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Foodservice distributors are facing tough times as freight, fuel and labor costs continue to rise. These issues could be exasperated by the expected continuation of record-low unemployment in the United States, reports the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). To combat these changes, foodservice distributors are streamlining their business in a way that jan/san distributors could potentially mimic as they respond to their own rising employment and shipping costs.

Foodservice distributors, a cohort that the Wall Street Journal says is particularly vulnerable to the pitfalls of a tight labor market, are battling rising delivery and logistics costs by altering the way they ship. Some have decided to deliver with smaller trucks when rig loads are large. Some are also tightening up the efficiency of packing, while shortening delivery routes. Uber Technologies Inc., San Fransisco, has also been commissioned to help foodservice distributors by using its technology to match cargo with empty, available trucks.

Shipping costs isn’t the only facet of the foodservice distribution business that’s causing headaches. Distributors are also fighting to keep employees as e-commerce companies continuously offer open positions for truck driving and warehouse labor. Drivers are especially hard to keep because so many are either at a more advanced age or looking for work in a more lucrative industry.

Foodservice distributors are finding they now need to pay employees more in order to keep them. The Wall Street Journal reports U.S. Foods, Rosemont, Illinois, has began paying entry-level drivers and warehouse employees several more dollars an hour.

Foodservice distributors are also making jobs more appealing by altering the job description. These changes include limiting crosstown routes and nightshifts for drivers.

A reduction of the age requirement for an interstate commercial trucker’s license from 21 to 18 is being asked of Congress by the foodservice distribution industry in an effort to find more employees.

Customers are also helping to make life easier for distributors in foodservice. Texas Roadhouse Corp., Louisville, Kentucky, is asking its distributor to make deliveries bigger, but less frequent after servicing troubles arouse earlier in the year.

While there are obvious differences between foodservice distributors and jan/san distributors, some could be learned from the changes in the former industry. Keeping up with what the others are doing might prove more useful than hoping the issue goes away.