With Uber Freight threatening to disrupt the trucking industry, lorry drivers might soon have to consider joining the gig economy – where you can pick and choose what jobs you do instead of working under a permanent contract.
That flexibility of being able to dictate when you work is appealing, as reflected in the number of workers who have joined the gig economy in the past few years.
But, it’s not all rosy. There’s never any guarantee of work, whilst employment rights for workers in the gig economy are still a little hazy.
Meanwhile, new research suggests that working in the gig economy as a driver might be bad for your health.
Gig economy poses ‘heightened risk’ for drivers
Research from University College London (UCL) showed that drivers who are paid on a gig-by-gig basis face a “heightened risk” of crashes.
More than four in ten (42%) gig-economy couriers and taxi drivers reported that their vehicle had been damaged as a result of a collision while working, with a further one in ten reporting that someone had been injured.
The findings, which drew on 200 responses to an online survey from drivers and couriers, as well as 48 in-depth interviews, found that close to half of drivers break the speed limit due to time pressures.
Neatly a third of drivers (30%) even admitted they have driven through a red light while under pressure to finish a job.
Distraction by smartphones and tiredness from overwork were also highlighted as risks, with nearly two thirds (63%) of respondents revealing they had not been provided with safety training on managing risks on the road.
Only a quarter of respondents felt that the company they work for actually cared about their safety whilst working.
Co-author of the report Heather Ward (UCL Centre for Transport Studies) said: “Our findings highlight that the emergence and rise in the popularity of gig work for couriers could lead to an increase in risk factors affecting the health and safety of people who work in the gig economy and other road users.”
In other words, as more workers enter the economy, their rate decreases, which means they have to do more jobs and hours in order to earn a stable income.
One respondent explained that if a driver ends up in traffic, which causes them to miss their deliver window they “get fined for it”.
Road Safety Trust chief executive Sally Lines added. “This report makes for very worrying reading and demonstrates that an enquiry into the gig economy and road safety is needed urgently.”
The report is something to bear in for truckers, with Uber attempting to make “moving freight across the country as seamless and easy as ordering a ride”.
However, Uber’s model for its freight business might not be fit for the European market as drivers don’t typically own their own trucks. Although you wouldn’t put it pass Uber to try and make something work.
Would you be up for joining the gig economy if it meant you could potentially earn more money and manage your hours? It’s tough to answer that question without knowing what you’d be signing up for – even still, you might have made your mind up already.