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Blue Collar Kansas: Area delivery drivers help keep store shelves stocked
matt schaffner frito lay
Frito-Lay delivery driver Matt Schaffner stocks shelves during a delivery to Dillon’s in Great Bend Tuesday morning. Schaffner delivers products to both Dillon’s stores as well as Walmart in Great Bend. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories examining blue-collar jobs that, as “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe said, “make civilized life possible for the rest of us.” This is an inside look at “Blue Collar Kansas.”

When store shelves are fully stocked, it’s thanks to the people shoppers don’t see, and often don’t think about. But as an essential link in the supply chain, product delivery drivers are among the unsung heroes of the grocery aisle.

According to Matt Schaffner, a local route sales representative for Frito-Lay in Great Bend, much of his work is done before most are even out of bed.

As a driver for Frito-Lay, Schaffner’s role includes not only delivering the product to grocery stores and stocking the shelves, but product sales and merchandising, as well.

“I cover the whole gamut,” Schaffner said. “Essentially, I’m in charge of ordering for, and maintaining, my own small warehouse.”

In order to have products on store shelves by the time the first customers walk into the stores, his day – and the days of many who do the job – starts with him in the stores by between 1 and 4 a.m., which means an early wake-up call every day.

A typical day for drivers like Schaffner runs between 10 and 14 hours. Fifty hours a week is minimum in his role, Schaffner said, but 55-60 hour weeks are more typical, depending on what needs to be done. And it’s a job that has to be done every day, seven days a week, regardless of staffing.

“It’s hard for a lot of people to (adjust to) if they come from an hourly perspective, but we work until the job’s done,” he said.

Delivery drivers are bound by Department of Transportation regulations that mandate a minimum of 10 hours between shifts, allowing for a maximum of 14 hours per day. While his route primarily covers the two Dillon’s stores and Walmart in Great Bend, other drivers he works with in Great Bend cover territories as far as 1-2 hours away, traveling to stores as far away as Ness City, Pratt and Kiowa.

While companies such as Frito-Lay try to create routes that minimize travel time as much as possible, it is not always that simple, especially if another driver is out sick, and the deliveries still needs to be done. Sometimes it means covering stores and communities a driver may not be as familiar with.

In his job with Frito-Lay, Schaffner estimates he is responsible for putting out anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 worth of inventory on any given day. 

One thing people may not realize, Schaffner said, is how much his job depends on building and maintaining positive relationships with the store managers and employees he works with on a daily basis. Building a trust with store managers is paramount in the work he does.

“If I treat my customers stores like they’re mine, and I work them like they’re mine, I gained their trust, and I gained the ability to do my job better,” he said.

How he carries himself and how he represents the people he works for are paramount for Schaffner, who brought with him to the job two decades of experience in various ministry roles with churches around the area.

“You represent this company. Do you do so in a positive way or a negative way?” he said. “My stores reflect me. I want every manager to know the minute I walk out of that store, it’s been done to the absolute best of my ability. (I want) everything I can put on the shelf to look as attractive as I possibly can.”

It isn’t just store employees he works to maintain relationships with. When the driver is in the store stocking shelves, he sees himself as not just a representative of Frito-Lay, but as a representative of the store he’s serving, because that is how many customers see him. Being able to engage people in a positive way is a crucial part of what he does.

Being outgoing by nature and being able to have a positive impact on the people he comes in contact with each day is part of what he enjoys most about his work. 

The job definitely has physical challenges, with a lot of bending, kneeling and walking through stores. He estimates he takes 10,000 to 20,000 steps a day on average. But Schaffner said the greatest challenges to the job of a delivery driver such as himself are more mental.

Because the work begins so early each day, the trucks need to be loaded with the necessary products the day before delivery. Because of that, a delivery driver must be able to anticipate how much product a store might sell the next day. While point-of-sale technology does help, he said, it still requires being able to learn on the fly by keen observation.

A driver doesn’t want to bring so much that the store has nowhere to store it, but enough that the store has enough product to meet customer demand. “We live on a razor’s edge, of too much versus too little ... trying to find the happy medium is a lot harder.”

For a driver, that means anticipating increased sales volume around certain holidays, when stores are offering sales on certain products, or new product releases. For example, he said, sales of chips tend to be higher around outdoor summer holidays and other party-driven events.

Schaffner describes the necessary traits of a delivery driver as, “accuracy and speed and congeniality all rolled into one.”

So the next time you pick up a product off the store shelves, take a minute to remember the driver who put the product there, whose day started in the middle of the night.

If there is a blue-collar job you think deserves recognition and would like to see featured, email Daniel Kiewel at