New guidelines say exhausted food delivery riders are expected to meet 'unrealistic' deadlines

Following a spate of deaths among food delivery riders, the NSW government has released draft guidelines aimed at ensuring workers in the industry are better protected.

Protestors during a delivery drivers rally.

Protestors during a delivery drivers rally. Source: AAP

The NSW government has released new guidelines designed to better protect food delivery riders after a spate of deaths on Sydney roads last year. 

A total of five delivery riders from multiple companies were killed on the job late last year across Australia, including four in Sydney. 

The draft guidelines call on delivery companies to respond to safety concerns putting delivery riders at risk of injury. 

These include the “time pressures" created by “unrealistic estimated delivery times” and concerns over "fatigue due to physical exertion’'.

Other risks identified include delivery riders using "poorly maintained and unsafe bicycles" and engaging in "unsafe riding" practices in order to protect their ratings on platforms.  

The guidelines ask delivery companies to consider apps calculate delivery times using average rider speeds and local traffic conditions .

They also call for apps to lock out delivery riders after 12 hours to prevent them working excessive hours and to ensure a minimum 10-hour period between shifts. 

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said the guidelines addressed the safety concerns being raised in the rapidly growing sector.

“We know these food delivery riders are some of our most vulnerable road users," Mr Constance said.

"We want to do everything we can to guarantee they have the proper protections in place and ensure a day at work doesn’t end in tragedy."

The draft guidelines were developed by the Gig Economy Joint Taskforce, which was established in November last year to investigate a spate of food delivery fatalities.

Two men working for Uber Eats died after collisions in late September. 

Another death occurred after a crash in November at Rockdale in Sydney's south.

A fourth man died after being hit by a truck in Redfern in November.

Advocates have consistently raised concerns over the conditions faced by workers in the industry and have repeatedly called for the gig economy to be better regulated. 

In Australia, most gig economy workers are classified as independent contractors, not as employees, meaning they are not entitled to benefits such as minimum wages, superannuation, and workers compensation.  

While some delivery companies do offer a level of cover, there is no legal requirement for businesses to do so. 

Union welcomes attention to 'safety crisis'

The NSW government's guidelines also outline concerns over food delivery riders being unfamiliar with NSW road rules and riders lacking skill or confidence operating their means of transport.

The Transport Workers Union said it supported the attention being paid to the “safety crisis” in the food delivery industry.

But the union has warned that  - without government intervention - food delivery companies could attempt to circumvent attempts to regulate the industry.

“Light touch guidelines are unlikely to pose a threat to companies who have expertly honed their ability to evade hundred-year-old workplace laws,” TWU national president Michael Kaine said.

“We need a tribunal standing guard to examine evolving work arrangements and ensure safe minimum standards for all workers."

The guidelines also recommend platforms should have stronger reporting systems and require delivery riders to report all incidents as soon as possible.

Another recommendation is to consult platforms where “excessive working hours” are suspected and agree on a strategy to reduce the working times of delivery riders.

The recommendations suggest apps should manage expectations of customers by clearly communicating expected wait times and delays.

The guidelines will go through further consultation with industry stakeholders before the NSW government plans to introduce the measures in April. 

4 min read
Published 8 February 2021 at 2:27pm
By Tom Stayner
Source: SBS