Providence, Rhode Island-based United Natural Foods Inc. has announced that its Warehouse to Wheels program has grown by more than 300 percent over the past two years and is available to employees at a majority of UNFI’s 56 distribution centers.
Originally developed at a single distribution center to help combat a driver shortage, the program is now offered to eligible distribution center employees interested in obtaining the training necessary to receive their Class A CDL license while being employed by UNFI. Workers completing the 12-week program become full-time UNFI truck drivers with assigned routes and opportunities to earn higher wages and annual safe driving bonuses.
The Warehouse to Wheels program is an example of how the company is supporting its frontline employees, eliminating financial barriers or time constraints to allow them to pursue career advancement, and making it easy to learn the skills and earn the certifications needed to become a fully licensed truck driver. For UNFI, the program aids its open driver recruitment efforts while helping to create a pipeline of skilled drivers.
According to the American Trucking Association, the trucking industry is short about 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.
“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.
“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.”
Among the graduates of the Warehouse to Wheels Program is Dillon Farmer, who started with UNFI as a loader at the company’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. 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,” Farmer said.
The Warehouse to Wheels program is expected to help fill about 10-15 percent of UNFI’s annual truck driver needs. For external drivers interested as a career opportunity, visit unfi.com/careers-drive-unfi.