For UK couriers, the job offers its own unique set of challenges. From tight city streets to busy highways, these drivers must navigate a variety of hazardous conditions to ensure their deliveries are made safely and on time, so with so much potential danger, it is important for drivers to be aware of the common hazards they may face and how to avoid them.
From dealing with distracted drivers (we have all met them) to the dangers of carrying heavy loads, here is an overview of the most common hazards for UK couriers and how to safely navigate them.
There are several hazards that couriers may fall foul of throughout the course of their day. These can be broken down into two categories: those that can be seen, and those that can't.
Hazards you can see: these include other vehicles on the road, pedestrians, and poor weather conditions. Other drivers and pedestrians can be hard to anticipate, especially when you are driving in urban traffic. Poor weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow, and fog can make it more difficult to navigate roads. In addition, many delivery vans are stacked high with a heavy cargo; bales of hay is a typical example. This can put the van at a higher risk of tipping over if the wind speed is high.
Hazards you cannot see: these present their own set of risks. They include potholes, other road debris and construction zones that can be difficult to spot from the cab. Additionally, poor weather conditions can increase hazards you cannot see as wet roads make them harder to spot.
Disturbances, such as personal phone calls or text messages, can make it harder for drivers to spot hazards that you cannot see.
Distracted driving is one of the most common hazards for UK couriers. This can occur when another driver is attempting to text or make a phone call, or fiddling with a personal electronic device such as a laptop or tablet.
According to a study by the RAC, 92% of UK drivers have witnessed another driver being distracted in the past 12 months.
When a driver is distracted whilst behind the wheel, they are less likely to be able to react appropriately to hazards on the road. This can put your own safety and the safety of other drivers and pedestrians at risk so when you are behind the wheel of a delivery van, it is important to be aware of other drivers' possible distractions.
As a professional driver you will of course have no intention of letting yourself get distracted by, say, listening to loud music, fiddling with your satnav or trying to read a map whilst on the move. However it does happen (not to you of course!). If you are struggling to keep your attention whilst driving, try to find a less-crowded route or stop for a rest and perhaps a bite to eat for a while.
If you do see a driver who is too distracted to drive safely, don't try to confront them yourself unless it is absolutely necessary; getting involved in aggro is not part of your job description! Instead, call the police so they can handle it.
Driving in city streets can be a unique challenge for couriers for a variety of reasons. In addition to other drivers, couriers must also contend with pedestrians walking on the roads or crossing the streets. Vehicular traffic can often be more congested than it is on motorways, too. City driving also means navigating busy city intersections (who on earth designed some of these?), finding parking, and dealing with limited visibility owing to city architecture such as tall buildings.
City intersections can be more challenging than country road junctions, especially when driving a large delivery van. When navigating an intersection, it is important to pay attention to the traffic lights, which can often change quickly. Sometimes there are several sets visible at the same time; local drivers may be aware of them, but delivery drivers can have a real problem if they are watching the wrong set! Make sure you do not block the intersection; that could make you very unpopular.
Finding a parking spot can be difficult in some city settings. Try to locate a spot that is a short distance from the place where you need to go before you even set out, otherwise finding one with impatient drivers behind you could turn into a nightmare. The people you are delivering to would probably be the best ones to ask for advice on this.
Visibility can be a problem: city architecture may block your visibility when you are driving. Be on the lookout for pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles that may be blocked from your view by buildings, road signs and other road clutter. Many of our towns and cities were designed aeons ago when heavy traffic was undreamed of, so maneuvering large vehicles (or even small cars, too, if the truth be told) can be tricky.
Whilst some hazards can be avoided, others are difficult to predict. Weather conditions can be a challenge for couriers owing to their unpredictability. Whilst heavy rain can be challenging to navigate, it is usually not a hazard in and of itself. However, driving in inclement weather can make other hazards more challenging to spot and risky to navigate.
So; it is just common sense to take extra precautions when driving in poor weather conditions. Avoid driving too slowly, which can cause a back-up of vehicles that can make it more difficult for others to drive safely. If there is standing water on the road, it is important to avoid driving through it as it can cause hydroplaning.
Be sure to always drive with a full tank of fuel during the winter. This will help you avoid running out if you are unable to reach a filling station because of the weather conditions, and the extra fuel you have could come in very handy for keeping you warm if you was stranded. Accept that in extreme conditions, like heavy snow, driving may be completely unsafe.
Transporting a heavy load is normally no problem provided that the vehicle is designed to handle it, and the load is properly distributed. However a badly loaded vehicle can threaten the van's handling and can put drivers at risk of injury. Either way it is still best to take extra care on curvy roads and steep hills.
Tiredness is, unfortunately, an all-too-common danger for drivers, especially those who work long hours behind the wheel. It can increase the risk of an accident and can be especially dangerous for couriers who are on the road for long hours.
There are several ways to reduce fatigue-related risks, such as limiting the number of hours you drive, getting sufficient sleep, and making use of rest breaks on long journeys. However, it can be especially challenging for couriers to follow these strategies. Drivers who work for delivery companies may be on the road for extended hours, may not have control over their driving schedule, and may not have a place to rest during their shift. However do remember that your own life and those of other road users could be at risk if you were too tired behind the wheel. So:
Similar to driving during the day, driving at night comes with its own unique hazards. To minimize these risks, drivers should consider taking the following steps:
Accidents do happen, and for couriers it is important to be prepared for them. Every driver, in fact, should be aware of the hazards they face whilst on the road, and what they should do if they are involved in one.
If possible, drivers should try to remain calm and safe, and they should try to get in touch with emergency services as quickly as possible if necessary.
If, of course, you are involved in an accident, and the other driver is at fault, you should:
Only then, you should let your company and insurers know.
Finally: it is important to be aware of the risks you run whilst the loading and unloading of cargo. For example, it is important to avoid lifting heavy items without assistance, as this can lead to back strain.
Additionally, it is important to be aware of other potential hazards, like working in poor weather conditions or in tight spaces, which can increase your risk of injury.
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