UNFI's truck driver program Warehouse to Wheels gains traction

The in-house paid training program helps UNFI associates fulfill career advancement while building a pipeline of future truck drivers.
Dillon Farmer is a graduate of UNFI's Warehouse to Wheels program. / Photo courtesy: UNFI

United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) is gaining traction with its Warehouse to Wheels program, with growth increasing by more than 300% over the past two years, the Providence, Rhode Island-based wholesaler said this week.

Originally developed at one distribution center to help combat a driver shortage as part of the wholesaler’s Fuel the Future strategy, UNFI’s Warehouse to Wheels program is now available to associates at a majority of UNFI’s 56 distribution centers.

UNFI truck drivers manage the nearly 16 billion pounds of food the wholesaler delivers each year. The Warehouse to Wheels program is expected to help fill approximately 10-15% of UNFI’s annual truck driver needs.

“In many ways, drivers are the face of our company, and we rely on them every day to deliver the widest variety of products to over 30,000 customer locations,” said Mark Bushway, UNFI’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, in a statement. “Today, more than ever, traditional career paths are being challenged and the Warehouse to Wheels program offers associates a unique opportunity for career growth while creating stability for our operations and within our supply chain.”

According to the American Trucking Association, the trucking industry is short approximately 78,000 drivers and based on current driver demographic trends, as well as projected growth in freight demand, the shortage could swell to more than 160,000 over the next decade.

Looking to offer associates more opportunity, UNFI said workers can receive training necessary to receive their Class A CDL license while being employed by UNFI. Associates who complete the 12-week program become full-time UNFI truck drivers with assigned routes and opportunities to earn higher wages and annual safe driving bonuses, UNFI said in a statement.

Among the graduates of the Warehouse to Wheels Program is Dillon Farmer, who started with UNFI as a loader at the UNFI’s Hudson Valley, New York, distribution center in 2018.

“I took my role as a loader seriously as I knew how important it was to ensure each trailer was loaded properly and in a timely manner for our drivers,” Farmer said in a statement. “As my family grew and I looked to take the next step in my career, driving for UNFI was the perfect option. Participating in the Warehouse to Wheels program helped make it all happen and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.”

Earlier this month, UNFI reported that net sales for the first quarter of the company's fiscal 2023 increased, primarily driven by inflation and new business. Net sales for the wholesaler's fiscal first quarter, which ended Oct. 29, were up 7.6% year over year, to $7.5 billion, UNFI reported.

UNFI supplies fresh, branded and private-label products to more than 30,000 locations throughout North America, including independent retailers, supermarket chains, natural grocers, e-commerce companies and more.



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