During the winter holidays, the nearly 1.5 million delivery drivers across the U.S. are at a higher risk of sustaining work injuries. New York City delivery drivers face unique challenges this time of year - particularly due to the city's high traffic volume and strict traffic regulations. Navigating congested streets, strict parking restrictions, and complying with complex one-way systems and short windows for delivery make an already stressful job more difficult and raise the risk of injury.
Whether at the warehouse, dock, apartments, store, microhubs, or somewhere else, delivery drivers should know about work-related hazards. Understanding the risks can help delivery drivers reduce the risk of serious work-related injuries like bone fractures, back pain, pinched nerves, and shoulder damage, as well as fatal injuries. Here are some holiday safety tips by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Holiday safety tips for NYC delivery drivers
Although workers' compensation is available to help many types of delivery drivers (e.g., Amazon, couriers, UberEats, van and truck drivers, bike messengers) - not getting injured at work is preferable. Here are some tips drivers and their employers can follow to stay safe during the holiday rush:
- Regular safety overview and training. Employers should regularly review the safety features of vehicles with drivers, but this type of information is even more crucial around the holidays. Commercial delivery drivers should understand how to use safety technology, such as collision warnings and lane assistance. Safety features for older models should be reviewed with employees as well.
- Perform regular delivery truck and van maintenance and fix known problems. Properly maintaining delivery vans, trucks, and other vehicles for optimal performance and security can go a long way to avoiding a delivery route accident. Systems that should be regularly checked include brakes, cooling, electrical, engine, exhaust, oil, and tires. Vehicles should also be checked for anything that may obstruct the driver's view, such as faulty windshield wipers or cracks/chips in the windshield.
- Provide drivers with emergency kits and safety training. Disabled vehicle situations are very hazardous for all types of drivers. Delivery drivers should be trained in what steps to take if their truck or delivery van breaks down on the side of the road. They should also be equipped with an emergency kit that includes flashlights, jumper cables, a shovel, and a blanket.
- Stay warm. Many delivery vehicles do not have heating or cooling systems for the driver's comfort. Employers should review how delivery drivers can stay warm on their routes in winter weather and provide clothing and equipment to protect employees from hazardous temperatures.
- Practice cold weather driving. Drivers who understand how their vehicles will perform in emergencies are better prepared to avoid accidents. Delivery drivers should practice driving in cold weather and snow. This may include exercises like steering into a skid and testing what happens when a driver slams on the brakes.
- Drive slow. Black ice and slick roads mean some delivery vehicles take longer to stop. Slow down and leave more space between vehicles.
- Avoid fatigue. Drowsy driving is a major factor in delivery driver accidents. Employers can avoid exhausting employees to the point of falling asleep behind the wheel by encouraging rest and scheduling breaks every three hours.
- Park on level ground. Get as close to the receiving door or site as possible and set the test brakes. If operating a box truck or other type of larger commercial vehicle, place wheel chocks between the tandem wheels of the trailer. Never attempt to stop a rolling vehicle.
- Remember GOAL when backing up. Get Out And Look to see what's around or approaching. Use the truck's flashers, horn, and backup alarm, check both mirrors, and roll down the windows to hear before putting the vehicle in reverse. Understand the vehicle's blind spots and use a spotter. Back up slowly.
Why are accidents involving delivery drivers common?
Delivery drivers face a heightened risk of being injured in work-related car accidents due to the nature of their jobs. Several factors contribute to this increased risk:
- Frequent stops and starts: Delivery drivers are constantly on the move, making frequent stops and starts to drop off packages or complete deliveries. This repetition increases the likelihood of rear-end collisions or accidents at intersections. Constantly entering and exiting the vehicle also poses a risk, especially in high-traffic areas or when parking in crowded spaces.
- Time pressure: Many delivery drivers work under time constraints to meet delivery schedules, which can lead to driving mistakes and accidents.
- Exposure to various road conditions: Delivery routes can take drivers through diverse terrains and weather conditions, including heavy traffic, adverse weather, and unfamiliar areas. These factors can pose additional challenges and increase accident risks.
- Fatigue: Long hours on the road can lead to driver fatigue and diminishing attention and reaction times. Fatigued drivers are more susceptible to accidents.
- Increased mileage: Delivery drivers typically cover a substantial number of miles daily, leading to increased exposure to road hazards and potential accidents.
- Distractions: Managing deliveries often involves electronic devices, GPS systems, and communication tools, which can become distractions while driving.
- Vehicle condition: The condition of delivery vehicles is crucial. Older or poorly maintained vehicles may be more prone to breakdowns or accidents.
Does workers' comp cover delivery drivers?
Workers' compensation coverage for delivery drivers depends on various factors, including their employment status and the nature of the injury. Generally, delivery drivers who are considered employees of a company are eligible for workers' compensation benefits.
In such cases, their employer is required by law to provide workers' compensation insurance, which covers injuries or illnesses that occur while the employee is performing job-related tasks. This coverage extends to injuries sustained while driving for work, loading or unloading goods, or engaging in other work-related activities.
On the other hand, independent contractor delivery drivers, who are not classified as employees, are usually responsible for securing their own insurance coverage. Companies that contract with independent drivers are generally not obligated to provide workers' compensation benefits to them, but that doesn't mean an injured delivery driver doesn't have options. The key is to talk to an experienced work injury lawyer who can review the details of your case and give you a clear understanding of your potential legal options.
Our work injury attorneys can protect your rights
If you are in the delivery service and were injured while on the job in New York, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact the experienced New York workers' compensation lawyers at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP for a free case evaluation. We've been fighting for injured New Yorkers for over 90 years, and we would be honored to talk to you about your potential legal case.