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The perks and perils of being a food delivery rider

SINGAPORE — Mr Edgar Soon, 43, who works as a delivery rider for Foodpanda, spends about 10 hours a day, five to six days a week, on his motorcycle, zipping between eateries, homes and workplaces.

Father of two, Edgar Soon, 43, took up the job as a food delivery rider after losing his job as a lab technician in a shool. He now earns about double of what he used to earn, working 5-6 days a week, delivering about 25 orders a day. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY

Father of two, Edgar Soon, 43, took up the job as a food delivery rider after losing his job as a lab technician in a shool. He now earns about double of what he used to earn, working 5-6 days a week, delivering about 25 orders a day. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY

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SINGAPORE — Mr Edgar Soon, 43, who works as a delivery rider for Foodpanda, spends about 10 hours a day, five to six days a week, on his motorcycle, zipping between eateries, homes and workplaces.

Typically, he handles around 25 orders each day, covering areas such as Pasir Ris, Simei, Changi Business Park, Bedok, and Tampines where he lives. On the job for slightly over a year, he earns about S$3,000 to S$4,000 a month, about double what he used to earn as a laboratory technician.

He had lost his job after his contract was not renewed, and a friend recommended that he sign on to become a delivery rider.

“This was the next best option at that time. As I own my own motorbike, I felt that I could try it out,” said Mr Soon. He went for an interview where he had to show that his motorcycle was in working condition, he recounted.

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Currently, there are tens of thousands of delivery riders in Singapore working for the three major food delivery companies Foodpanda, Deliveroo and UberEATS. Riders can work for more than one company.

To be a delivery rider — be it using a motorbike, bicycle or e-scooter — for the three companies, individuals must be at least 18 years old.

Foodpanda, for example, pays its riders an hourly rate – S$9 for deliveries in the heartlands and S$9.50 for those in the city area. On top of this, they get paid between S$3.50 and S$5.50 for each order they deliver. Similarly, Deliveroo offers a base pay and riders get additional money — the sums vary depending on the time and day — for each delivery they make. The company said its riders can earn up to S$23 per hour.

Jobs can be accepted in advance or on the day itself. Riders who spoke to TODAY said they usually take between half an hour and 45 minutes, depending on the distance travelled, to make a delivery. Deliveroo said that its algorithm ensures that its riders “travel with food for an average of just six minutes per order”. The algorithm will “determine the best options for the restaurant, rider and customer to optimise delivery times”, the firm said.

Foodpanda, Deliveroo and UberEATS have different ways of managing its riders. While Deliveroo does not have any key performance indicators for its riders, Foodpanda grades them based on how fast they do the deliveries, customer feedback and whether they comply with their work schedules, among other things. A Foodpanda rider with a higher grade can earn more per delivery, and get priority for choosing his or her work schedule.

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‘RAIN, THE WORST ENEMY’

On the profile of its riders, Deliveroo said most of them are under 30 years old. They consist of students, part-timers, and professional athletes. As for Foodpanda, most of its riders are students, and between 20 and 32 years old.

The riders said they enjoy the perks of the job, including flexible hours, meeting people, travelling to places which they would otherwise not go, and the adrenaline rush to deliver the food on time.

But the job comes with its perils too. When it rains, it can become dangerous particularly for the PMD users.

Mr Muhammad Syawal, 18, who uses his e-scooter to deliver food, said: “The weather can be the worst enemy for me, with the rain making delivery a lot more difficult than usual. We are issued with rain gear and I don it every time it starts to rain. Aside from that, I try to ride on sheltered routes as much as I can.”

Mr Soon added: “When it rains I wear a raincoat, move slower and drive safely. If the rain is heavy, we will stop taking orders. What I do is I will stop at the shelter and the company will inform the customer of the delay.”

Mr Muhammad Azrul, 18, who is working as a delivery rider while waiting for enlistment into National Service, said there were occasions when he had to cancel deliveries, after he fell down and spilled the food. He said he always reminds himself to be careful, and “always obey the rules.” His company, UberEATS, also constantly reminds its riders about the laws, he added.

Earlier this week, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that from Jan 15, users caught riding PMDs on the roads will face stiffer punishment. LTA cited the “increasing popularity of food-delivery services”, and said it has been working with the companies to “educate their PMD delivery crew on safe-riding tips and rules, such as not riding on the roads”. ADDITIONAL REPORTING FROM SIAU MING EN

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