The pandemic caused restaurant deliveries to surge in 2020. Sales for the U.S. food-delivery business were about $51 billion last year, increasing by $28 billion from 2019, according to a report commissioned by the Columbia Business School and Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Using credit-card, geolocation, and restaurant-listings data, the report found that about $19 billion or around 70% of last year’s growth was “purely due to the pandemic.”
From DoorDash to Postmates, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and a restaurant’s own delivery service, consumers ate up the convenience of mealtime delivery during a time when establishments were closed or had limited capacity. The trend has continued into 2021.
The responsibility for delivery driver safety is complicated for the third-party vendors who are generally independent contractors but who, in some cases, can be considered employees. For restaurants that employ their own workers to make deliveries, safety training falls under the legal obligation of these establishments.
Implement Restaurant Safety Policies to Address Risks
Whether the restaurant owns the vehicles, leases them, or requires drivers to use their personally owned vehicles, the business must take steps to increase safety effectiveness to cover its auto exposure and keep employees safe. Everything from distracted driving to driver impairment and vehicle condition/impairment can result in an accident, injuring the employee and others and putting an establishment at risk.
Here are some measures to help ensure workers stay safe while out and about delivering food:
- Create a written safety program that outlines the responsibilities of management and drivers to minimize accidents from occurring. All new hires should understand the policy statements related to approved operation of company vehicles or personal vehicles used on company business. Review the company’s policy with existing employees periodically.
- Communicate management’s expectations to drivers involving critical safety concerns (e.g., no use of cell phones while driving, seatbelt use, no passengers in the vehicle, etc.).
- Qualify all drivers. Drivers with very little driving experience tend to make mistakes in judging following distance, making turns, navigating tight clearances, and keeping their bearings (location) straight. Be sure to have a program in place to help assess driving skills.
- Validate each candidate’s driving credentials and establish criteria for evaluating the history of violations/crashes.
- Use technology to monitor driving performance. Consider using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) or telematics to track drivers. This enables the employer to know the status and location of each delivery driver and optimize routing and delivery schedules.
In addition, if employees are using their own vehicles to make deliveries, typically a Personal Auto policy will not respond if there is a workplace accident. Often, a Personal Auto policy will include a business-use exclusion, or the policy liability limits may be so low that it will not cover a serious or fatal accident. It’s therefore important for the restaurant’s Commercial Auto insurance to include Non-Owned & Hired Auto coverage to cover vehicles that the business rents, as well as employees’ personal vehicles that are used for work.
If the restaurant uses a third-party vendor for deliveries, ensure that its liabilities are transferred and a safety program is in place to help mitigate risks.