Ask the Expert: What Are The 5 Biggest Problems Faced by Independent Courier Drivers?
Courier delivery is not easy.
You might think that the biggest problems faced by independent courier drivers are obvious. You want to avoid traffic and be as fast as you can (both are true).
But, as with most things in life, it’s more complex than that.
Just because you use a decent GPS, you might not have planned the fastest route. Are you actually making as much money as you can? Or are you just leaving cash on the floor?
Tackling some of the biggest problems faced by independent courier drivers will also help lower your stress levels and get you finished faster.
If you’re new to independent courier delivery, the advice featured in this article is an excellent place to start and make sure you avoid the common pitfalls from the get-go.
1. Finding independent courier drivers work
The biggest problem faced by independent courier drivers is finding the work to start with.
Because you can’t just get in a truck and go and knock on your neighbor’s door and ask them if they need anything moved anywhere. But there are ways around it.
You can sign up with an agency. You can sign up with an app on your phone where you bid for the work. Or you can work for a delivery service partner (DSP) for a courier company that serves Amazon Flex, Hermes, FedEx, and so on. (Also, every DSP is slightly different. Some will give you a truck, some won’t.)
I recommend that you:
- Find bidding apps on your phone, such as the Courier Exchange
- Sign up with all the delivery service providers
- Speak to all of your local courier companies
- Put a card on your local newsagents’ boards
- Get yourself on classified ads sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, and Craigslist.
Because as many bullets as you fire in a general direction, one of them will hit the target.
2. Sudden traffic jams
You’re going to face traffic, and no one loves traffic. It’s an occupational hazard. There will be times that you’re going to be late for stops because there’s been an accident, and the road or freeway has closed. There will be times when you have a puncture or something goes wrong with the vehicle.
I’ve found the way to solve this is to get yourself a decent live traffic satnav. My recommendation is Waze because the data is crowd-sourced, meaning that it’s sometimes faster to update you on the live traffic conditions than Google Maps.
This means that you won’t be driving down a road, and suddenly you run into backed-up traffic because you’ll be alerted ahead of the congestion. In my experience, it’s better to have a route that’s 20 minutes longer than sitting in traffic getting stressed.
- If you are going to be late, call the customer and tell them why.
- If you can’t reach the customer, contact the shipper or your DSP to call the customer.
- Keep them informed; it’s not your fault.
This will all add time to your day – and I know time is money. But these things happen.
3. Finding the customer address
This is the bane of most people’s life. Mainly if you deliver more than 100 packages a day.
I do light haulage. This means I only have to find two or three stops a day. Multi-stop and DSP drivers have to find between 100 to 400 stops a day. For this, you need a proper route optimization tool along with your live traffic satnav. Circuit Route Planner is the best on the market.
Sometimes you can’t find an address, so you have to start asking people or using Google Maps. Sometimes, you might find that the wrong customer name is on the package.
So you have to ask local people, do a Google search, call the person who’s given you the job. If there’s a phone number on the paperwork, then call it. And for independent couriers doing over 20 stops each day, get yourself a decent route planner as well. The dropping off and the finding of addresses will cost you the time and the money.
4. Dead miles
This is either between stops or when you’ve reached your destination and you’re coming back. You don’t want to get halfway through your run and realize you’re on the other side of the road from where you were hours before. This wastes time and either the opportunity to finish early or grab another job and make more money.
So you want a decent route optimization app like Circuit Route Planner, which will give you the fastest route.
Pro-tip for independent courier drivers with your own truck: Use a backload platform to pick up another job once you’ve made all of your deliveries. Because if you’re working for a company that sends you 100 miles up the road without a return delivery to make, then you’re throwing money away by coming back empty.
5. Getting paid
Most of the jobs for freelance independent courier drivers will be on an invoice: That’s 30 days, 60 days, 30 days, or at the end of the month.
In my experience, most delivery service providers (DSPs) and local courier companies pay on time. However, a few of them need a little bit of a nudge. Sometimes they pay the invoices late.
What can you do?
You get to know customers after a while. To begin with, if they’re a day or two overdue their date, let it ride a little bit. Maybe they’re a bit lazy about it. Once it starts to be a bit longer, three, four days, call them to remind them that they still need to pay. Get on top of it.
The 5 biggest problems: Driving it home
That’s the five biggest problems you’re going to face as independent courier drivers and some simple solutions to them:
- Finding freelance courier work
- Sudden traffic jams
- Finding the right address
- Dead miles
- Getting paid
Just try not to worry too much. When you’re on the road, think about how you can keep your jobs going one after the other and use the best tools to help you avoid traffic and find the correct addresses.
Time is money, and the more jobs you can fit in, the better use of your time you will make.