How can takeout delivery riders slow down?

7 min read 

Recently, a figure shows that in Shanghai 76 traffic accidents related with takeout delivery happened in the first half of 2017, with one food-delivery rider injured or dead per 2.5 days on average. Riders involved in such accidents from Ele.me and Meituan both account for 26%. After the media reported this news, safety of food-delivery riders has sparked heated discussion on the Internet. Many netizens said the figure in Shanghai reflects huge safety risks behind the “fast & furious” of the takeout delivery industry.

Fast-growing “Internet+catering” gave rise to the takeout delivery industry and brought convenience to residents. But why accidents occur frequently during delivery? Who exactly pushed riders to go fast? Reporters conducted interviews to find the cause.

 

Accidents happen frequently during takeout delivery

At lunch or supper time, busy riders can be seen all over the place from restaurants and stores to alleys and office buildings. They usually ride a motorcycle or electric bike with a square box bearing logo that keeps the food warm tied to its back. Once the system starts assigning orders, riders begin receiving orders, waiting, taking the takeout and delivering. They do not fulfill their mission until every single order is delivered to customers on time. As a result, many people believe they are racing against time.

Our reporter has found many typical cases of accidents of this year. In early January, a takeout delivery rider of Ele.me on an electric bike died after he crashed into a vehicle on South Qilianshan Road in Shanghai. On the evening of April 11, a rider wearing “Dada” uniform died after he crashed into a garbage truck on Ji’an Road in Shanghai.

Frequent traffic accidents reflect that riders have a tough job. But they bring the city-dwellers inconvenience when they go against the traffic flow and run red lights to save time. City-dwellers can do little except expressing their concerns for riders’ safety. In early August, at a crossroad of Yuyao Chengdong New Area, a rider on an electric bike collided with a Rolls-Royce driving at normal speed because the rider ran a red light. In this accident, the rider was injured and taken to the hospital. The reflector was knocked down, and the car’s door dented. Surprisingly, the car owner did not seek compensation, instead, he hoped riders to draw a lesson and follow traffic rules.

Zhang weiqiang, a resident on Dongge Road in Nan Ning, Guangxi Province, said riders on a motorcycle often took pedestrian lanes and bruised pedestrians from time to time to save time. Nowadays, the food delivery platforms are trying all out to make money while having few measures to ensure riders’ safety, leaving the bitter result to riders and customers.

 

Why does every second count for riders?

Frequent accidents in the takeout delivery industry sparked a discussion about riders’ safety and traffic violation. What pushed riders to ride alarmingly fast? Our reporter interviewed riders and insiders.

Feng Leilei has worked in Beijing’s food delivery industry just over a month and he delivers the takeout orders within three kilometers of Xidan. “orders flooded in at mealtime, especially from 11:00 a.m to 13:00 p.m. A senior worker receives around 30-40 orders a day, I am a new rider, so I can deliver about 20-30 orders a day,” Mr Feng told our reporter, “After I graduated from junior high school, I worked in a restaurant in Beijing. Delivering orders in scorching summer is exhausting, but I got higher income. I believe when I get more familiar with the surroundings, I can deliver more orders.”

In the interview, he referred to “the amount of orders” many times. In his words, more pay for more work attracts him the most. The salary of takeout delivery staff is comprised of basic salary and commission for each order. “a full-time worker has ¥3,000 basic salary and gets ¥6 for each order delivered timely and without a complaint or a negative comment. A part-time worker will get ¥8.5 for each order, but they do not have basic salary.” Mr Feng said.

“The key is to deliver the takeout on time and ensure no complaints or negative comments,” said Wang Long, a rider, “sometimes I failed to deliver the takeout on time because restaurants could not hand in the food on time or the traffic was congested, but most customers understood and forgave me, few unwilling to wait a minute longer than the promised time. Once on a ride to a community on Chang Chong Street, I clicked “advance arrival” when I hurried to the building, the customer refused to accept the takeout and made a complaint before I could explain.”

The reporter checked the app of Meituan and Ele.me and found the total miles, punctuality rate, and average time use for an order in the riders’ file. Other indicators, such as timely arrival, takeout preservation, service, and efficiency, are also included.

“Quick delivery” constantly pushes riders to hurry up. But from receiving to delivering the order, many uncertain factors may cause the delay. Wang Long said he failed to deliver the order on time more than once mainly because restaurants’ delay and traffic jam in the rush-hour. “A combination of restaurants’ delay and congested traffic leaves me no choice but to go against the traffic flow for a while, ride on pedestrian lanes or cut corners.” Mr Wang said.

Insiders told the reporter that every takeout platform implements strict reward and punishment system. Some companies regulate that riders will have bonuses from positive customers’ comments, while most companies deduct riders’ salary for the delay. “my company does not deduct riders’ salary if takeout is delivered to a customer within 8 to 30 minutes after the promised time, but it deducts ¥2 for each order if the delay is over 30 minutes.” Wang Long said, “I heard many times about my colleagues ran into vehicles pedestrians because of running a red light or fast speed. The other day one of my colleagues was brought to hospital because he rode against the flow of traffic.

 

Let riders slow down

Recently, during talks with eight takeout delivery companies, including Ele.me, Meituan, Baidu, and Dada, Shanghai Traffic Police Division revealed strict regulations and asked them to enhance safety training, standardize vehicles, and establish a system to identify riders. Among the regulations, one that requires related companies to record riders’ points of “road civility” wins applause. Certain points will be deducted according to the severity of their traffic violation. This system will play an important role in traffic police’s management of roads and companies’ evaluation of performance.

Huang Cai, deputy division leader of traffic police division of Xi Ning city of Qinghai province, told our reporter that his division meted out more severe penalty and innovated punishments. A rider who goes against the flow of traffic or trespasses on the pedestrian lane will be fined ¥50. As an alternative, he needs to assist traffic police by a crossroad to improve their awareness of traffic safety. “once other riders broke traffic rules, we will send him to stop the traffic violation and correct them. This approach works pretty good.” Mr Huang said.

We should address both the symptoms and root causes. Many people believe reform from the inside is needed to slow the riders down.

Professor Qin Hongyu from the College of Communication & Journalism of Southwest University said reckless riding comes down to unreasonable payment system. Only when we improve their income, change their payment system, and provide them with more safeguards by incorporating them into social security system can we slow down the riders.

“riders need to enhance their awareness of safety and right protection because their ride involves other people’s safety and a city’s healthy development other than their own safety.” an office worker who often order takeout suggested, “customers should be more forgiving and thank the riders instead of giving negative comments for no good reason. Customers can place their orders in advance, beating the orders at mealtime.

 

This article originally appeared in Xinhua News and was translated by Pandaily.

Click here to read the original Chinese article.

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