* J.W. Callahan is the founder of the Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers.
Pizza delivery driver Barry Schrader passed away on June 22, 2002. He was 57.
The Huntsville, Ala., employee of Papa John's was brutally attacked with a baseball bat on the night of June 19, while delivering to an apartment complex. Three teens arrested for the crime were originally charged with attempted murder and robbery. Now that Schrader is dead, however, police say they will upgrade the charges to capital murder, because the teens also stole his car.
As a long-time delivery driver and founder of the Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers (APDD), I encourage all of you to take a moment not only to pray for Barry's family and colleagues, but to consider how you as an operator can rededicate yourself to safety training. Tragedies like this should drive the pizza industry to think of new and innovative ways to limit the chance such atrocities won't happen again.
* In addition to reinforcing your basic safety policies, understand that the communities to whom we deliver have a responsibility in driver safety as well. Encourage apartment complexes in your area to install security lights if they don't have them. Expecting drivers to walk into dark places to deliver a pizza presents too great a risk.
* After dark, consider providing limited delivery service, such as curbside drop-offs in questionable areas. Consult with local police about areas that you may want to avoid delivering to altogether. If crime reports are numerous enough, and police agree that an area is risky, you may have grounds to refuse delivery to the area altogether.
* Trust your drivers' instincts. Listen to them when they tell you they're fearful of a certain area or destination. Don't just shrug it off and say, "What do you want me to do?" Ask what they would do and see if you can formulate a plan that suits driver, operator and customer.
* After 10 p.m., ask drivers to check in by cell phone after each delivery. Digital radio/phones such as NEXTEL or SouthernLINC could be considered to put all of your people on an immediate-link network.
* If your drivers don't have cell phones, offer some incentive for them to get one by working out a business-to-business discount deal with a provider, or consider sharing the expense. It will benefit the operation as a whole in the long run.
* In my work as a delivery driver, I call every one of my customers while en-route. Better than half the time, they'll be there watching for me with the light on and the money ready. Often they're waiting at the bottom of the driveway and I don't even have to get out of the car.
"Please evaluate your situation and consider where it can be improved. Know that such brutality can occur anywhere and at any time."
Customers are overwhelmingly appreciative that I notify them I'm near, and often show it with very generous tips. I'm sure you can all see the productivity and customer service advantages to this, not to mention the increased safety.
* Insist that cash drop boxes be used. Often, they aren't unless the "boss" is around. Cashing out after each run is even better, if time permits.
* Install caller ID systems on phones or POS terminals. Ambush set-ups often occur at bogus or abandoned addresses, or callers give order-takers disconnected phone numbers. Don't take cell phone orders unless the phone number has a verifiable address and name through caller ID system.
* Talk frankly to your "Gucci" drivers about drawing attention to themselves. Too many unwitting drivers have learned the hard way that it doesn't always pay to look prosperous. Expensive rims on cars, booming stereos, jewelry and expensive jackets make them easy targets. Thugs are cowards by nature and they often target the unsuspecting.
Prevention still is the best medicine
There's nothing we can do to erase what happened to Barry Schrader; it appears he never had a chance. As more details of this heinous crime become available, it's likely his murderers could not have been stopped had he pulled out a concealed firearm (which many drivers say they'd like to carry), or even employed a surrender policy (which many well-intentioned operators preach.) In published reports and in Internet chat rooms, Schrader's coworkers have insisted he was a gentle type who would have given the thieves his car without a fight.
But a well-lit parking area, a request to meet the driver at the car, an address and/or caller-ID verification may have prevented it. At the very least, such initiatives place every party on notice: customers learn that delivery drivers expect them to conduct the transaction in a safe manner; and the staff at the store knows the driver's safety status.
Please evaluate your situation and consider where it can be improved. Know that such brutality can occur anywhere and at any time.
Get involved on a personal level by taking runs with your drivers. It'll go far to remind you of how these people put their lives on the line every night.
Be at peace brother Barry, you will not be forgotten. Members of the APDD, including those who knew you personally, promise to encourage all pizza professionals to pack the courtroom in Huntsville when the thugs who did this to you are sentenced.