Gig economy workers `at higher risk of crashing´

Uber drivers and Amazon couriers may be at a significantly higher risk of crashing due to the demands of gig economy work, a study suggests.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) found nearly half (42%) of drivers who pick up work through apps damaged their vehicle in a collision at work.

Nearly 47% admitted breaking the speed limit because of “time pressure” in their job.

The study drew on survey responses from 200 gig economy drivers or riders – including couriers who deliver food or parcels and taxi drivers – along with 48 in-depth interviews.

One in 10 respondents said someone had been injured as a result of their crash at work.

An anonymous participant told researchers: “You must stay within your time windows.

“The customer gets a delivery window when the parcel will be delivered and if you go out of those windows, you get fined for it.”

Uber drivers accept bookings through their smartphones, which then sets the route to their destination, while couriers for Amazon Flex have their deliveries set on an app.

Both companies have been contacted for comment.

Apps distracted around 40% of gig economy workers when they were behind the wheel, the study found, while 30% admitted running a red light.

The majority of drivers (67%) said their company did not suggest rest breaks or give advice about phone use while driving.

Most respondents (63%) reported that they had not received safety training on managing the risks of the road, the report found.

Report author Heather Ward said: “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.

“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.”

It is unclear how many drivers work in the gig economy, but Uber has previously confirmed it has around 40,000 drivers in London alone.

The report recommended safety improvements including a pay rate based on time worked and not in relation to the number of passengers or packages.

Such a move would help “depressurise the work”, the study said.

Mick Rix, national officer at the GMB union, 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.

“GMB calls on the Government to bring forward legislation to enhances driver and public safety – the same laws which exist for those working in the more traditional employment models.”

An Uber spokesman said: “Uber’s new leadership has made safety our top priority. We have and will continue to make changes designed to ensure drivers and couriers feel safe and supported on every moment of their journey.”

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