Getting product from point A to point B is one of the major functions of a beverage distributor and beverage hand trucks and carts are the essential workhorse of the delivery operation. Equipment manufacturers are now addressing the unique needs of delivery drivers with a primary focus on safety, ergonomics and durability.
The traditional two-wheel hand truck has evolved into more innovative units like Benko Product’s Erg-O-Cart, an ergonomic, self-lifting beverage cart, as well as units designed specifically for keg beer delivery, such as the The Kegavator, a keg lifting and handling unit for delivery trucks.
At the same time, beverage distributors and equipment manufacturers are working together to create improved alternative delivery systems based on units like Magline/Swift Water Logistics’ CooLift delivery system as well as bulk cart delivery systems.
“For years, the approach from hand truck equipment manufacturers has been, ‘here it is, take it or leave it.’ Now what we’ve been able to do is go out and work with end users, the route drivers, and really develop products to meet their needs,” says Scott Dunlop, national marketing manager at B&P Manufacturing, which designs and manufactures a comprehensive line of delivery equipment.
The company’s new proprietary “can’t go flat” wheels were designed to reduce costly downtime caused by flat tires as well as reducing the weight the delivery driver has to move as the wheels are lighter, more durable and are also non-marking so as not to leave scuff marks, says Keith Merchant, president of B&P Manufacturing.
The company also specializes in ergonomic handle shape and design as well as developing new lighter-weight frame designs. In the area of ergonomic enhancements, the company also improved its hand truck stair climbers to make it easier for delivery drivers to haul product up and down stairs.
When Jim Wilson, vice president of Fleet/MEM at Brandon, Miss.-based beverage distributor Brown Bottling Group, started looking for a better route delivery system a few years ago, he wanted a system that would cut costs and improve safety. Brown Bottling ultimately chose the Magline CooLift Delivery System and has converted about 50 percent of its route to the system, which included converting from side-load bay trucks to end-load trailers.
“It’s going to cut our costs over the long run as we go forward,” says Wilson. “With the conversion to trailers, that’s a significant amount of savings and it cuts the time in half. And the delivery drivers love the CooLift’s ability to go into more coolers, the maneuverability of the hand truck itself.”
The Magline CooLift Delivery System is receiving a lot of buzz for its state-of-the-art hand truck design that combines six wheels, a lightweight aluminum frame and integrated plastic half pallets with a hydraulic lift. The CooLift’s six wheels allow for 360-degree maneuverability in store aisles and the system’s half pallets allow drivers to get the compact CooLift through narrow entryways. And, as part of the system, delivery orders are built directly onto a pallet and then loaded into trailers using traditional forklifts with a special pallet adapter.
“CooLift is a delivery solution that allows you to move three times the amount of product in one trip compared to a traditional two-wheel hand truck,” says Greg Ecker, executive vice president, Magline Inc. “Since the product gets built onto the pallet in the warehouse, the delivery driver is able to move a lot more product into a direct-store delivery than with a traditional side-bay delivery truck as he hasn’t touched a product until he literally gets it to its final destination, whether it’s an end cap display or a cooler.”
Pepsi Bottling Ventures uses Magline hand trucks for deliveries and added 35 CooLift jacks and 2,400 CooLift pallets for its Raleigh, N.C. facility back in 2010. In the past two years, the company has seen a reduction in delivery times, more cases per delivery and more stops per day, according to James Darnell, director of logistics for PBV. And the company recently purchased another 45 CooLift jacks and 2,600 more pallets for its Winston Salem, N.C. location.
Besides the operational efficiencies realized, Darnell says the CooLift system also increases workplace safety and driver retention while helping to reduce workers compensation claims.
“What our guys are seeing with this half pallet is that it’s a career extender; they can do their job longer, better and more efficiently,” Darnell says. “Previously, a lot of our worker comp injuries were related to working on the side of the side bay trucks—slips, falls, sprains, trips—and with the CooLift system you go to the rear of the truck so we’ve seen a real reduction in those injuries.”
Ecker also notes that the CooLift system is well-received by distributors’ retail customers as it gets delivery drivers in and out of the store faster and since the pallets are built in the warehouse, the orders are often more accurate and the product is less likely to be damaged.
B&P Manufacturing offers a bulk delivery system that also enables carts to be loaded in the warehouse, put on a trailer and then delivered to stores. According to Dunlop, one cart carries approximately five to seven hand truck loads, creating less strain and fatigue on drivers.
Benko Products focused on the simple idea of allowing delivery drivers to carry more product from the truck to the store with less effort with the design of its Erg-O-Cart unit. The Erg-O-Cart was developed to eliminate delivery drivers’ back bending when delivering kegs and cases of beer. The Erg-O-Cart has a retractable lift plate that enables delivery drivers to load and unload kegs and cases at waist level while in a standing position rather than bending down, says Russ Monchein, sales manager at Benko Products.
“We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from beer distributor owners who have paid out for back injuries in the past. They know that with saving one back injury, you could buy 1,000 of these carts,” Monchein says.
The company is currently working to offer another cart model with a narrower width in response to the needs of beer distributors who contend with tight spaces and narrow aisles when making deliveries.