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Respect the couriers, boxing day is theirs!

This time of year I always reminisce over my 25 happy years as a courier. As I write this just two weeks from Christmas, I think of all the poor men and women who are working to their absolute maximum, delivering up to 50% a day more than the rest of the year. If I was working tomorrow, I would be up at 4:30 to de-ice the van before getting to the depot for 5:30 and I wouldn't get home till 9 at night, that's a SIXTEEN hour day. I used to have to eat on the road in between deliveries whilst driving and all house-hold chores took a back seat for the month, in fact, everything takes a backseat in a courier household during December!

From the start of the day things could go wrong. Lorries arriving late because of bad weather, electrical problems due to the cold affecting roller-belts and hand scanners and there is always the inevitable IT problems where computers would stop working due to the overload of

the season. There is nothing worse than a van full of 125 deliveries (over 200 boxes) that you have just spent 2 hours loading in the order you will drive, to be held up when being checked out. Leaving the depot an hour late means you have to go straight to timed deliveries that would be late if done in the original order you had planned. The delays in trying to find stuff half way along a loaded van is sooo time consuming. By 11 in the morning, all the delays added up means you may be up to 2 hours behind you usual schedule...and you still have to delivery 50% more than usual. What if the weather is bad with ice or snow....those parcels still have to be delivered.

Couriers only get paid once they have completed a deliver and so you find they usually go beyond normal expectation. After all, if anything doesn't get delivered for any reason, it gets added to the tally for the following day. Knowing your tomorrow will be as bad as today, you don't want to add to it. At this time of year, courier companies double their warehouse guys, office folk, lorry drivers and delivery drivers, many through agencies who may not know the full ins and outs of the job. Companies reserve extra vans and lorries way before December to cope with the overload. Everyone in the industry knows that it is all hands on boxes and unless you're hospitalised, you turn in for your shift. Delivery depots are a den of colds, coughs and flues induced by the 16-18 hour days, cold weather, poor diet and physical exhaustion, but with the system running at absolute maximum, you can't stay home sick as guess what...tomorrow you would have todays to delivery too! It just keeps stacking up, unless it gets delivered.

By the end of the week, the thought of a day off would be a luxury. Yes, just one day a week off as Saturday gets treated as a normal day in December. So having clocked up about 75 hours working during the week followed by a full Saturday leaving just Sunday spare, all you want to do is sleep, nurse your cough and not get out of your pj's for the day. Many couriers are mums and dads, have stuff to sort and chores to do and so there goes Sunday. It is a harsh job at Christmas as are so many other professions and so I try to look after my couriers. The easiest thing to do if you're out in the day is to have a parcel box/garden shed with a combination padlock with the lock code as part of your address on the parcel, eg:

123 Main Street

(parcel box code 1234)

East Kyme


All of my couriers know to leave everything in the parcel box which is a HUGE help to them and it is a really secure thing to do. To start with, most couriers shouldn't accept a note taped to your front door as an instruction. A note taped on the INSIDE of your door is a little more accepting and generally I would follow that instruction if it deemed safe. However a note on the outside of the property could have been put there by anyone and once you drive off, they go and claim the parcel. This DOES HAPPEN, believe it or not. The safest way to instruct your courier is to include any information in your address, if you haven't already left the instruction at the time of ordering. Whilst the driver knows it is a true instruction from you he may still not be allowed to, if the sending company disallows it. If you are expecting a parcel and won't be in, leave a note on the inside of your window for the goods to be left with a neighbour. This is the safest thing to plan, if you're not going to be in.

I treat my couriers with great respect, offering a take-away tea, use of the bathroom, cold juice in the summer and give a chocolaty gift at Christmas. I have even told the regulars that if they forget their wallet ever, they

can come here for juice and sandwiches. I respect couriers when out and about...whilst you might be cursing the van parked on a bad corner, I'd be thinking

of the pressures the driver is under, from ensuring all the timed ones get done, the security of the parcels and the van and of course actually finding every address. Once I had a parcel that only had the guys name and the village...that was it! And you know what, he got his parcel. He got it because I had delivered to him before. Now at Christmas a temp driver would not have that accumulative knowledge and so it should be understood that there needs to be a bit of understanding at this time of year.

When I first started couriering in 1994 I had ALL of East London, running out of St Albans in Hertfordshire. My patch was from Enfield, to Hackney, out to the Isle of Dogs and across to Forest Gate. A huge, busy area but I only had 50 deliveries a day, back then there was no internet shopping. Today I would imagine there is probable 1 van PER POSTCODE, each probably doing 150 drops a day. That is an insane increase just going to show how many parcels there are being moved about every day. Now remember lets say there are 10 courier companies operating in the same area...crazy, and all through an industry that has virtually no regulations. Whilst lorry drivers have to take breaks as per their tacos, courier drivers can work 16 hours, have 8 hours off, then go back out and go through it all again....for ALL OF DECEMBER. There is big money to be made in couriering but you rarely find the money at driver level. Being an owner driver can be profitable (with a good route), but you can only have time off if you have someone to cover you. If your cover doesn't cope you would get billed for an agency to deliver your patch at exorborent costs to you.

Couriers NEVER turn up and don't knock. What a waste of fuel to drive to your house and not bother getting paid. Remember they only get paid if it is delivered. Many couriers don't get paid when they attempt a delivery when you are out, so if you're not going to be in this time of year, plan an alternative. The amount of times people don't hear the door, see the card left, ring the depot and say the driver didn't bother to knock. How crazy does that sound, it just doesn't happen.

Do you have a name or number on your property? If you don't, how is anyone suppose to know where you are? This time of year you might have an agency chap who has never driven in your town before and so if half the road isn't numbered or named what is he to do? It's not like he has all day to fathom it out, he probably has 3 minutes because he is tied to the times on his handheld scanner. That's right, couriers with scanners that track their movement have only a few minutes per stop, in order to keep to the time schedule the system is set at. If he has trouble finding just 2 or 3 addresses, he could fall behind his times by half an hour. He has to try and make up the time or he will start running late on his ETA's (Estimated Time Arrival) later in the day. So clear property identification that matches the address you use is essential. I had one address that used the house name on parcels but the property had a number. How are you suppose to match those up?

Help your courier by having a 'leave safe' box that only they have access to, supply a lock code as part of your address, or at least a note on the inside of your window suggesting your preferred neighbour. He doesn't get

paid until it is delivered

I have written this blog to shed a little light on just how hard the job is and that a bit of respect to drivers on the road goes a long way. When you're still working at 8 at night, having already clocked up 15 hours, in the dark on icy roads and someone shows compassion by giving you a mince pie, or offers of a cuppa (which you'd never have time to wait for it to be brewed) or use of a toilet, you have no idea how uplifting it is to feel appreciated. The courier clan are a close knit bunch though there is obvious rivalry in the higher ranks. I am still friends with couriers I have worked with from years back, it is a certain sort of person who can be a good courier. I have found they are all lovely, hard working, down-to-earth folk who deserve far more respect than they ever get. Thousands of parcels get shifted about (not just the country but the world) every day, with the majority being delivered with no problems. We don't remember the deliveries that go well, just the ones that go missing or get damaged. Perhaps if people had clear numbers on their homes, addressed parcels properly and arrange alternatives if you're not going to be in, the whole system would run a lot smoother.

Over the years I have been bitten by dogs, so many dogs! I have been robbed twice (both in East London) and was followed one year in Peterborough by a suspicious car. Courier vans are like Santa's sack this time of year and so are prone to hijacking. There are even procedures in place for such events. I reported the reg number to my office and drove to an regular address that had a secure forecourt. I told the owner who locked the gates. As it was, it was a false alarm, the car following me was trying to catch up as I had just carded him as he returned home. I knew the chap and he had ID so I let him have his parcel.

I LOVED being a courier. Yes, there are hundreds of things that can go wrong every day. Yes most days it was heavy, hard work. Yes, there were rarely words of praise for a good job done, but the rewards lay in the few people who appreciated their deliveries. The few folk who showed compassion. Delivering a surprise birthday present or the unexpected bunch of flowers, delivering important documents before 9am when they were in Hong Kong just yesterday. Every driver is just a tiny piece of a huge industry that is greatly misunderstood. Those viral videos go around of boxes getting thrown about (most likely not even proper couriers), but no-one notices the driver who does his own route, then goes and finishes his buddies route because they've had a accident and can't finish.

Let's make Boxing Day COURIER DAY! And yes, I was the driver who did 16 hours December 2016, as I did my own 129 deliveries, then went and did 32 for my stranded buddy, just so everyone got their parcels!

Please note this blog is about my personal experiences and every courier company operates differently

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