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Road risks behind Black Friday frenzy revealed

As UK courier firms increase their fleets by 19,000 vehicles just to manage the Black Friday chaos, operators are being warned of the need to still place occupational road risk management top of the agenda.

White van on road
Arval says fleets must maintain road risk procedures even under the increased pressure of Black Friday.

Led by Amazon, the Black Friday shopping phenomenon that originated from the US – and will be followed by Cyber Monday next week – is seen as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, with UK retail giants including Argos, Currys PC World and Morrisons also taking part this year.

According to new research from courier insurers Staveley Head, around £7bn could be spent across the Black Friday weekend, with forecasts indicating that £1,736,111 will be spent online every single minute on Friday alone.

From a fleet perspective, Black Friday will bring a massive impact on everyday fleet operations, with Staveley Head predicting that 225 million parcels will need to be delivered as a result of the increased sales, leading to UK courier firms hiring 52% more lorries and vans – 19,000 vehicles.

Already Nexus Vehicle Rental has reported a 10% increase year-on-year in seasonal rental demand as logistics and courier companies turn to daily rental to scale up their fleets to cope with retail demand, including over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The trend is also being expedited by rising customer expectations in areas such as same-day-delivery and more recently same-day-returns.

And it’s this increased seasonal pressure that means delivery fleets are being warned to ensure road risk management remains at the top of the agenda.

Trade union GMB has highlighted the potential risks to the freelance courier industry as it warns of a “public safety scandal” for last-mile parcel drop company Hermes – which delivers parcels for Amazon as well as other online retailers.

The union refers to an alleged leaked letter said to show that Hermes is forcing couriers to work up to 21 days consecutively without a day off or no cover being provided in the run-up to Christmas, on top of the long daily working hours expected of the couriers. However, Hermes has denied all the claims and said it’s “entirely unfounded and totally irresponsible to suggest that Hermes would require or encourage couriers to put themselves or the public at risk”.

Arval has previously highlighted how it’s crucial that delivery firms don’t cut corners when it comes to risk management policy, both from an ethical and legal point of view.

Simon Cook, LCV consultant at the fleet management and leasing specialist, has said that although getting parcels out on time is a priority for delivery fleets, it’s crucial that they keep their eye on the ball, ensuring that the safety of their drivers and all other road users.

This includes requiring any adhoc drivers undergo the same risk management procedures as permanent staff and are aware of road risk policies. Daily walkaround checks should also be carried out and vehicle SMR regimes stuck to regardless of the number of vehicles being run.

Cook added: “When your fleet is being placed under more pressure, that is the time to step up your risk management.”

And Licence Check has also spoken out about the need for licence checking, including for temporary drivers, and risk assessments to ensure training and support can be provided where needed, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach.

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Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.

Natalie edits all the Fleet World websites and newsletters, and loves to hear about any latest industry news - or gossip.

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