Delivery drivers at heart of heatwave

This year, the UK has become subject to heatwaves of record-breaking temperatures, widely attributed to climate change, writes Andrew Tavener, Head of Marketing, Descartes. Over the next week, parts of the UK are expected to hit highs of 30°C once again, encouraging many of the general public to stay indoors, work from home and choose their days out in moderation.

However, for some there is no choice but to endure the heat, despite official warnings. The last few weeks have not been kind to last-mile logistics, with some reports of negligence amongst retailers and their lack of air conditioning in vehicles, down to reasons seemingly as illegitimate as weight issues. During last month’s heatwave, one last mile delivery driver actually collapsed after enduring unbearable conditions.

Heatwaves in the UK are here to stay, so it’s time we looked at how we can adapt fleet management practices, and take better care of our drivers.

A duty of care

Despite a reluctance to implement solutions such as air conditioning in home delivery vans, retailers still have a duty of care when it comes to their workers. From an HR and legal perspective, this becomes even more concerning when there’s a driver shortage.

If they think they’re being driven hard in extreme conditions, workers may be forced to leave their current company and seek employment elsewhere. These businesses therefore should look to retain their employees in any way possible and prevent them from adding detriment to their health when it could be easily avoided.

On top of this, vehicles are more susceptible to issues in extreme weather; drivers have been warned of fires or exploding tyres, so vehicle safety checks need to be up to scratch. This includes checking the vehicle fluids and ensuring they are getting service checks regularly or if the driver suspects that something is wrong.

Embracing the night shift

Even during the peak of summer in the UK, most delivery drivers are expected to work during daylight hours – just as they would during any other month of the year. By comparison, in Spain it’s common for people to work after 4pm because of the temperatures. Perhaps one fleet management solution could be a complete reshuffle of what’s expected in the UK when we’re encroaching on a heatwave; if delivery drivers were enabled to work during the cooler hours of the day and into the evening, the domino-effect would include an easier, cooler environment alongside less congested roads and improved environmental impact.

Since the pandemic, working habits have changed substantially, with many people still working from home or having access to flexible timetables or working hours. On the road, we live in an increasingly congested environment, where the working days could do with a complete overhaul. Not only does this make things easier for delivery drivers, but for each and everybody on the road. Less traffic means less pollution and accidents; and happier workers.

The intervention of innovations in crisis

Some retailers are still behind when it comes to extreme temperatures. If air conditioning isn’t a viable solution in a delivery van then perhaps there are other ways to reduce the struggle for delivery drivers working in these recent hot temperatures.

Alongside factoring in the setbacks caused by such heat, including less productivity and the risks to health, these major players in retail need to be able to understand such complexities before they know how to address them. For example, self-scheduling technologies have been used to improve parts of the process like route density and delivery productivity.

With access to more transport intelligence such as inventory, information, and assets that enable driver efficiency, companies will be able to respond to rapidly changing environmental factors as well as changing market and regulatory conditions, in turn adequately supporting their employees and better serve customers.

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