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Delivery Drivers At the End of Their Rope
Written by Youngha Lee | Published. 2021.05.19 09:37 | Count : 1021

Covid-19 is a dreadful catastrophe that will go down in history for its effect on society and the changes it brought to the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds. Employees started to work from home instead of going to their actual workplaces, and schools switched to video communication platforms for students who were afraid of getting Covid-19 at school. In general, before Covid-19, industries mainly focused on in-person activities. However, after the outbreak, they are promoting activities that can be done at home and don’t bring large groups of people together. While most industries are only adversely affected by Covid-19, the delivery industry is in an interesting position as its companies are both positively and negatively influenced by the pandemic. With more people staying home, more people are using online shopping instead of going to markets and replacing giving gifts in-person with sending presents through services. 

[Photo of a Covid-19 virus particle; Photo credit: Maksim Tkachenko/Getty Images]

The prospects of the delivery industry are steadily improving with the advancement of technologies, but such advancement is unlikely to benefit human delivery drivers. In the past, goods were delivered using horses, but now we drive automobiles. If this trend continues, better technology will be developed to further improve the efficiency of the delivery system. For example, in the future, drones are expected to deliver packages by air, and autonomous vehicles will deliver packages instead of human beings. As technology develops, more and more delivery drivers will be replaced by machines that can work more effectively and productively. This will be good news for customers, but terrible for delivery drivers, who will lose their careers to machines. Ironically, while Covid-19 has increased the workload of delivery drivers, it has also accelerated the development of technology that can end the career of human delivery drivers. 

[Delivery drone. Photo credit: GPS World]

Although technology has helped the delivery industry significantly, the people in this industry still experience physical hardships. Due to Covid-19, companies are struggling with the burden of having to hire new delivery drivers, but the number of packages that must be delivered has only increased now that people are avoiding person-to-person interaction. According to “A Study of the Impact of COVID-19 on Home Delivery Purchases and Expenditures,” “among households that made 3 to 5 home delivery purchases [per month] before the COVID-19 lockdown, nearly 55% ordered more home deliveries during the COVID-19 lockdown.” Consequently, the limited number of delivery drivers are obliged to work longer days, go to more places to deliver packages, and endure greater physical exhaustion. This dramatic increase in the ordering of packages during the Covid-19 lockdown has brought more work and pain for delivery drivers. Furthermore, one side-effect of this trend is that drivers are more likely to contract Covid-19 because they are visiting more houses. Although they are afraid of catching Covid-19, they still need to survive the economic downturn that has accompanied the global pandemic. 

 [Interview with a delivery driver. Photo Credit: Sysco]

To better understand the current situation, I asked the delivery driver from Amazon Prime who manages my apartment building’s packages how his work changed after Covid-19. He said that now he has to deliver more packages to more areas, and thus his work is more exhausting than usual, especially because of the prolonged working hours. I also asked about his opinion on the idea of technology replacing humans in the delivery industry. In response, he said he understands that technology may offer more efficient services for customers, but he is not too worried about the problem because his work is so hard and tiring at the moment that he does not have the time to think about the future.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, most people have not wanted to go out and make contact with people, but delivery drivers still have work to do. Though the advancement of technology will bring new ways to improve the delivery industry in the future, unfortunately, this technology may replace delivery drivers. Furthermore, in the current situation, the increased workloads combined with fewer workers is putting greater mental and physical burdens on each and every delivery driver. As a result, many delivery drivers may quit their jobs or be fired in the near future. To improve efficiency while protecting the jobs of delivery drivers, we should take a two-pronged approach: reduce the mental and physical difficulties of human delivery drivers while also fulfilling customers’ expectations.



Youngha Lee
Grade 11
Crean Lutheran High School

Youngha Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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