Vehicle safety standards should be extended to gig economy drivers and services.
With the recent news of Uber agreeing to give their drivers with employee rights, an important question arises. Will this have an impact on the gig economy?
Regulation and the Gig Economy
I know very well, that a lot of companies have their contracts employing staff as a contractor, and that means staff are self-employed. But are they self-employed when they are asked to wear a uniform, told to let business know when they wish to take holidays and cannot just take tomorrow off if they need to. Is this really giving them the flexibility of self-employed status?
The Poll Results on Gig Economy Drivers Are In
The Question: Have you ever been offered training for driving at work?
As I write this, I put a post on my LinkedIn that I have let to run for a week. As of right now as I am writing this the votes are 37% yes and 63% no. Based on the responses, currently 67% of staff have not been offered training when they use a vehicle as part of their job.
Driving for Work: Whose Responsibility Is It?
In the gig economy, just like Uber, staff that are self-employed or owner drivers. This pushes the responsibility for safety of drivers and vehicle safety back to that self-employed person and not the business. Should this change? Yes.
The Legislation of Gig Economy Drivers and Vehicles
Gig economy cars and vans should be brought under the law in exactly the same way as is now beginning to happen for their drivers. But how far will Uber go? Will they provide training for all their drivers?
The recent ruling against Uber should be followed by other companies to provide a range of employment rights to staff but extend the same level of safety standards to driver training and vehicle safety to cars and vans as what they do with buses and HGVs. Gig economy businesses and home delivery businesses have long operated outside of these normal safety boundaries, and we have seen a mass increase to the number of gig economy workers with the pandemic.
Where We Stand Now
There have always been some issues with people using their own unsuitable vehicles for business activities, and this is the reason why I want to highlight this gap in legislation. When using your own vehicle for work was only heard of in small businesses such as pizza delivery as an example the risk levels were minimal.
However, prompted by the pandemic we have seen a mass uptake of gig economy roles and supermarkets increasing home deliveries. We now have delivery drivers delivering hundreds of parcels a day each, – millions across the country – and the companies who employ these will outsource the entire process and responsibility of safety to the driver. Will these drivers take on their responsibility in full if they may not even be aware of them?
Vehicle Safety Standards for the Gig Economy
I am sure we have seen the vehicle where a driver opens a door and a parcel falls out onto the driver, or there is bodywork damage on the vehicle. All vehicles that are to be carrying a payload should be suitable to carry that payload. Not having parcels on the seat that can fall off and possibly get stuck under a pedal or hit the driver – especially if it is a heavy one- is not a challenge when it comes to professional employees. Any vehicle carrying parcel in mass should have a bulkhead to separate the driver from the load area.
The question now is – if the recent example of Uber means that those drivers are being brought under legally-required employment practices, why does the same rule not apply to legally-required safety standards of those vehicles that are being used on business?
Fleet Safety Standards vs Gig Economy Grey Fleet
Every fleet manager, health and safety manager and HR personal will know that any company operating Vans and fleet cars owned or driver owned has a responsibility to ensure that they are maintained in a roadworthy condition in accordance with manufacture standards in a manner that is fully auditable.
These measures are in existence to protect the business, their staff and other road users. If problems occur employers can face prosecution and a range of serious penalties just for not following their duty of care. There is no excuse for not knowing the health and safety rules. Their implementation is compulsory in any business. Health and safety legislation is there for protecting us all.
I also want to stress that this is in no way to target gig economy drivers. An uber or self-employed delivery worker is not to blame. The blame is on employers who do not have good working practices as the drivers are working hard and have been during a tough year when the world has faced a pandemic. It is up to the fleet industry as a whole to be looking at ways to ensure that these businesses start to adopt driving and working safety practices that business other business owners would put in place for HGV drivers, bus drivers and van drivers.
Is it time that companies operating in the gig economy adopt fleet industry norms on safety? These driver-owned vehicles are grey fleet. Every good fleet manager out there knows that means the employer has the same responsibility for these as company owned vehicles.
Owner drivers and businesses, such as home deliveries and courier companies, should at least be doing the following:
- Driving licence checks, every 6 months or less depending on points that are on that drivers licence.
- Maintenance checks of services, MOT’s and driver defect logs. There should also be a daily driver walk round checks that is recorded.
- Driver risk assessments
- Driver training
These are safety essentials for every fleet, and should be the legal and a moral responsibility of the company management.
Is it time to make a change? Is it time to improve the safety of vehicles on the roads and the safety of gig economy drivers who are out there driving for you to provide the service you promise to your customers.