A day in the life of a newspaper truck driver

Around 9 a.m. every Wednesday morning a 26-foot box truck from the printer backs up to a storage garage behind The Lakeville Journal’s office in Falls Village to unload copies of the week’s Lakeville Journal and Millerton News.

Between then and about 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, it’s up to the Journal’s own drivers — Adam Williams, Brian Murphy and me, Geoffrey Olans, — to deliver these new papers to six realtors, 18 post offices, and 46 retail outlets within a 30-mile radius of the office.

To accomplish this feat, we travel about 260 miles through 28 towns and villages in three states in our white 2016 four-cylinder Ford Transit Connect van. Our itinerary takes us as far north as Great Barrington, Massachusetts; as far south as South Kent, Connecticut, as far east as New Hartford, Connecticut; and as far west as Millbrook, New York.

Over the two days we schedule our deliveries into three “runs.” Each run is a circuit, beginning and ending at the office. There are two runs on Wednesday and one on Thursday. Each day we work in teams of two. Adam and I work together on Wednesday. Brian and I work together on Thursday.

Wednesday is the more arduous of the days. There’s more to unload and load, more to organize and arrange. Along with an additional run, there are almost twice as many stops to make, six times more papers to deliver, and more than three times as many plastic containers to drop off.

While the van’s drivers support each other in many ways, once we’re en route, each has their primary role. It’s the job of the person behind the wheel (usually Adam or Brian) to get the van safely to the next designated delivery stop; it’s up to his companion (usually me) to manage the paperwork and function as the company’s representative.

A small family store in an outlying area might receive only 5 copies. On the other hand, a high-traffic account in a nearby area, like the La Bonne’s supermarket in Salisbury, might get over 125 copies.

At post offices we drop off the plastic containers (or “tubs” as post offices refer to them), usually leaving them on a loading dock. The size and shape of file folder boxes, they contain newspapers destined for our newspaper subscribers, some of whom live as far away as New York City, Albany and Hartford. Typically, we’ll drop off two to four containers at a single post office location; however, in the case of the Lakeville Post Office, the Falls Village Post Office and the Millerton Post Office, we drop off between six and nine! At the beginning of our Wednesday runs we cram 18 or more of these containers in the van, giving us very little rearview visibility until our first post office stop.

We deliver to many more retail accounts than we do to post offices. For every one of our stops at post offices we stop at 2.5 retail accounts. At these establishments (e.g., convenience stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, small grocery stores, delis, cafés and restaurants) we bring in bundles of new papers and carry out old unsold papers, using the difference in number to calculate how much money the client owes us that week. We present an invoice for this amount, initialed by the preparer, to the account’s cashier or manager for their signature and payment. Our work is concluded when we’ve entered the number of newspaper “returns” for that client that week into a logbook (which gets passed on to the Accounting Department).

For me, the highlight is the warm, tasty, cream cheese-slathered bagel I get at On the Run Coffee Shop.

Most accounts receive either The Lakeville Journal or The Millerton News. However, almost a quarter receive both papers. Dual-paper accounts tend to be in areas in or near Millerton and Lakeville. The quantity of papers we deliver to any account varies considerably.

A small family store in an outlying area might receive only five copies. On the other hand, a high-traffic account in a nearby area, like the LaBonne’s supermarket in Salisbury, might get over 125 copies.

On Wednesday our first port of call is Sharon. There we stop at Sharon Post Office, Sharon Pharmacy, J.P. Gifford, Sharon Package Store and XtraMart. At the pharmacy the challenge is to get in and out of the tight vestibule where the newspaper rack is located before a customer tries to. At the wine and liquor store the trick is to get in and out before Kirsten melts us with her sweet charm and Dylan completes his thoroughgoing analysis of the New York Jets’ prospects for the next NFL football season!

After Sharon we proceed to Lakeville. For me, the highlight there — and of the Wednesday morning run in general — is the warm, tasty, cream cheese-slathered bagel I get at On the Run Coffee Shop. I’ve had many bagels but this one hits the spot like no other.

After I’ve inserted the new Lakeville Journals into the wall rack near the door and given Suzanne, the cashier, the count of returns, I order “the usual.” There’s no need to say another word. In about ten or 15 minutes, after Adam and I have delivered papers at the Patco service station/convenience store across the street, I’m back to pick it up. This pattern has become so ingrained that the other day Rita, one of the food preparers at the café, was waiting for me on the On the Run doorstep with a grin on her face and my bagel and a napkin in her hand.

A quarter of the way into our second run on Wednesday, when we’ve completed all our deliveries in Millerton, Adam and I switch roles and I take the wheel. The first thing I do is pull the seat forward, adjust the mirrors and put on a podcast. I’ll usually give Adam a couple of options and let him choose.

If the podcast is a bust we’ll discard it and try something else. A lot of times we’ll pause the podcast to discuss a key point.

If the podcast is a bust we’ll discard it and try something else. A lot of times we’ll pause the podcast to discuss a key point. It’s amazing how quickly the afternoon whizzes by when we are engrossed in a good podcast! Two of our favorites are “The Ezra Klein Show” and “The Gray Area” with Sean Illing.

We recently reorganized the Wednesday runs so that we get to high-volume accounts like LaBonne’s in Salisbury, Stop & Shop in North Canaan, and Freshtown in Amenia earlier in the day. With the harder work out of the way, by the time we finish with the Salt Point Market in Millbrook we can pretty much coast. By the time we are finished with the Pine Plains Pharmacy I can pretty much close my eyes.

Next: Thursday’s run.

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