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Self-employed gig economy drivers are left to deal with safety concerns on their own

Posted August 22, 2018

There is an on-going trend in service economy – people are using smart platforms to provide services typically handled by big companies. For example, you can rent out your place on AirBNB, essentially working as a hostel. Or use one of many platforms to give some people a ride in your car. However, scientists from UCL say that these drivers are under pressure which can increase the risk of them getting into accidents.

Gig economy drivers on two wheels feel less pressure, but are still facing dangerous working conditions. Image credit: Mtaylor848 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Scientists conducted 48 qualitative in-depth interviews with drivers, riders and their managers. In addition to that they analysed 200 responses to an online survey taken by drivers and riders. They found that 63 % of the drivers are not provided with any kind of safety training. 65 % of the surveyed drivers said they are not even getting safety equipment, like high-visibility vests. Around 10 % of surveyed people have been injured while working and 42 % have been in an accident. This reveals that there is a big safety problem in this taxi app business.

But why is that? Well, the number of players in the marketplace is increasing. This means that drivers have to push harder and harder to earn a decent living and there is more stress put onto them struggling for the best reviews. Scientists recommend introducing time blocks instead of a drop rate would increase the safety in the sector. If drop rates are still a method of choice, driving within the speed limit and administrative work should be taken into consideration. Apps should be less distracting as well – now they are constantly asking for attention by reminding about the job. And the problem of overworking yourself should be addressed as well. Drivers are also saying that they are often willing to break the speed limit or run a red light in order to save time.

People are working with apps on two wheels as well, typically delivering parcel or food. They actually reported being on less pressure since there are no passengers, but they have to cope with the fear of getting robbed, being late and adverse weather conditions. Among all surveyed drivers, only 25 % argued that the company cares about safety. Road Safety Trust, an independent grant giving fund trying to make UK roads safer, chief executive Sally Lines said: “This report makes for very worrying reading and demonstrates that an enquiry into the gig economy and road safety is needed urgently”.

Gig economy is booming. For customers it is great, because more providers means lower prices and more options. But people who chose to participate as providers are facing challenges in terms of safety and job security, especially in an increasingly competitive market. The future will show what solutions are going to be, but for now they have to protect themselves.


Source: UCL

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