Pressure to arrive on time leads food deliverymen to break traffic laws

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/29 18:48:39

A food deliveryman rides a motorbike down a Beijing street on August 26, 2017. Photo: IC



 Young motorcyclists in vibrant blue, red or yellow helmets matching with T-shirts or jackets weaving through traffic like stuntmen has been a common street scene in Chinese metropolises for several years.

But they are not stuntmen. They are food deliverymen who often get into traffic accidents when driving in the wrong direction down the main roads which only allow automobiles or even speeding on sidewalks.

Official statistics released by the Shanghai public security bureau showed that a total of 76 road accidents involving food deliverymen occurred in Shanghai in the first half of this year, with deliverymen from online catering platforms ele.me and Meituan Waimai accounting for 26 percent of the total, news site thepaper.cn reported Saturday.

In Shanghai alone, over 60,000 deliverymen complete 5 million deliveries every day. The huge demand for these services in city centers often results in rushing deliverymen breaking the law by running red lights, driving while on the phone or driving in the wrong direction, according to a message ele.me sent to the Global Times on Monday.

With the rapid growth of online food-ordering services in China, online catering companies now have to step up management over the safety of their staff, Wang Liang, deputy head of traffic police corps with the Shanghai public security bureau said. He noted that many deliverymen fail to follow traffic rules despite the safety training provided by their employers, thepaper.cn reported.

Shanghai police have summoned eight food-ordering companies including ele.me, waimai.baidu and McDonald's, and demanded they provide road safety training to staff, register their motorcycles, and provide deliverymen's personal information to police. 

Speed versus safety

"A bit of a prang with automobiles or other motorcycles is common for us, and one colleague of mine just had a head-on collision with an electric motorcycle the other day," a deliveryman surnamed Huo told the Global Times on Monday.

For the past year Huo has been working for an outsourcing company contracted by McDonald's, and he makes around 30 deliveries a day. According to Huo, traffic accidents usually take place during afternoon rush hours or at night when deliverymen are getting tired.

"We try to abide by traffic laws as we have to deal with the accidents by ourselves, but we also have to make sure the food is delivered within 30 minutes. Time is money for us," Huo said, adding that he is fined for being late.

Several other deliverymen interviewed by the Global Times agreed that the economic incentives and punishments around timely delivery lead them to break traffic regulations.

Traffic accidents involving delivery men have been widely covered by the domestic media.

A deliveryman working for the mobile application ele.me died after hitting a car in Shanghai on January 2, thepaper.cn reported.

In Beijing, ele.me was ordered by court to pay compensation of 157,000 yuan($23,808) to a high school student in August 2016 after one of its deliverymen hit the student, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Shenzhen police have recorded around 100,000 traffic violation cases involving electric bikes as of July this year, 33,459 of which were committed by food deliverymen. To curb this problem, Shenzhen police announced in August that deliverymen will be banned from working for online food catering services for a year if they are fined three times for breaking traffic rules, the Nanfang Daily reported.

Ele.me said that it has been paying attention to its staff members' driving. "But it's difficult to balance traffic safety with delivery punctuality, and we are trying to innovate the technology and improve the work efficiency of deliverymen," ele.me said.

The firm will launch new helmets fitted with artificial intelligence to monitor and optimize the driving behavior and routes of its deliverymen.

Training

Huo's company offers intense training for new delivery men, but it is only limited to getting familiar with the area to which one is assigned to.

Ele.me said that it cooperates with local police to provide traffic safety training, and plans to arrange three to four training sessions each week in key cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Guangzhou. 

Meanwhile, ele.me has assigned each deliveryman with an eight-digit ID number on their badge, motorcycle and food box for police and public supervision authorities. The company has also established an information platform filled with the information of Shanghai deliverymen in July, and the platform will later be established in other cities.

Zhao Zhanling, a legal counsel with the Internet Society of China, said that online catering companies should allocate more deliverymen to busy business districts and add road safety to their employee evaluation system.

"The companies should develop advanced technology to optimize their order distribution systems so that they can send the nearest deliveryman," Zhao added.

An industry regulation that will be implemented on September 1 stipulates that catering companies should provide workers with delivery vehicles, food containers and helmets, and verify the identity of deliverymen during recruitment.

Companies should conduct both online and offline training, and organize examinations on both theory and practice, according to the Specifications for Take-out Delivery Service issued by a China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Commercial Sub-council.
Newspaper headline: Too fast food


Posted in: SOCIETY

blog comments powered by Disqus