No cell, no problem

Dec. 16, 2014

Company: DeCrescente Distributing Co., Mechanicville, NY
Operation: Regional beverage distribution company

Problem:

DeCrescente Distributing Co. (DDC) started in 1948 as a family-owned business based in Mechanic­ville, NY. Today, the beverage distribution company has a fleet of about 75 company-owned vehicles, including 55 Class 8 trucks plus some smaller trucks, vans, pickups and box trucks. The DDC fleet delivers about 10 million cases of assorted beverages per year to some 2,500-3,500 customers, including restaurants, bars, grocery stores and convenience stores.

Routes are relatively static; drivers are logbook exempt and are compensated under a base pay plus incentive program.  In fact, for the past four years, the company has been named one of the best places to work in New York state and Tom Turcotte, operations manager for DDC, likes it that way. Turnover is low and DDC works hard to keep drivers safe and happy.

“We have a very strong safety focus,” Turcotte says. “We want to keep our people safe inside and outside our facility.

“Mobile phones are a part of our reality,” he notes, “and we already had strict policies concerning their use while driving.”

Solution:

“We noticed that a few instances of hard-braking were tied to cell phone use while driving,”  Turcotte says. “Hands-free use of cell phones via Bluetooth was really no better than picking up the phone when it came to safety. Even though hands-free cell phone use is still legal in New York state, we decided to block usage entirely while a vehicle is in motion. We want to keep our drivers, not have to let them go because of problems with cell phone use."

To do that, DDC turned to CellControl’s technology to block inbound and outbound calls and texting while a vehicle is in motion.  The company tested five units initially before adopting the technology.

The CellControl device, which senses motion, mounts right on the windshield. It interacts wirelessly with various smartphones—including those with Windows-based operating systems, iPhones and some others—to block all or selected functions while the vehicle is moving. It is designed to be highly tamper-proof, but employers are notified immediately if someone tries to circumvent or disable the system.

According to Turcotte, there were adjustments to be made, of course, but he says drivers found it worked well. Now they are not distracted by calls and texts while driving, and they still have plenty of time to return calls when they are at a stop.

Turcotte says the new system has not really impacted customers either, because their delivery drivers do not interact a great deal with customers between stops.  “I think most customers would say it is a plus that our drivers are safer,” he notes. “Management had to adjust some as well. The instant gratification of reaching a driver right away was gone; we had to learn to be patient.

“We are very pleased with the ROI [on this technology investment],” Turcotte continues. “Everything is tied to data in this business.

“Our people have bought into this safety culture,” he adds. “They give us ideas and feedback [about how to keep making things better.]”

A statement on the DeCrescente website sums up the vision that guides the company’s efforts to constantly improve: “In our 66th year, DDC continues to be a family business that promotes integrity, work-life balance and professional growth through our company values. We are committed to exceeding customers’ product and service expectations and to carry on our mission to be recognized as the premier company in the beverage industry.”

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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