The pressures that come with being a self-employed courier or taxi driver may significantly increase the risk of being involved in a collision, a new study finds.

Research by University College London (UCL) found that over two in five (42%) of drivers and riders who receive their jobs via apps reported that their vehicle had been damaged as a result of a collision while working. A further one in ten reported that someone had been injured.

Tired and distracted

Mobile phone use and tiredness were cited as top risks by couriers. Most reported receiving work through an app which played a noise at intervals to alert them to a job with a fixed time window in which to accept.

Parcel couriers, meanwhile, said that overwork and the intense pressure of self-employed parcel delivery led to regular near misses and collisions.

Pressure to speed

They said that they are more likely to take risks such as speeding to save time. One said: “You must stay within your time windows. The customer gets a delivery window when the parcel will be delivered. If you go out of those windows, you get fined for it.”

Almost two-thirds of those surveyed are not provided with safety training on managing risks on the road. Even more reported that they are not given any safety equipment. This includes a high visibility vest, with over 70% providing their own.

The research draws on 200 responses to an online survey by drivers and riders, as well as 48 in-depth interviews.

Health and safety at risk

“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,” report co-author Heather Ward said.

“As more workers enter the economy and competition rises, the number of hours they need to work and distances they must travel to earn a stable income both increase,” she added. “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.”

The UCL report makes several recommendations for those companies using self-employed couriers and taxi drivers. This details ways designed to limit the pressure drivers and riders are under.

These include introducing time blocks for couriers to sign up and be paid for, rather than a drop rate. If used, drop rates should take into account the time taken to travel safely within the speed limit. And to perform administrative functions such as scanning parcels and obtaining signatures.

Contractor Legal Protection - Just £30.00