22 Aug 18

New report finds delivery drivers to be at serious risk

Fleets that use self-employed van drivers for deliveries could face significantly higher accident risks, according to new research from a leading university.

The study found that drivers in the so-called ‘gig economy’ – working for themselves with their own vehicles on behalf of other companies – face a heightened danger of crashes.

University College London, which carried out the research, found that 63% of self-employed drivers receive no safety training on how to minimise their road risk. Moreover, 65% do not receive even the most basic safety equipment, such as a high visibility vest (as a result, 70% buy their own).

The study also surveyed taxi and ride hailing drivers and found a very similar situation, raising questions for employers about their duty of care to staff when using alternative mobility solutions.

High percentage of drivers report crashes

Overall, 42% of drivers said their vehicle had been damaged as a result of a collision while working, with a further 10% reporting that someone had been injured.

Only 25% of courier drivers said their company cared about their safety whilst working.

Heather Ward, from the UCL Centre for Transport Studies, said, “Our findings highlight that the emergence and rise in the popularity of gig work for couriers could lead to an increase in risk factors affecting the health and safety of people who work in the gig economy and other road users.

She added that as more workers enter the economy and competition rises, the number of hours they need to work and distances they have to travel to earn a stable income both increase.

Delivery time deadlines increase pressure and tiredness

Fatigue, especially among parcel couriers, due to overwork and the pressure of delivery deadlines is leading to frequent near misses and collisions

“We know this is an issue but don’t know exactly how far it extends as not all companies need to report the number of self-employed couriers they use to the government,” said Ward.

Her report recommends that companies which use self-employed couriers and taxi drivers should:

  • introduce time blocks for couriers to sign up and be paid for, rather than a drop rate. If drop rates are used, these should take into account the time taken to travel safely within the speed limit and perform administrative functions such as scanning parcels and obtaining signatures.
  • Not allow mobile phones to cause a distraction. Most of the couriers currently receive work through a smartphone app.

At the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, fleet consultant John Greenhough said, “The findings of the UCL study are worrying, considering the increasing prevalence of the gig economy, combined with the fact that around one third of all fatal and serious road traffic incidents involve someone who was at work at the time.

“This demonstrates the need, more than ever, for all employers to develop a systematic approach to managing occupational road risk that is appropriate to their business.”

Image credit: Foundry

Authored by: Jonathan Manning