Delivery drivers are the constant butt of jokes that label them as sexist, racist and homophobic; but this portrayal by tax avoiding comedians only helps in isolating a group of poorly paid workers. Here we publish an account of the real daily life of one driver.
Delivery drivers are the constant butt of jokes that label them as sexist, racist and homophobic; but this portrayal by tax avoiding comedians only helps in isolating a group of poorly paid workers. Below is an account of the average day of just one driver.
I get out of bed at 4.45am having just enough time to down a pint of milk then out on the road by 5am. The company I work for delivers mainly confectionary products to small shops, garages and garden centres and the routes can be as far south as Milton Keynes or Luton and as far north as Wrexham or Chester.
The reason for leaving so early is to avoid all the rush hour traffic that can block up the national motorways and the idea is to get to your furthest drop first and then work your way back home.
So at about 6.30am you arrive at the first delivery hoping that someone is able to take the order and that you are not waiting behind another delivery vehicle. As you are paid a fixed salary which is based on a 7.5 hour day, any additional time reduces the hourly rate. If you work an additional 2 hours in a day, you are working for less than the minimum wage.
The number of items per drop can range from 10 to 150. The summer time is worse as the demand for bottled water shoots up with each pack weighing 12 kilograms and you might have to lug 15 of these packs into just one shop. After the delivery note has been checked and signed, off you go to the next drop.
With every drop you get closer to the depot but now the traffic is building up and the school run is in full swing, blocking roads with badly parked cars making it impossible for a 3.5 Ton van to get through. Another delay to the day but these are the same people who complain if you are late.
In a previous job I had, the work involved delivering to home, taking all those goods ordered online to the customer’s door only to find them out. I prefer what I am doing now to home delivery work. The shop workers are so much better to work with and if you are hot and sweating a free 99 Ice Cream can be your reward, sometimes.
As you slowly make your way back, the one thing that you hope for is that the sales people have sorted the pick list for the following day’s drops and the warehouse workers have it on pallets ready to load. Usually, you flog yourself to get back only to have to wait an hour before you can load up.
The Boss and the Law
Each vehicle has a specific load weight capacity. To breach this is a motoring offence and points will appear on your licence and, as you are the driver, it is your responsibility. The boss is immune from prosecution but he is the one who tells you to go out with an overloaded vehicle. It is the same with speeding.
You are under pressure to get the job done as quickly as possible by the boss but if you get caught, it is you who gets the points. If you lose your license, you lose your job and no action is taken against the boss who forced you to bend the law.
The delivery industry is one of super-exploitation. Many drivers are conned into becoming “Owner Drivers,” with the promise of huge earnings. This is the system where drivers are persuaded to either buy a van or lease a vehicle from a separate hire company and then contract themselves to the delivery company as self-employed.
With this system all employment rights go out the window – no minimum wage, no sick pay, no holiday pay, no employment law protection, no National Insurance and no job security.
The companies argue that these self-employed workers have freedom but according to HRMC rules these workers are limited in their level of discretion. The van has to have the livery of the company, the driver is contractually obliged only to work for the company and payment is for deliveries made not for hours worked.
So after paying for leasing costs, insurance and fuel, drivers will find themselves worse off, especially when in order to take a holiday they have to set aside money to contract a driver to do their areas. Once you have made an agreement to a three-year lease the company has you by the short and curlies and the promise of fees for deliveries is suddenly slashed due to “economic conditions”.
I am lucky in that I am employed but because of the nature of the work and the number of Owner Drivers it is difficult to organise them into a union but it doesn’t stop me trying.
The Anarchy of Capital
We are constantly told by “our betters” that capitalism is the most efficient method of delivering all benefits to society. Well let’s take delivering as an example. As I have explained, I sometimes arrive at a drop and have to wait behind another delivery vehicle delivering similar items. So I will drive 240 miles a day making drops to shops and probably another three vehicles are doing the same.
This is a waste and the same thing happens in the home delivery system with courier firms racing round the country with the latest offering from Amazon. The record I have had at our house is four different home delivery companies dropping off parcels on the same day.
It is not beyond the reason of man to organise such a service that is not so inefficient. Of course we used to have that – it was called the Royal Mail until TNT DPD and others wanted profit over service.
If we had a planned nationalised transport system, then the price of goods, especially in rural shops, would fall by at least 25%. Socialism is not just for towns.
So the next time you hear a wisecrack from a tax avoiding comic about White Van Man, remember that a low paid worker living under the threat of precarious employment is the butt of that joke.