KUALA LUMPUR: With online home delivery applications and services becoming increasingly popular amid the new normal, it is quite a common sight to see delivery boys zipping from one road to another on their motorcycles.
In a bid to squeeze in as many trips as they can in a day to jack up their earnings, they can be seen running a red light and generally paying no heed to road safety rules, putting not only their lives on the line but that of other road users too.
Such is the situation in this era of p-hailing, which refers to the delivery of parcels and food via online applications.
The general public assumption is that these p-hailing riders ignore traffic rules to rack up attractive commissions with every delivery job given to them. But is this true?
Ahmad Nazirul Azrie Ahmad Noh, 22, who has been working as a p-hailing rider over the past one year for a company offering online food delivery services, however, refuted the assumption.
“Contrary to what people think, one of the reasons we rush from one location to another is the attitude of our customers who are impatient and want their food delivered to them as fast as possible.
“If we are late in delivering, we get a negative response (from customers) which will affect our earnings as the management (of the food delivery service) will not give us delivery jobs for several minutes as punishment for ‘late delivery’,” he told Bernama.
According to Ahmad Nazirul, he used to earn a lucrative income but not anymore due to the influx of p-hailing riders.
“We can still earn an attractive income if we work for more than 12 hours a day,” he said, admitting that it was a “high-risk” job considering that he has to be on the road all day long.
In fact, he met with an accident once while on duty and suffered fractures on his left leg, as well as cracks on the left part of his pelvis.
The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) has expressed its concern over the rising number of accidents involving p-hailing riders resulting in them sustaining severe injuries, permanent disability or even death.
Based on data from Bukit Aman’s Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department, 150 accidents and four deaths involving p-hailing riders were recorded during the first three months of the Movement Control Order (MCO).
MIROS director-general Dr Khairil Anwar Abu Kassim has been quoted by the media as saying that the institute would hold discussions with the various online food delivery service operators on the high accident rate involving their riders.
Studies conducted by MIROS have also revealed a high rate of traffic rule violations among such riders.
It said recordings taken from closed-circuit cameras, installed at 11 main roads in Kuala Lumpur, between Aug 4 and Aug 7 showed at least 64 percent of p-hailing riders flouting traffic rules during peak hours between 11 am and 2 pm.
“We will emphasise to the (food delivery) operators on the need to set safe operating guidelines and training for their riders,” Khairil Anwar was quoted as saying, adding that the riders should not dice with death while delivering food to their customers.
Not to be taken lightly
Commenting on the issue of safety of p-hailing riders, occupational safety and health (OSH) practitioner Norwani Ahmat said it is something that should not be taken lightly as p-hailing has emerged as an important branch of the gig economy since the start of the MCO.
Norwani, who has been involved in the OSH field for over 20 years, urged the government to look into the matter, saying that if it is left unchecked, road accidents and deaths involving p-hailing riders will continue to rise.
“As we all know, more and more restaurants and supermarkets are making use of online delivery services which have created job opportunities for youths. While this is a positive development, what will happen in the long term if there are many accidents involving these riders?” she asked.
According to Norwani, some of the bigger online food delivery operators get their riders to participate in the Commuting Safety Support Programme conducted by MIROS in collaboration with the Social Security Organisation (SOCSO). The programme focuses on aspects related to safe riding, vehicle maintenance, risk identification and others.
“In fact, what the riders learn from this programme is more effective than what they learn when they apply to get a (motorcycle) licence,” she added.
Stressing on the need for all online delivery operators to provide such training to their riders, she said previous studies on accidents involving p-hailing riders have shown that 30 percent of them suffered head injuries, 25 percent leg injuries, nine percent hand injuries and four percent chest injuries.
“What will happen in the future if our youths continue to sustain permanent disability or die in such accidents? Isn’t this a loss for our country?”
The Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health (MSOSH), meanwhile, holds online delivery companies responsible for the welfare and safety of their riders.
Its deputy president Mohamad Aliasman Morshidi, however, said based on information received from the Malaysian P-Hailing Deliverers Association, the relationship between online delivery operators and p-hailing riders is not clearly defined in terms of the legal aspect.
“MSOSH understands that in the gig economy and existing laws, p-hailing riders are not categorised as ‘workers’ and online delivery operators as ‘employers’.
“This is something the government has to study more deeply as the gig economy approach is still new in Malaysia,” he said, adding that the existing laws do not protect the rights of p-hailing riders, thus exposing them to danger and injustice.
Mohamad Aliasman said the existing contract between the delivery company and p-hailing worker is somewhat loose and ambiguous, with the yardstick for the quality of service and achievement being the speed at which deliveries are made, and not the riders’ safety.
“The emphasis on fast deliveries indirectly puts pressure on the riders to attain the quality set by the companies,” he said, adding that it is not fair to solely blame the riders for causing road accidents as they are trying to earn an honest living.
In July this year, MSOSH launched the work-related road safety guidelines for motorcycle riders, which were drawn up in collaboration with government agencies such as Socso, Miros, Department of Occupational Safety and Health, and Road Safety Department.
These guidelines not only cover p-hailing riders but also others whose occupations require them to use the motorcycle as a mode of transport. They include highway patrollers and newspaper deliverymen.
Mohamad Aliasman said the purpose of having these guidelines is to improve the safety and health of workers whose jobs require them to ride a motorcycle.
The idea for formulating the guidelines came from a member of MSOSH management committee in 2018 in view of the rising number of accidents involving motorcyclists, he said.
He said the guidelines encompassed four important aspects, namely the responsibilities of the employer; motorcycle rider’s health and skills record; vehicle management; and risk assessment while on duty
“We hope the ministry concerned will accept our guidelines as part of the guide for p-hailing riders, alongside existing laws or guidelines such as the Occupational Safety and Health Industry Code of Practice for Road Transport Activities 2010,” he added. — Bernama