery radius small, says McIntyre. When a new franchise opens, the delivery radius is only considered to be the spots a driver can reach within nine minutes during rush hour traffic. In some areas, this can mean only two or three miles, but it is worth it in terms of safety, McIntyre says.

Most franchises hire people from the neighborhood, says McIntyre, a tactic Roman Lysanyuk, owner of All Seasons Pizza in Oklahoma City, also employs. “People from the area know the area,” says Lysanyuk. This helps cut down on the potential to get lost. Some drivers have GPS systems and most parlors keep a large map of the city, along with Internet mapping technology.

“Our driver does not get lost,” says Lysanyuk. Safety of the drivers is his number one priority, says Lysanyuk. In order to ensure that, his drivers keep as little money on hand as possible, something Domino’s also advertises. “Our drivers only carry $20 to make change with,” says McIntyre. After each delivery, the driver goes back to home base and leaves his or her money in a locked box. As one of the big three pizza chains in the country, Domino’s is always competing with local parlors as well as Papa John’s and Pizza Hut. Though neither Papa John’s or Pizza Hut were willing to talk about their safety measures, McIntyre says the big three are not competitors when it comes to safety –– and many of the tactics employed by Domino’s are the same as the ones used by their competitors.

Keeping as little money on hand as possible –– and advertising that fact –– is a recommendation of Police Sergeant Officer Mark Baudrault, of the Rochester, New York, police department. The two delivery drivers who were shot in Rochester have made the police department and local parlors work together. Officer Baudrault’s department also recommends keeping in touch with the local police department in order to keep a list of properties that are vacant or unused throughout the city. “A lot of the robberies are set ups at vacant buildings,” says Baudrault, whose department also recommends traveling in pairs when possible and not getting out of the car when the lights are off.

“We tell all of our customers to leave their porch light on,” says McIntyre. “But we also tell all of our employees to trust their instinct. If no one is home, they leave. We would much rather a customer be angry with us than our driver get hurt.”

At DiRosato’s Pizza and Pasta in Rochester, safety has been the number one concern since one of their 10 drivers was robbed at gunpoint and shot last October during a delivery, says owner Lou DiMarco. The driver is still recovering and the after-effect has been sobering for delivery parlors in Rochester, he says. “Now we have all of our drivers call the people back and confirm all orders,” says DiMarco. Additionally, they work with the local police department and report anything that seems out of the ordinary. When a crime is committed against one parlor, it affects everyone, McIntyre says. He adds that Domino’s is also in touch with local authorities in Rochester and all over the country. “If something is suspicious, we do not hesitate to call the police,” McIntyre says. “Safety is our priority.” ?

When the Weather Outside is Frightful...

Most pizza parlors have their busiest nights when people least want to cook—those nights where snow, sleet, rain and ice make the roads treacherous and the driving difficult. “If people don’t want to go out, they want us to go out,” says Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s Pizza. In order to handle inclement weather, most pizzerias employ several tactics to keep their drivers safe:

• Warn customers that delivery time may be increased; sometimes it may take even twice as long. This allows the driver plenty of time to arrive.

• Be prepared. Stay on top of local forecasts and hire extra drivers for the nights that will be particularly treacherous.

• Be willing to suspend delivery, if necessary. “If the local authorities say stay off the roads, then we do,” says McIntyre. There is an upshot to delivering in poor weather — and that is the tips. “Our drivers always report better tips on the worst nights,” McIntyre says. “Customers seem to appreciate that we made the effort.”

Sasha Brown-Worsham is a freelance writer in Somerville, Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications.

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