REESEVILLE — A local company is looking to include more businesses in its employee carpool initiative.
Specialty Cheese Company, 430 N. Main St., Reeseville, has partnered with Dodge County to pilot a ride-sharing program for its employees that started in February. The program is sponsored by a grant from Easter Seals, a nonprofit that does work for people with disabilities.
The program is targeted toward people who would otherwise have difficulty getting to work in rural areas because they don’t have access to a car or don’t have a driver’s license.
“Let’s be clear; these are people who have been disadvantaged,” said Paul Scharfman, the president of Specialty Cheese.
He said the company began looking into the issue of people struggling to get to work and found that the main problem was transportation.
“At some point a few years ago, my wife and I said, ‘This is getting ugly. We can’t get people,’” he said. While looking into options, ride sharing emerged as the most feasible.
The county supported the idea, particularly as a way to ensure that people without licenses were not driving.
Scharfman envisions the expansion of the program to include other businesses as a cooperative, where businesses would pay based on their usage.
About 20 percent of the cheese company’s employees take advantage of the service, including several new employees. Workers from Beaver Dam pay $6 for a round trip, while the company also subsidizes part of the cost. The service draws workers from as far away as Watertown and Fond du Lac.
“It’s also been really helpful for our management to have this sort of fail-safe for our staff where if someone calls us and says, ‘I can’t get to work because of x, y and z reason,’” said Harley Lemkuil, the service’s program manager. “The manager says, ‘That’s not an excuse; call Harley. You can come in, you’re all good you’ll be taken care of. Call us.’”
The drivers include two Specialty Cheese employees and community members who may be of retirement age or have driven for a living. Scharfman and Lemkuil said the drivers are looking to get more miles and hours. Because of the driving schedule and responsibilities, it can be difficult for drivers to otherwise work another job.
Drivers get paid $1 per mile. They are not driving full-time. They obtain commercial driving insurance and are liable for any accidents.
Lemkuil said two interesting things that have come up in piloting the program are that employees who can drive still like to use it in the winter to avoid the ice, and that many of those who benefit are women from households with only one car.