Fighting dangers of reckless food delivery riders

Liu Di
Customers' desire for speedy delivery has created huge business opportunities for the takeout industry. It also emboldens delivery riders to fly in the face of traffic regulations.
Liu Di

IT was reported that delivery company Eleme was recently ordered by a local court here to pay more than 200,000 yuan (US$30,800) to a woman who was hit by one of its delivery drivers. The accident happened in August, 2016.

The victim is just one of the growing number of people to suffer from otherwise a convenience many of us have taken for granted. Last year alone, 117 traffic accidents occurred in Shanghai because of delivery vehicles, injuring 134 people and killing nine, police say. The victims included both delivery men and pedestrians.

Those figures reflect how the huge number of delivery scooters scurrying to and fro on the streets in Shanghai is becoming a menace to public safety.

All this rush stems from the cut-throat competition between the many meal delivery companies that have sprouted in recent years. To stay afloat in the highly competitive market, most companies have created incentives for delivery men to run faster. And to meet the deadline so as to avoid being penalized, the delivery men often give little thought to such offences as speeding, running a red light or rushing on the pavement.

Some cities have come up with measures designed to slow them down. For instance Shanghai recently adopted a point redemption scheme whereby each offense would earn the erring riders a certain number of points that would be recorded on scorecards carried by the drivers. For instance running a red light will be worth six points. A violator who has earned 12 points in three months would have to stop working for one day, to attend a training course on traffic safety. Twenty-four points mean a suspension of service for three days and the offender can only return to work after passing an online traffic rules test.

A delivery man can afford a small fine, such as the 20 yuan for running a red light, but a one-day work suspension could mean a loss of as much as 300 yuan. Furthermore, anyone who has accumulated 36 points will be placed on an industry “black list” and banned from returning to the business.

This would make it impossible for a delivery men to find similar jobs after being expelled by their current employer. For many prime-age youths not equipped with other survival skills, this could mean the end of their adventure in the city. An even more formidable punishment would be meted out for takeaway food companies who hired the non-law abiding riders. They would be also held responsible for the use of unlicensed motorcycles and sub-standard electric bikes. For example, a company will incur a fine of 10,000 to 100,000 yuan if one of their riders causes a serious accident.

Such punishment would go a long way in reminding the delivery companies of their social responsibilities in their single-minded pursuit of profits.

It is easy to see that some delivery men do not support this new measure.

“Our clients will not show more tolerance of any delay, just because the punishment is heavier for us now than it was before,” said a delivery man surnamed Zheng who works with Meituan. He said he was afraid of waiting at red lights because a delayed delivery could mean a bad review.

“If I get a bad review, my company will not pay me for that order,” he said.

He believed his income would fall because he has to accept fewer orders to avoid breaking traffic rules as he works on a pay-per-order basis.

Customers’ desire for speedy delivery has created huge business opportunities for the takeout industry. It also emboldens delivery riders to fly in the face of traffic regulations.

When so many delivery men are flying recklessly on the streets, some of us might be at stake.

It is hoped this regulation might bite. It is even more hoped that it might sink in for more residents that by judiciously exercising their rights as consumers, they could make the city a safer place to walk or stroll.

The author is an intern with Shanghai Daily.

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