We have all seen them. They ride like the devil is after them. They perch their helmets on their heads without fastening them. They irritate us as they pass on the left at traffic lights. They ride through rain or sunshine, often dressed in hand-me-downs and outdated helmets and kit.

These are the delivery riders that in many ways we tend to ignore unless we need that quick delivery of pizza, medicine or the basic groceries. They ride bashed-up bikes that stall at the traffic lights and they buzz up-and-down our suburban roads upsetting dogs and our peaceful afternoons. But do we really understand what they go through to make our lives more convenient?

Delivery bikes have been around since I can remember, and in all these years they have fulfilled an important role in the distribution of goods in this country. But, along came COVID and the restrictions on movement and business we all faced and almost overnight, the delivery rider rode into our mainstream retail world! They were used by almost every restaurant to deliver their goods to our houses; by retailers to get their fresh foods to us and by our medical and pharmaceutical companies to get us our medicines.

And now that the travel and lockdown restrictions have ended, these often poorly trained and under-powered travellers face even more risk as our roads get back to their normal mad volumes and equally mad drivers. They face danger every time we order our favourite take-out, but are they getting a fair deal by their employers?

Well, sadly no, they aren't. In most cases, they are employed either as rider owners to deliver goods, or as contract riders for fleet operators. And in many cases - if not most, because they are not regarded as full-time employees, they receive a pittance and very little cover when it comes to the risk they face. Almost 90% of delivery riders are unable to afford anything decent in the form of medical cover or insurance, and they don't get much from their 'employers' - whoever that happens to be.

Getting around the labour laws in this country involves divesting yourself of any permanent appointees whenever you can, and not employing riders full-time is another route. Not being full-time employed means no obligations by employers to the pension, medical or insurance costs they normally have. While the bikes are usually insured by the lowest bidder, very few riders enjoy the same protection when it comes to the risk their function involves. And as for their riding skills? Well, the vast majority of riders have questionable licences and bare basic training when it comes to skill, but as one employer recently remarked when challenged, 'there's a long line of hopefuls to choose from'.

If you employ delivery riders, are you covering them for the risk they take every day? Have your staff got medical cover and do they get top-line emergency response when they need it? Can you cover their hospital costs if they are involved in an accident? If you can't answer any of these questions, then you need to rethink your corporate social responsibilities and commitment to employee safety. And if you rent your fleet and riders, make it your policy that the fleet owners meet these basic conditions before letting them transport your goods and services.

After all. Isn't this a little late to pretend you didn't know about their employment conditions?


Guardian Angel recognises the risk that delivery riders take and for this reason, we have introduced Guardian Angel Fleet - a tracking, recovery, monitoring and emergency response service for delivery bikes. For as little as R3.50 a day, delivery riders get a range of safety and security services and a guarantee of emergency medical response and medical care in the event of an accident. Visit Guardian Angel today for more information.

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