Delivery industry sees increasing demand, lack of resources for health and safety

Posted at 12:56 PM, Mar 12, 2020

Julian Rai spends a lot of time in his car.

“Currently, I’m a Lyft driver and I deliver for Grubhub, Postmates, and Doordash and Instacart,” Rai said.

With the increasing demand for people to deliver your packages, good, and other items, it’s an industry constantly available with job opportunities, especially with the rise of delivery apps.

“I can control my own time,” Rai said. “I can choose not to work if I don’t want to work that day.”

“It’s becoming more and more lucrative,” HG Parsa, an economics professor at the University of Denver, said. “In the morning they do Uber. In the afternoon they go to groceries. In the evening they pick up children from school and hospital, then they go home.”

He said the flexibility in this type of work can be attractive. But a job like this has its risks.

“They do have contact with a lot of people,” Christina Huber, an economist at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, said. “They are really vulnerable. With the rise of coronavirus, it’ll be interesting to see how those industries evolve.”

The growing number of COVID-19 cases has woken up the delivery industry to the potential threat.

Postmates recently announced a “no contact” option, allowing app users to choose to have their food dropped off somewhere instead of meeting face to face. Rai said this is already happening.

“Literally I’ve gotten one. I took a screenshot of this, that said ‘I have the flu, leave it outside the door’,” Rai said.

“I think there’s a lot of fear about how the COVID-19 virus is gonna impact a lot of different industries,” Tsinni Russel, an owner and operator at Confluence Courier Collective, a local bike messenger company, said. “There's been a lot of talk about if it’s gonna increase delivery or decrease delivery kind of based on if people want to go out more.”

He said one of the cons of working in the industry is the lack of benefits.

“We also have independent contractors working for us, which is kind of the same as Postmates and Grubhub and all those other industries, and that’s just because due to the nature of the business. It’s very expensive to have employees,” Russell said.

“You don’t have benefits, you don’t have healthcare, you don’t have paid time off, you don’t get sick leave,” Huber explained.

Delivery workers are also exposed to the elements more frequently.

“When it’s snowing outside or raining outside and people don’t want to leave their house, that’s probably when we get the busiest and make the most of our money,” Russell said.

“Bad weather usually means good business for us,” Rai added.

As the industry continues to grow, Huber said she sees the increasing demand from the consumer side for fast, convenient delivery.

“I think we kind of reached this tipping point,” she said. “It was the smartphone's availability for the consumer and the ability for the producers to develop these apps that are so convenient for people, combined with these other large companies that got us used to the free shipping and home delivery.”

Workers hope the industry -- and general understanding from customers -- will grow with it.

“It’s important to remember that the people who are delivering your food,” Russell explained. “They’re just regular working class people who are just trying to make a living, so just treating everybody with respect is an important thing to do.”