COVID-19 and the Impact on Home Deliveries

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COVID-19 and the Impact on Home Deliveries

Published 16 September 2021

With all major retailers reporting a sustained increase in online sales and some increasing their capacity for home delivery by up to 75%, this has gone from niche market to mass market in just a few short years. We cannot overlook the impact that COVID-19 and lockdowns have had on this growth, with it being reported that online grocery sales alone increased by a quarter during the first national lockdown and continued to increase as the restrictions remained.

It is still possible that consumer habits may return to something like they were pre-pandemic, however, the evidence thus far suggests that online sales and home deliveries are likely to continue to grow exponentially.

As we see a sustained increase in demand for home deliveries, it follows that retailers will have an increasing number of vehicles on the road and for a longer period of time each day. Couple this with the new drivers that are being employed and tight timescales for delivery slots to be met and we see the risks rise at a similar rate. We must also consider that whilst these drivers will have enjoyed quieter roads during the restrictions, the volume of traffic on the road has increased and will continue to do so as we emerge from the pandemic. 

Inexperienced drivers operating unfamiliar vehicles are more likely to be involved in road traffic accidents (RTAs), as are even experienced drivers operating under tighter delivery deadlines, which can have serious consequences for retailers. Most retailers will either be operating as self-insured or with a large deducible on their policy, which means each RTA costs the retailer directly. This is not just the costs of repairing expensive custom built delivery vehicles, or covering the costs of third party claims, which can quickly spiral, but also the cost of lost stock and repairing reputational damage with customers due to missed or unfulfilled delivery slots.

The first focus of any retailer should be on reducing and avoiding RTAs as far as possible. A retailer’s ability to achieve this will very much depend on the training given to each new driver and the system of induction, from shadowing, to operating a training route, to becoming a fully-fledged delivery driver. However, even with the best training possible, the number of delivery vehicle’s on the road will inevitably result in retailers having to deal with RTAs. This is where knowledge of what to do when involved in a RTA is vital.

The best way to reduce the cost to a retailer involved in an RTA is to successfully defend liability and recover their costs from the at fault driver. Whilst most delivery vehicle’s will be fitted with some form of tracking device and even image recording devices, these do not always assist as much as one would hope. Therefore, what information a driver gathers following an RTA is vital. Drivers should be fully trained on what to do when involved in an RTA and this should be summarised in a short document kept in the vehicle, alongside the retailer’s “bump cards”.

The main considerations are to record as much information as possible on the “bump card” from the details of the other driver, their vehicle and insurance details to taking photographs and noting the incident location. The retailer should have a well-established system for drivers to immediately report accidents, so retailers can take the necessary steps to deal with the RTA and mitigate the losses to the business, both financially and to their reputation. Following the accident, the driver should be interviewed and a statement taken as soon as possible in order to gather all of the evidence and to make timely and informed decisions. Depending on the liability assessment, the appropriate action can then be taken immediately. Even in the event that the accident is the fault of the delivery driver, the evidence gathered can help repudiate any exaggerated or inflated claims, again reducing the costs to the retailer directly.

Any retailer who fails to fully train their drivers in what to do when involved in an RTA or to implement protocols to deal with the fallout, will surely see the costs to their business increase in line with the demand for their services.


Joe Winstanley

Joe Winstanley

+44(0)121 698 5354

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