Being a courier in the UK is a unique and challenging job, requiring you to traverse busy roads, tight alleyways, and unpredictable weather. Despite these obstacles, being a delivery driver can be incredibly rewarding; it's a great way to combine a passion for driving with the satisfaction of helping your customers.
However, You have to know what you are doing, and what is the right way of doing it. Getting to know the best routes, having the right equipment, and staying properly organised can help you overcome the challenges of delivery driving and be successful at your job. With the right approach, you can enjoy the freedom that comes with the job and always arrive at your destination with a smile on your face!
Driving a delivery van, car or truck can test even the most experienced drivers, requiring them to not only navigate roads in all conditions, from congested city centres to narrow back roads, but also to find suitable and safe places to park whilst unloading goods. In fact, a survey found that driving a delivery truck is one of the most challenging jobs in Britain, demanding a great deal of skill, initiative and commitment.
There are a number of factors that make the job more difficult. In particular, long hours behind the wheel can lead to tiredness and loss of concentration; which in turn can cause accidents. This makes it all the more imperative that couriers not only follow safe driving practices, but also be prepared for awkward road conditions, too.
There may be challenging weather conditions, too, so knowing how to drive safely in rain, high winds and snow is essential. Apart from the difficulty of unpredictable road conditions, delivery drivers also have a number of responsibilities beyond driving. They may need to load and unload deliveries, take accurate directions, and communicate with customers on the phone. This means they should have excellent organisational and communication skills, since they need to manage many aspects of the job at once.
It's not all bad though! If you're new to being a delivery driver, these challenges can seem daunting, but with the right approach, you can be successful and have a rewarding and well paid career.
When you're making deliveries, you need to know the best routes to take to reach your customers. This is especially important if you're driving in an unfamiliar area, where you may have to ask for directions. GPS is a useful tool, but it's rarely ideal for delivery drivers who may have a large vehicle that is difficult to drive down a narrow country lane or which can be tricky to reverse unaided. If you do rely on them you may be best to get a dedicated trucking GPS.
So to sum up; there is no substitute for having a good knowledge of the area that you are to make deliveries in, and in particular you need to know which routes are the least likely to cause you problems, as well as which ones you should definitely avoid.
What is the best choice of vehicle for you? That depends on the kind of work you are going to be doing. If you're delivering to a residential area or a tight space where you need to manuevre your vehicle, a smaller van or even a car might be better. On the other hand, that vehicle has to be big enough to not only handle the volume of goods that you expect to carry, but to also allow a proper weight distribution; loading a vehicle improperly so that too much weight is concentrated in one area of a van can easily lead to severe steering problems.
You should also consider what type of equipment you need to perform your job. For example, if you're making frequent deliveries, you might want to invest in a hand-truck to make lifting heavy parcels less strenuous. Drivers handling heavier goods may need a tailgate lift or even a grab to help with unloading.
You cannot expect to just turn up for work in the morning, jump into your cab and drive off. Delivery drivers need to be properly organised, with a cargo properly loaded bearing in mind not only efficient weight distribution but also, if there are multiple drops during the day, maintaining that weight distribution as these drops are made. There is a danger that a badly planned cargo can result, towards the end of the day, with too much weight forward, which could possibly lead to oversteer.
The route should be planned out carefully in advance, bearing in mind possible bottlenecks and other hazards.
You, or your employer, may wish to invest in a computerised route planning system. With these you enter all the drop-off addresses, and it gives you the most efficient route to follow. This can relieve a lot of the stress of the job by letting you concentrate on your driving, rather than which drop to drive to next, and how to get there.
A good route planner should also be capable of providing you with information about your deliveries, such as which goods are to be delivered to which addresses. It should also provide the names of the people that you are delivering to; people like to be recognised and forgetting a name or a face can sometimes cause offence.
Weather can be a challenge for any delivery driver, but it can be particularly problematic in Britain. This is because the country's diverse landscape means it has many different weather patterns, from the almost tropical climate of the southeast (yes I know it may be snowing there at the moment) to the rugged weather in the north. This is why you should expect weather to be a problem at any time.
Although bad weather is a part of life, it can wreak havoc with deliveries, especially if you're driving a heavy vehicle. In fact, driving in the rain is one of the most common cause of accidents. It can reduce visibility and make the road slippery, increasing the risk of an accident. Snow, of course, can be much worse!
Unfortunately, the demands of the job often mean that it is necessary to drive in poor weather, but you should slow down, allow more time to not only arrive at your destinations but also carry out the necessary unloading, and be extra cautious. Carrying a shovel, lots of salt, a flask or two of hot drinks and plenty of high energy snacks may be a good idea if snow is a possibility enroute; getting snowbound far from shelter is no joke.
The delivery car, van or truck is often your office, too, and the place where you spend a lot of time. Therefore, it's essential to keep it clean and tidy, whilst maintaining it with regular inspections. You have your own comfort to consider and there's nothing that disrupts a customer's day like a delivery that arrives late. This is often because a vehicle is in poor condition and needs maintenance.
Some vehicle leasing companies offer maintenance services, so you can schedule vehicle inspections and get any necessary repairs carried out. The old saying that 'a stitch in time saves nine' is just as valid today as it ever was, and catching potential defects early could not only prevent them from developing into more serious ones, but also avoid a possible breakdown and all the complications that that would cause you, the company you are delivering for, and the person or persons you were delivering to.
Driving around town and visiting customers can sometimes be nerve-racking, but it can also be rewarding. To make these deliveries even more pleasant, you can try to build a rapport with your customers. If you just smile and exchange a few friendly words whilst you unload it can work wonders, particularly if you can remember their names.
Incidentally, building a rapport with your customers can not only make deliveries more enjoyable - it can also help you get more tips. '?
Sometimes, you may (no: WILL) encounter delays whilst making deliveries. This could be owing to traffic or other issues. To prepare for these potential delays, you can use your navigation system to factor in extra time. For example, if you usually travel 20 miles and the satnav says you need 30 minutes to complete the route, you should recognise that this is the minimum time it will take and you should always add a few more minutes to account for traffic or other potential issues. This can help you arrive at your destinations on time, even when there are unexpected delays.
If you're making deliveries for a company, they may have specific ways to plan for delays. However, even if you are self employed, if possible try to avoid driving during rush hour, when there may be a lot of traffic. You can also check local news websites to see if there are any road closures that may delay your deliveries.
it is often important that deliveries arrive on time, so by being aware of, and prepared for, potential delays, you can adjust your schedules as necessary.
Things can go wrong though, no matter how well you plan them. If, despite all your precautions, you hit a problem and so are going to be late, make sure you have some way of getting in touch with your customer to explain just what's going on. There are few things more frustrating for a customer than being kept in the dark when waiting for a delivery which may be important, but which is overdue.
Finally, one of the most important ways to be successful as a delivery driver is by adopting the right mindset. This means being positive, aware of your surroundings, and always being prepared for things to go wrong - as they so often do.
If you're relaxed, and in a good mood, you'll be less likely to make mistakes. Being aware of your surroundings will help you notice potential hazards, such as a car running a red light or an icy patch on the road. It can also help you to find the best parking spots; which is often very difficult on a busy road, particularly if you are being harassed by other, impatient, drivers. Being prepared for things to go wrong, rather than getting hot and bothered about them, will help you sort out issues, such as inclement weather, more efficiently.
Having the right mindset is helped considerably by having the correct equipment, such as a flask of hot tea, a few sandwiches, a warm jacket and a great pair of waterproof boots. Come to think of it, it can help you be successful in all areas of your life too, as well as your job.
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