31 August 2018

The pressures that come with being a self-employed courier or taxi driver in the UK’s burgeoning gig economy may significantly increase the risk of being involved in a road accident.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) claim that drivers and riders are at heightened risk of traffic collisions partly because of increased competition.

With more workers joining the gig economy, the number of hours that individuals need to work and the distances they need to travel in order to generate a stable income both increase.

Dr Nicola Christie and Heather Ward of UCL’s Centre for Transport Studies carried out 48 qualitative in-depth interviews with drivers, riders and their managers, and analysed 200 responses to an online survey taken by drivers and riders.

Participants included self-employed couriers delivering parcels and food, and self-employed taxi drivers who receive jobs via apps.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents claimed they were not given any road-related safety training, with 65% saying they were not given any safety equipment (such as high visibility vests).

Vehicle damage sustained in a collision while working was reported by 42% of drivers and riders, with a further 10% reporting that someone had been injured (of which 8% had been hurt themselves).

The report (“The emerging issues for management of occupational road risk in a changing economy: A survey of gig economy drivers, riders and their managers” – available at https://bit.ly/2LiReZK) includes a list of recommendations for companies using self-employed couriers and taxi drivers to limit the pressure put on them.

Commenting on the findings, Mick Rix of the GMB union said that it backs up the union’s view that gig economy employers – particularly courier companies – are exposing delivery drivers, riders, and the general public to unacceptable risks to their health and safety.