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Delivery drivers’ long hours pose road risks

ABU DHABI // Lorry drivers say they spend as many as 17 hours a day at the wheel to meet demanding deadlines. Overwork, fatigue and the pressure of delivering on time have resulted in risks that often lead to accidents. Four years ago, an accident involving a lorry[1] in Al Ain killed 21 bus passengers and injured 24 people.

Last year, 18 major accidents involving lorries caused 24 deaths. This month, four people died and one was injured when a lorry collided with a vehicle[2] in the Western Region. “In 24 hours, many will work 17 hours and most will doze off behind the wheel at some point due to a lack of rest.

It can cause horrific accidents,” says Pakistani Fazal Rabi, a driver. Mr Rabi, who has been working in Abu Dhabi for 10 years, says that although he knows his physical limit, many delivery drivers keep working even though they are tired. “No driver can deny having dozed off while driving but those who are alert immediately park, wash their faces and get a cup of tea, or take a brief nap.

We have beds in the lorry,” he says. Mr Rabi earns Dh2,000 a month and gets Dh25 for a short trip to Dubai and Dh50 for a long trip to Ruwais or the Northern Emirates. But a slump in trade rather than a change in the attitude of delivery companies has improved the situation.

“We get about five trips a month nowadays,” says Mr Rabi. “It used to be up to 25 trips a month just a year back.” Manpreet Singh, an Indian driver of a 16-wheel lorry in Abu Dhabi, says being sleepy is common among delivery drivers.

“I don’t take the risk, I park and take a nap to start fresh again,” Mr Singh says. “But I have seen many accidents on the motorways. Drivers ignore the warning signs, like deep yawning, and they keep driving.

So accidents happen.” Mr Singh says most of the drivers he knows feel the pressure to keep driving and meet delivery deadlines. He earns Dh2,000 a month and Dh150 a trip, and says his heavy goods vehicle licence and employment visa cost Dh27,526, so he is also under pressure.

Mr Singh says short trips in the UAE are manageable but journeys to Saudi Arabia and Oman mean staying awake for longer periods of time. “Generally I work for 12 hours a day but we don’t get any overtime for that.” A drive to Fujairah at a speed of 80kph takes about five hours, and about six hours are spent offloading and loading at the destination. Including the return trip, delivery drivers generally work about 16 hours a day to complete one delivery, Mr Singh says.

Omar Ayaz, 23, from Pakistan, says other motorists can be unpredictable. “We are in big lorries, generally nothing will happen to us. But drivers of small cars would be killed if we can’t brake in time,” he says.

[email protected][3]

References

  1. ^ accident involving a lorry (www.thenational.ae)
  2. ^ lorry collided with a vehicle (www.thenational.ae)
  3. ^ [email protected] (www.thenational.ae)

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