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Delivery drivers covering the ecommerce last mile under pressure amid rising workloads and staff shortages STUDY

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Delivery drivers covering the ecommerce last mile in the UK are under increasing pressure amid rising workloads and shortages, a new study suggests.  

UK drivers drop off 10 parcels an hour – or one every six minutes, on average, while 63% report that their delivery volume has risen over the last five years, a new study from smart data capture specialist Scandit suggests. 

Its Global Delivery Insight – Driver Views from the Last Mile report looks at the state of the parcel and post industry through the responses of more than 1,200 delivery drivers from 11 countries, including the UK, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Japan, the US, Australia, and India.

In the UK it found 68% of drivers say they now have to deliver to different kinds of drop-off points, with 67% saying they are now expected to work faster and 65% reporting an increase in new tasks such as doorstep identity verification.

“Our research has uncovered a workforce stretched to its limits,” says Samuel Mueller, chief executive and co-founder of Scandit. “As delivery companies have innovated and diversified their offerings to meet consumer demand, drivers on the frontline are feeling the pressure of changing roles, increased parcel volumes and high expectations of speedy delivery.”

Staffing shortages

The growing workload is further intensified by staff shortages and retention challenges. Half (50%) of respondents around the world said staff shortages had increased during the last five years. Most (67%) stated they had changed jobs within the last two years – 42% of these within the last year. Many of these job changes are within the industry itself – 68% previously had a job in delivery. The research also revealed that 37% juggle delivery with another job – with 7% holding down two or more jobs – and some respondents having seven different roles. This was most notable in the UK, where 41% of drivers identified as gig workers, compared to an 18% average across the rest of Europe.

However, 88% of drivers would recommend their current employer – suggesting that the industry continues to appeal to its workers. More than a quarter (29%) of those with more than one role work in administration, 23% work in creative or IT industries and 18% also work in skilled trades such as plumbing and building.

The research showed a 49% / 51% split globally between contracted and gig economy/short-term workers. Regardless of their employment status, delivery drivers are looking for five main attributes from their employer. Salary and benefits are the main draw for 43% and 27% respectively, with work-life balance also a major factor (40%). Almost a third (32%) will choose a new employer over another based on brand reputation. More than a quarter (26%) take a role in delivery based on the type of technology they are given in order to complete their jobs.

“The delivery industry needs a flexible workforce, significant parts of which are often employed on a gig economy or part-time basis, in order to manage unscheduled or unexpected peaks in demand,” says Mueller. “But this workforce is well-versed in the industry, and will actively seek out not only a strong package of salary and benefits, but also flexible working patterns, a company with a strong brand reputation, and crucially the provision of high-performance technology in order to complete their demanding roles.”

Around the world, the study found, most (82%) drivers use a smartphone to complete their delivery tasks, including providing proof-of-delivery at the door, age or ID verification, finding parcels at the kerbside and connecting with customers and head office during a shift. Some 16% of delivery drivers rely on a dedicated scanning device and 2% don’t use a device to track deliveries at all. In the UK the use of dedicated devices is more widespread, with 21% of respondents using them as opposed to the 76% who use a smartphone.

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