Speedy Solution

Motorcycles are normally favoured for the express delivery of smaller items in the Middle East. However, recent concerns about health and safety are placing their future in jeopardy.

  • E-Mail
By  Robeel Haq Published  February 5, 2006

Speedy Solution|~|aramex2.jpg|~||~|The use of motorcycles for express deliveries is common throughout the world. In the Middle East, like everywhere else, companies normally favour motorcycles to transport smaller items, such as paper documents, credit cards and passports. However, concerns regarding the health and safety of motorcyclists have split the local logistics industry. Whilst some companies are phasing out their motorcycle fleets in favour of delivery vans, others are predicting increased demand for bike deliveries and therefore plan to boost their fleets. “Motorcycles are ideal for the domestic delivery of smaller packages,” says Hussein Hachem, vice president, UAE & Oman, Aramex. “The demand for such services in the Middle East is booming. There are huge levels of credit cards and passports being transported on a daily basis here.” The delivery of items such as credit cards and legal documents is normally time sensitive. However, the Middle East’s escalating traffic and parking problems could prove problematic in terms of meeting service level agreements. Motorcycles can help to combat these difficulties, whilst consuming less petrol compared to delivery vans, which makes them an attractive option for express delivery companies. “Motorcycles are financially better for small weights and document deliveries,” says Bryan Moulds, UAE country general manager, TNT Express. “In addition they negotiate around traffic jams and travel quicker through congested areas. However, the difficulty is weighing up the danger to employees because motorcycles are highly susceptible to accidents.” Motorcyclists are amongst the most vulnerable road users in the Middle East. Research indicates that the prime cause of most motorcycle accidents is the action of other road users, especially car drivers. However, whilst most motorcycle accidents will involve a collision with another vehicle, motorcyclists are also susceptible to accidents caused by defects in the road surface, such as potholes, road works, and spillages such as oil or sand. “A motorcycle is not a balanced four wheel vehicle and the driver has no security,” says Moulds. “There are added dangers in the Middle East, especially with the lack of special provisions such as motorcycle lanes here. Additionally, people travel at higher speeds and there is a high instance of accidents.” Given the higher potential risk of accidents, companies using motorcycles for express deliveries have a responsibility to take preventative measures to avoid such incidents. At the ground level, it is important to ensure the right candidates are being employed for motorcycle deliveries. By hiring poor quality personnel, the battle to maintain high safety levels becomes more difficult. “Safety is a priority,” says John Tansey, general manager, UPS UAE. “We have an exhaustive human resource procedure to ensure that we employ able and experienced riders who understand both the maintenance and risk factors in driving motorcycles. We want to ensure that the riders are fully briefed on company policies and all features of their transport.” In addition to finding the right personnel, most companies in the Middle East have also implemented strict health and safety procedures, which are often documented in induction packs for new employees. These procedures tackle issues such as road traffic regulations, driver licence requirements, driver responsibilities, the maximum number of driver hours allowed, and speed limitations. The company can also state its procedure for driving motorcycles during extreme weather conditions in the Middle East, such as extreme heat during the summer or heavy sandstorms in the winter, which also require preventative measures to protect riders. “If extreme weather conditions arise, we take the motorbikes off the road and move onto alternative light transport, such as the Volkswagen Caddy,” says Tansey. “If heat becomes an issue, we give drivers mineral supplements and ensure that they rehydrate and cool down by taking regular breaks. UPS would never put its drivers in the position of motorbike deliveries in the dark.” Executing a health and safety procedure helps a company to reduce the number of fatal and serious road accident injuries, whilst simultaneously protecting itself from prosecution and possible imprisonment. However, implementing such procedures is only the first step. Companies must ensure the rules are clearly communicated and followed by employees. Providing motorcycles with regular training courses is particularly effective in increasing awareness of such issues amongst the workforce. “It is important to ensure bikers are driving carefully and that’s something delivery companies must take seriously,” says Hachem. “We conduct staff training courses on a regular basis to stress the importance of driving properly within certain speed limits. These courses are available to new and existing drivers, which creates a strong sense of awareness within the company about safety issues.” A number of companies in the Middle East are providing incentives to reinforce their health and safety procedures. For example, some employers are implementing a driver reward system with potential cash bonuses for the best drivers on a monthly basis. Such ideas are normally conceived following consultation with employees. As such, creating opportunities for drivers to provide feedback into the health and safety procedure normally results in better collaboration and creates a sense of ownership towards the procedure. Regular motorcycle maintenance is another important factor in reducing the potential for accidents. Although modern motorcycles require much less maintenance than older models, they still need more attention than delivery vans. Regular maintenance will increase the lifespan of the motorcycle and indicate prospective problems before they occur. There are dozens of components that could be checked on a frequent basis, although these can be ranked in order of importance. “We have a transportation coordinator who works in-house to ensure proper maintenance of all vehicles,” says Tansey. “The actual maintenance is outsourced to the motorcycle supplier, to guarantee that genuine parts are being used and service records are maintained.” Amongst the most important items needing regular maintenance are tyres. Any damaged tyre should be replaced immediately – it’s not worth the risk. Also, the maintenance procedure should include checks on suspension, brakes, engine oil, drive chain, cables, cooling system, and battery. Motorcyclists are especially susceptible for being overlooked by other drivers, so finally, test every bulb on the bike, including the sidelight, dipped beam, main beam, indicators and of course, brake lights. “Regular maintenance is always a worthwhile investment for the company,” says Hachem. “There are various parts that need checking on a motorcycle and the maintenance checks should be conducted every 1000kms. We outsource this responsibility to a third party with the right expertise to make sure the task is completed efficiently.” Although there are various methods of reducing the potential risk of accidents whilst using motorcycles for deliveries, there are no guarantees that accidents will never occur; no matter how careful a company treats health and safety. These dangers have resulted in companies re-evaluating the viability of using motorcycles, in comparison to alternatives such as delivery vans and caddies. “There are various alternatives available for companies,” says Tansey. “Depending on the product type, a range of transport is suitable from light vehicles to a full trailer load. Delivery vans or caddies are possible for document delivery. Alternatively, in the retail environment for example, products such as sunglasses or make-up could fit into smaller vans, whilst specialised vehicles of one ton or more could be used for clothes and larger items.” TNT, the global provider of express delivery services, recently decreased its motorbike fleet by 50% and predicts it will completely phase out motorcycles by the end of the year. The decision was made following an evaluation on the viability of motorcycles in the Middle East. “TNT has made this decision because we are very conscious about the health and safety of our employees,” says Moulds. “The decision to phase out motorbikes was based on our overriding concern for best practice in occupational and safety issues and to lessen the risk of accidents.” The company has already started using alternative methods of transportation, such as delivery vans. It has ruled out any future re-introduction of motorcycles into its fleet. “We will not be re-introducing motorbikes in the future,” says Moulds. “It’s definitely cheaper for us to use motorbikes but it does not reflect our health and safety goals.” However, the dilemma of using motorcycles in the region is splitting the industry. In contrast to TNT’s decision to phase out its motorcycle fleet, other companies are moving in the opposite direction and plan to increase their fleets. “You cannot run a domestic service transporting documents by using cars. It simply doesn’t make much sense,” says Hachem. “Motorcycles are more flexible and reach destinations faster. We own around 200 motorcycles and each couriers makes 60-70 deliveries every day. We cannot match this amount with alternative transport methods. Therefore, we are investing on our infrastructure. We have upgraded our fleet and improved our technology so that we can continue to deliver the packages and meet demand.” Similarly, UPS is also experiencing heavy demand for express deliveries through motorcycles, and currently has no plans to phase out their fleet. “We continue to use motorbikes based on our customers’ business needs. Motorbikes remain an element of the UPS UAE transportation portfolio, and we don’t see any changes in this policy for the foreseeable future,” says Tansey. With different responses towards the health and safety of motorcycle drivers, the debate regarding the viability of motorcycles for express deliveries in the Middle East is set to continue well into the future. Whilst other companies may well follow TNT’s lead, it seems motorcycles have enough support from certain sections of the industry to remain visible on Middle East road networks for some time to come.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code