An ill Wind

Posted By Colin Black : Colin Black lives in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland. On 2021-01-15 16:09:51

There’s an old saying that goes something like, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” I think the ill wind of this world-wide virus seems to be blowing some good in the parcel delivery drivers’ direction. People are ordering more and more stuff online because shops are closing in the lockdowns or because they just don’t want to mix with other people and take the chance of getting infected.

As some stores don’t want to accept cash, it’s getting easier to slip into a cashless lifestyle. Hungry? Just order some takeaway via the multitude of apps on your phone. The delivery driver is quite happy to knock on your door and leave it on the step. Not having to wait for you to pay him means he can fit in more deliveries.

The other day as I was out in my local area getting some government- approved daily exercise, I watched the driver of a DPD parcel delivery van going about his business. My wife and I were almost keeping pace with his van as we walked up the long curving street, watching as he dashed in and out of quite a few houses. In this modern world of technology, you don’t need to sign for deliveries anymore, not even a scribble on the screen of his hand-held device, so the only thing holding him back was customers who weren’t at home.

I started to wonder how many deliveries the average driver took out; all the big companies are obviously busy because in amongst the Ford transit and Mercedes sprinter vans zipping in and out the streets are estate cars and hatchbacks crammed with parcels.

My question was answered when my youngest son treated himself to the new PlayStation 5 games console. The launch day was fixed on the 19th of the month so everybody would get their console at the same time. And as if drivers aren’t monitored enough, via another App, my son could track the driver who had his delivery on board. It was like some computer driving game watching the progress of the van on a map of our local streets. The App told him his delivery was number 17 of 107, and the driver had apparently started delivering at 13:30 and had completed four deliveries. ETA was between 14:30 to 1600.

With the ability to track your parcel as it moves around your area, I’ll bet some of the drivers get an angry response from some customers, i.e. why did you leave Brown Street and go to Smith Street instead of coming here first. The office is tracking you, and now customers are tracking you. Just one more reason I’m glad I got out of the business when I did.

More than forty years ago, when I started in the trucking industry as a multi-drop driver for the railway subsidiary National Carriers, I enjoyed it. I liked meeting the people waiting for the parcels I had for them. On an average weekday, I had 55 deliveries a day and three or four pick-ups, three regular pick-ups from companies, and seasonal pick-ups from people sending large wicker hampers to their seaside hotel. They were full of anything they thought they would need for their two-week holiday and, as such, were quite heavy.

In busy times we worked Sundays, as there were no pick-ups you got 75 deliveries, you also got double time, whatever happened to double time? I think a hundred or so deliveries would’ve been no problem if I was not wasting time getting a signature, even with the old Commer walk though van I used back then. British rail used a lot of these vans. Some were yellow with NCL on them and some white with whatever department they were working for. They all had the Perkins 4 cylinder diesel engine and a four-speed transmission. It was a truck that was ideal for multi-drop and much the same shape as UPS use today, with sliding doors that were left open in summer and a door through to the back. The parking brake was mounted on the steering column. That meant you could pull on the brake and be halfway into the van to get the next delivery before the truck stopped. Great times, although in the modern world we live in, you couldn’t, or should I say wouldn’t, dare to leave a truck full of parcels with the doors open.