Who’s looking out for delivery riders and drivers? Road safety and the gig economy

Posted: 6 August 2021 | , | No comments yet

Delivery riders and drivers have helped to keep many of us safe and sane whilst isolating and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, but who’s looking out for them? For Intelligent Transport, TRL’s Dr Neale Kinnear, Head of Transport Safety, and Victoria Pyta, Senior Psychologist – Behavioural Science and Human Factors in Transport, give their thoughts.

Who’s looking out for delivery riders and drivers?

Since the onset of COVID-19, there has been a growing army of gig-economy1 riders delivering takeaway food, as well as delivery van drivers supplying shopping and parcels. Supermarkets experienced a rapid increase in demand for grocery deliveries and hired thousands of delivery drivers between March and May 2020. Meanwhile, food delivery organisations such as Deliveroo and Just Eat have signed up tens of thousands of new drivers and riders over the last year, more than doubling their total pool. The service of these drivers and riders has supported large segments of our community with food and essential goods while doing our best to “stay at home and protect the NHS”. Sadly, the safety of these drivers and riders is being overlooked.

Even prior to 2020, the gig economy was on the rise. 2019 research conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC)2 found that the number of people participating in the gig economy had doubled over the preceding three years. The survey revealed that nearly one in 10 working-age adults were working via gig economy platforms at least once a week in 2019, compared to 1 in 20 in 2016. In total figures, this accounted for 4.7 million workers compared to 2.3 million three years earlier. The study also found an over-representation of young people – who are at higher risk on the road due to their age and inexperience – with nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) of intensive (at least once a week) platform workers aged 16-34.

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