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Drivers and couriers exposed to 'unacceptable risks' on the roads, says UCL report

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A report on gig economy drivers and couriers has uncovered a litany of risk factors that its authors say may significantly increase the risk of being involved in a crash.


Most drivers and riders - 63 per cent – that were surveyed in University College London’s (UCL) Road Safety Trust funded study are not provided with safety training on managing risks on the road.

Sixty-five per cent said that they are not given any safety equipment such as a high visibility vest and over 70 per cent resort to providing their own.

Regular near misses and collisions due to overwork and pressures to meet delivery targets were cited by contributors to the report, with over two in five (42 per cent) of drivers and riders reporting that their vehicle had been damaged due to a collision while working. A further one in ten reported that someone had been injured.

Contributory factors to crashes included lack of control over working patterns and conditions, which can lead to fatigue and pressure to violate speed limits, as well as time pressures to meet delivery targets.

One worker said that if they would get fined if they go outside “time windows” - a delivery window when the parcel will be delivered. Another courier in the report said he felt incentivised to ‘rush’ and ‘speed’ to meet deadlines.

Lack of control over working patterns and pressure to meet deadlines were cited as contributory risk factors for courier workers in UCL's report. Photograph: iStock

Dr Nicola Christie and Heather Ward (UCL Centre for Transport Studies), the report authors, said: “There is no management of these risks by the people who broker courier services. These faceless digital brokers take no responsibility for the health and safety of the people who accrue income for them.”

"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," continued Ms Ward.

The report published on 20 August makes a series of recommendations, including for collisions and near misses to be discussed so lessons can be learned and for hi-vis jackets to be provided freely to couriers.

Commenting on the findings, GMB said the government must now bring forward legislation to enhance driver and public safety.  Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: "The damning conclusions of this report back up what GMB has been saying for years –gig economy employers, particularly courier companies, are exposing delivery drivers, riders, and the general to unacceptable risks to their health and safety.”

UCL carried out 48 qualitative interviews with drivers, riders and their managers, and analysed 200 responses to an online survey taken by drivers and riders to write the report. Read the study here

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