Food deliveries soar, but riders bear the cost

A rider checks his mobile phone on his way to deliver food to a customer, among habits that contributed to some 150 accidents when business spiked during the three-month MCO period.

KUALA LUMPUR: The recent boom in food deliveries during the nationwide lockdown may have come at a high price, with motorcycle riders risking life and limb attempting to beat deadlines while trying to earn more commissions with a higher rate of pick-ups and deliveries.

Statistics compiled by traffic police show a high number of accidents involving these riders, who were among the most recognisable non-medical “frontliners” during the peak of the pandemic which swept through Malaysia early this year.

Some riders suffered serious injuries despite the reasonably clear roads during the movement control order (MCO) period.

A total of 150 accidents involving riders from two popular food delivery companies were reported in the three months after the MCO was imposed on March 18 to contain the spread of Covid-19.

At least 92 riders were making deliveries for Foodpanda service, the rest for Grabfood.

A third of the cases involved serious injuries, while 73 reported minor injuries, according to Bukit Aman’s Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department.

The numbers have given rise to a long and ongoing debate on the welfare and safety of riders for food delivery companies which have mushroomed over the years.

This is in addition to public concern over the riders’ constant traffic violations in the course of their duties.

Food delivery was a growing business long before the lockdown, but it was the three-month MCO period that gave rise to a spike in orders when restaurants were barred from allowing dine-in customers.

Yet the demands of the job mean that riders often have to care less about their own safety, or that of others, to ensure they earn their delivery commissions.

On April 14, a 22-year-old motorcyclist rode against traffic in Cheras before colliding with a car, resulting in a broken thighbone.

“They are always in a rush for more commissions. Many food delivery riders often violate traffic rules such as running red lights, cutting across several lanes of traffic and excessive speeding,” Bukit Aman’s traffic investigation director Azisman Alias said to FMT.

One problem, he said, is that riders are using their mobile phones to help them weave through traffic, resulting in many a sad ending to trips when they collide with other vehicles, run off the road or lose control at corners and junctions.

Azisman said while it was up to the authorities to draw up standard procedures for delivery riders, the police would continue enforcing road rules.

He hoped food service companies would take more responsibility for their riders.

They should conduct training and defensive riding courses before taking on riders, and provide riders with high-visibility safety vests and reflective strips on the carrier box, he added.

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