Multi-drop Driving: What are the risks?

According to Friswell and Williamson (2010), a substantial percentage of delivery drivers have reported exceeding the speed limit or parking illegally at least once a week, and one fifth of drivers omitted to wear their seatbelt at least once a week. The reasons given by drivers who engaged in these behaviours showed that time and workload pressure was the most commonly reported reason for speeding, driving through a red light and disobeying traffic signs, and was the second most common reason given for regularly parking illegally and omitting to wear a seatbelt. Illegal parking was most often attributed to a lack of parking spaces that were not appropriate for the vehicle.

Delivery drivers are also at greater risk of being involved in slow speed manoeuvring crashes when driving on residential and urban roads and having to execute dozens of parking manoeuvres a day. Driving is one of the riskiest activities undertaken during the course of a person’s work. Bomel (2004) reported that commercial vehicles were involved in 26% of all road fatalities during 2001. However, the situation appears to have since worsened according to more recent statistics. In 2018, 520 working drivers/riders and their passengers were killed together with non-working road users in collisions where at least one driver was working (DfT 2019a).

Based on their analyses of STATS19 data over an 8 year period, Ward et al (2020) estimate that 39% of killed pedestrians were hit by a driver at work at the time of the crash. This is the equivalent of over 9 deaths a month and represents about 1 in 3 road deaths, 1 in 5 seriously injured casualties and 1 in 4 casualties of all severities sustained. The statistics are not so bleak when we look at the van ‘accident rate’ (for all severities) per billion vehicle miles in 2017 however. This has fallen by 29% since 2007 and the van ‘fatal accident rate’ per billion vehicle miles reduced by 29% in the same period. Over 12,000 vans were involved in crashes in Great Britain in 2017 and there was a 17% reduction in the number of casualties since 2007, even though the number of vans on the road increased by 24% over the same period (Van Excellence, 2018-19).

Delivery Driver Stress and Workload

Vans used by package and grocery e-commerce delivery operators have a much greater mileage than the average van (Braithwaite, 2017). Average miles has been estimated at 12,900 per year as compared to 8,000 for cars (DfT, 2016e; DfT, 2016f). Parcel operators are estimated to be driving 20,000 miles to 30,000 miles per year; and grocery home delivery about 25,000 miles to 50,000 miles per year. High mileage means increased work demands for delivery drivers, mostly isolated and driving in unfamiliar locations on congested roads. Drivers could also be working in multiple roles to earn enough pay, rushing from place to place with safety motives taking a back seat (Adams-Guppy and Guppy, 1995).

Time pressures, delivery targets and irregular and long hours spent driving contributes to long-term stress. A stressed driver is prone to risk taking, driver errors, traffic violations and crash involvement (Dorn, 2021). Crash involvement is often due to in-attentional factors and distracting (Talbot et al, 2013). It is difficult to know how many crashes are caused by inattention and distraction as drivers rarely admit to being distracted at the time. However, as much as 78% of the crashes and 65% of near crashes measured via in-vehicle technology and cameras show inattention or distraction as a contributing factor (Klauer et al., 2006).

This article is an excerpt from our ‘Multi-drop Delivery Driving: What are the risks?’ white paper.