Safety is the most important thing for takeout food couriers

By Zhou Xinyu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/6 19:18:39

I recently read in Laodong Daily about a child who was hit and killed by an electric bicycle driven by an express delivery courier. Although traffic police declared that the courier is guilty, the courier can't afford to pay any compensation to the victim's family. His company also claimed that, because the courier is not their official "employee," they are not responsible.

I sympathize with this family, and I also know that with the rise of China's takeout food industry, traffic accidents caused by electric bicycles are also increasing. According to Laodong Daily, in January of 2017, a delivery boy on an electric bicycle was hit and killed by a car. In June of that same year, another courier on an electric bicycle seriously injured a man.

Why are such avoidable tragedies so common in China? In my opinion, the Chinese takeout industry has a very low entry barrier for its couriers, such as having no requirements for their educational background or work experience.

In order to ensure the efficiency of their deliveries and the praise of their customers, couriers oftentimes break local driving rules. On the Meituan food delivery platform, a courier can earn around 5 yuan ($0.78) per delivery; but if a courier receives a negative review from a customer (for being late), he will be deducted 50 yuan, China Youth Daily reported in February.

During peak periods such as lunch and dinner time, these couriers become quite busy. Many drive dangerously during these hours, riding on sidewalks or running red lights, just to get customers their meals on time.

I have met a situation when my takeout food was delayed. I was very hungry, so I made several calls to the food delivery platform. When my meal arrived, it was cold. At that time, I wanted to give a negative review to the courier. But when he apologized to me, I didn't have the heart to blame him.

While many couriers tend to risk their lives to send food to customers as fast as possible, what insurance do they have if they are injured? Unfortunately, many couriers are not insured. Most ride e-bikes that belong to the non-motor vehicle classification. Although there is vehicle insurance for non-motor vehicles, few drivers can afford it.

More importantly, there is no legal labor relationship between many food delivery platforms and their couriers. If couriers are injured on the job, their companies have no responsibility to pay for them (or their victims). As many couriers are not from well-off families, high medical fees and compensation overwhelm them.

A courier surnamed Song was hurt by a car in September of 2017. But the food delivery platform he worked for was not willing to help with his medical expenses, reported in September 2017.

The good news is that, in 2017, Shanghai's transportation management department suggested that takeout enterprises be responsible for the safety of their drivers.

One takeout company also implemented management measures in 2017 for "couriers with one electric bicycle, one ID" and offered rewards for people who report traffic violations of their drivers. In just three weeks, the accident rate of their couriers dropped from 25.7 percent to 7 percent, according to a report published on People's Daily Online in September 2017.

In addition to the efforts of the government, takeout companies need to be more responsible for couriers' safety, such as teaching them basic traffic safety. Couriers also must obey traffic laws and sign a formal labor contract with takeout companies.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Illustration:Lu Ting/GT



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