TL;DR – We can all show a little more empathy.
A recent piece of news carried an article about a collision between a 54-year old delivery rider on a power-assisted bicycle and a lorry along Punggol Walk. The GrabFood delivery rider was seen lying on the road outside of what appeared to be a carpark exit, the news article implying that this was the spot of the collision. While he was taken to the hospital conscious, he sadly passed away from his injuries later.
Just three months ago in April, the tragic news of delivery rider Jason Tan, who was involved in a traffic accident with another van and motorcycle made headlines. The 24-year old had gone to work on a Saturday hoping to earn more delivery incentives as he and his newly-wed wife of a month were expecting their first child. The young couple was also planning for a honeymoon. His death left his wife and parents reportedly distraught and inconsolable.
There were similar accidents in 2021. 42-year old delivery rider Simon Teo was hit by a driver who had been drinking and tragically passed away. He left behind a wife and an eight year old daughter.
Another incident left Mohammed Ali, a young GrabFood delivery rider who was just out of ITE, sustaining multiple injuries and having to remove part of his skull to release pressure and relieve blood clots in the brain. The medical bills from his craniectomy and hospital stay amounted to 6 figures and he is said to have to go through the long-lasting effects from the accident.
Too many accidents.
“Sometimes people think we (delivery riders) can be very fast, so we always get scolded.”
As customers, we can all be more understanding. We spoke with J*, a GrabFood delivery rider in his 20s, who shed some light on customers’ expectations of them:
“Sometimes people think we can be very fast, so we always get scolded. (I’m) used to it already. Most of my (rider) friends who are always on the road have gotten into accidents before! Some big, some small. It is nothing surprising.”
He adds, “A lot of my friends in this job are not planning for retirement. I want a stable job as I need my CPF to get a house one day in the future, I hope to move on to the healthcare sector.” J’s opinions are reflective of the issues that riders grapple with being at the mercy of customers and delivery platforms and also not having proper benefits.
However, there have been heartwarming moments for him on the job as well, “Once a customer shared his food with me after realising that I haven’t eaten. I was very touched.”
These riders are at the frontline of the food delivery industry who brave rain or shine to deliver food to us, we have to question if we have accorded them the respect they deserve.
Delivery riders need better protection.
MOM reported that in 2020 there were a total of 11,300 car and light goods vehicles drivers (including food delivery riders). The number has likely increased significantly due to the increase in demand during the pandemic. The ever-growing numbers represent a huge opportunity to engage this segment of workers to better ensure their protection and safety.
As freelancers, delivery riders typically do not enjoy the same type of benefits as salaried employees. Having leave, medical days off or better career prospects are not offered to delivery riders, with many of them having to contend with rude customers and vendors, unpredictable weather conditions as well as safety issues on the roads. Food delivery platforms have just only enhanced insurance coverage for this group of workers. But going beyond insurance, a multi-prong approach has to be adopted to address issues these workers face.
The National Delivery Champions Association (NDCA), formed at the end of 2020, represents freelancers whose main source of income are from food/package delivery, regardless of the mode of transport. The NDCA aims to address income stability for riders as well as safety on the road and works closely with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to uplift these workers.
NTUC representative and advisor to the NDCA Yeo Wan Ling shared about the recent NDCA Ride Safe For My Family event and shed light on the predicaments faced by delivery riders:
“These workers’ journeys on the road can be precarious and they are vulnerable to skids and falls especially in wet weather or when they rush to meet delivery timings.”
At the event where riders attended to pick up safety tips and learn more about vehicle maintenance, she urged fellow stakeholders to join NDCA’s efforts to create safer work conditions for delivery riders. NDCA is working hard to champion the interest of delivery riders. Hopefully, there can be more tangible shifts in safety and income stability for riders as food delivery continues to grow as a viable freelance option.
*full name redacted