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Reaching boiling point: high-pressure conditions for delivery drivers linked to increased risks of road accidents

  • 18.07.2022
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The COVID-19 pandemic changed the business infrastructure of many organisations, creating a physical barrier preventing potential clients from travelling to their establishment. In a time when the population was penned inside, many businesses in the food and drink industry opted to bring their products to the client’s doorstep. This model resulted in the number of delivery drivers on the road skyrocketing, in parallel to the ever-increasing number of online delivery orders.

Delivery drivers in the UK typically use two-wheeled transportation methods, including bikes, scooters and mopeds, placing them as some of the most vulnerable road users. Serious injury solicitors Potter Rees Dolan has investigated this changing road environment, using its expertise to highlight the potential risks that delivery drivers face when undertaking their high-pressure work. 

Here, we will explore how delivery drivers feel about the pressures of the job, exploring how to alleviate the causes of road accidents, and noting the ways in which road safety can be improved.

Higher pressure linked to bigger risk-taking

In 2018, University College London undertook a survey of drivers in the gig economy and their potentially heightened risk of traffic collisions. The survey looked at pressures that drivers face on a daily basis, instigated by the nature of the work - but reinforced by the organisation themselves. 

Ten per cent of riders sustain an injury

The survey’s findings highlight that the rising number of delivery riders may have coincided with an elevated number of risks faced on the road. With 42% of those surveyed noting damage to their vehicle whilst working, and ten per cent reporting an injury, there is an indication that gig riders are at more risk of being involved in an accident.

Such high rates of injuries and damage to vehicles incurred whilst working indicates that organisations need to be doing more to implement safety regulations to protect their drivers. Providing better support from the outset is vital to instil safe working practices, which would reduce the need for risk-taking and driving while tired and stressed. 

Two thirds of delivery drivers not given safety training or equipment

Such high rates of injuries and damage to vehicles incurred whilst working indicates that organisations need to be doing more to implement safety regulations to protect their drivers. Providing better support from the outset is vital to instil safe working practices, which would reduce the need for risk-taking and driving while tired and stressed. 

Many workers have time-sensitive work, so it is up to the employer to instate safeguarding initiatives to protect their employees. Despite this, 63% of those surveyed are not provided with safety training on managing the risks on the road. Furthermore, 65% said to have not been given any safety equipment, such as a hi-vis vest. The result of this is drivers having to take safety into their own hands, with 70% having to provide their own safety equipment.

The most common causes of accidents reported were: 

  • Pressure to deliver quickly
  • Being distracted by delivery-related software
  • Tiredness
  • Taking additional risks whilst on the road to ensure that food was delivered on time

Potter Rees Dolan understands that a high-pressure working environment and additional stress from needing to meet work targets can lead to impaired mental and physical output. For drivers, this means an increased risk of being involved in a road traffic accident. 

Organisations should take more responsibility

The risks of an increased delivery driver force and the need for rider protection has been called for since at least 2007, when Transport for London conducted a study into the level of support that drivers receive from hiring organisations. 

The UK Government implemented a number of laws that provide legal guidelines protecting courier and food delivery drivers, named the Courier Code. This code requires a minimum level of competence for drivers, including holding a valid licence to operate a motorised vehicle. However, when prompted, 91% of food delivery drivers were not aware of the Courier Code. A further 54% of food delivery drivers did not know whether they were signed up to the Code, and a further 26% reported not being signed up

A conclusion from the study highlights the need for greater rider safety, both in terms of the protection given to them by their hiring organisations and from awareness of this road user type by others on the road. The study, now over 15 years old, shows that this push for greater rider safety is not new - so what needs to be done to change?

Through better education, safety training and the provision of safety equipment, businesses can reduce the risk that riders face. Implementing working procedures to reduce the pressure that riders face will also benefit them greatly; this can be facilitated by opening up a dialogue involving workers, employers and the general public, to understand what is causing stress for riders, and quantify the factors that are playing the biggest role in increasing the likelihood of road incidents.

Deliveroo’s response

Following our investigation, we reached out to Deliveroo for a response. The company provided the following statement:

“We were amongst the first food delivery platforms to provide free personal accident and third-party liability insurance to all self-employed riders we work with globally. This cover is provided free of charge, and protects riders from their very first order with Deliveroo in the event of an accident or injury sustained while working. Riders are given payments for specific injuries and income support for periods when they cannot work. All riders, regardless of vehicle type, are automatically covered when they sign up.

“In September 2021, we introduced new insurance to provide riders enhanced protection in several markets. The new insurance coverage includes earnings support for riders working regularly with the company who are unwell and unable to work for more than seven days (backdated to day one).

“This insurance also supports riders who are growing their families, by adding a market-leading lump sum payment for parents to celebrate the birth of a child. This means riders can take time off to be with their new families, and feel financially supported during this exciting time. This applies to adoptions and surrogacy births too, so it is as inclusive as possible.”

Full details on the insurance support Deliveroo provides its riders can be found here.

Receiving financial compensation following a road incident

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident, you may be owed financial compensation. Our team specialises in serious and personal injuries, having helped many drivers receive the financial compensation they were due. To speak to a professional and understand the options available to you, call our team on 0800 027 2557 or get in touch by email at info@prd.uk.com.