Ecommerce enables retailers to reach a wide range of customers online, and it has been growing steadily over the past few years as it affords hundreds of millions of consumers the convenience of purchasing items online. COVID-19 has only accelerated this demand for online products, and in 2020, e-commerce sales in the U.S. rose 31.7% year-over-year to $759.4 billion.
With more and more consumers turning to online shopping, there are greater strains on logistics organizations struggling to keep pace.
Last-Mile Delivery and Its Squeeze on the Transportation Industry
Last-mile logistics refers to the final step of the delivery process when a product/package is transported from a distribution center or facility to its recipient.
The online boom fueled by the pandemic has presented a fresh set of opportunities and challenges for last-mile logistics companies. On one hand, these businesses have an opportunity to grow large quickly. On the other, in order to stay competitive, there is a need for a larger fleet of delivery trucks and an even greater need for drivers which are difficult to find.
Is Higher Demand Worth the Risk?
The shortage of drivers may mean that available drivers have to spend long hours behind the wheel with fewer or no breaks which can be extremely dangerous, greatly increasing their exposure to on-the-job risks.
Transportation companies anxious to reap financial benefits from the explosion of online sales are often hiring too quickly and not spending enough time on the necessary safety training. This practice is dangerous, and in turn increases the chance of on-the-job accidents, injuries, and even death. The impact on a business can range from higher Workers’ Compensation insurance costs due to more claims payouts, and loss of productivity due to employees unable to work, to the most serious consequences of losing contracts or reputational damage if companies cannot provide reliable service.
Precautions Transportation Companies Can Take to Protect Their Employees and Business
Employers involved in transportation, logistics, and last-mile delivery should be aware of the risks and the safety issues their drivers could face. Safety-conscious companies develop safety plans, implement strong safety practices and protocols, and have a dedicated safety officer to ensure safe practices are carried out.
There are a variety of common injuries that drivers could sustain. Some examples include overexertion when loading or unloading trucks, or sitting for long periods of time which could result in back injuries or musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). Tripping and slipping, as well as falling from a truck or loading platforms, can lead to concussions and broken bones.
Driving accidents which are often caused by fatigue, speeding, bad weather, or poor road conditions are other common way employees incur work-related injuries.
Ways to Prevent Risks
Keeping in mind the threats mentioned above, there are preventive measures that can be implemented to ensure greater safety for drivers.
Before beginning their scheduled routes, delivery drivers should inspect their vehicles. Beginning with the outside of their vehicles, drivers should verify that their headlights, tail lights, and indicator lights are all working properly. They should also inspect their tires to ensure that they are properly inflated and free of any punctures. Once inside their vehicles, it’s important for drivers to check that their mirrors are correctly angled and that they can see out of their windshields, back windows, and side windows.
Defensive Driving Strategies
Driving safely and defensively should be encouraged. This means adhering to posted speed limits, respecting right-of-way rules, using indicator lights, and maintaining a safe distance from other drivers. Additionally, delivery drivers should avoid aggressive driving behaviors such as weaving through traffic, speeding, taking wide turns, and cutting off other motorists.
Last-mile tracking gives businesses a holistic view of delivery logistics, empowering them to not only be customer-centric, but it’s also a great tool to drive the safety culture within the operation. Delivery drivers often share their real-time locations with supervisors using smartphones or other tracking technologies. This way, supervisors can quickly locate drivers and dispatch help if drivers experience issues with their vehicles, get into an accident, or experience other problems.
Delivery drivers are often targeted for robbery. To address this threat, basic safety and self-defense training could help. Drivers can learn to identify potential risks, which safety tactics to employ, and when to use them. Drivers should carry cellphones at all times, so they can call for help if necessary.