Why are Wolt couriers violating traffic rules on a daily basis, and Wolt does nothing about it? – a few perspectives on the matter
Wolt has around 2 000 courier partners and more than 1 000 restaurant partners in Finland. Every day, couriers are making a huge amount of deliveries between restaurants and customers by cars, bikes and scooters, and from time to time, we get feedback on couriers violating traffic rules. It’s an important topic, and we don’t take it lightly. It’s also very difficult to answer the feedback with only a few words. That’s why we want to address the issue from a couple of different perspectives in this blog post.
What the situation looks like from a bystander’s point of view
Based on the feedback we have received over the years, bystanders are frustrated by the fact that Wolt’s courier partners don’t seem to care about traffic rules at all. Bystanders feel that couriers are driving on forbidden driveways, parking or stopping incorrectly and frequently causing close calls in traffic. The same mistakes are being done over and over again by different couriers and offenses happen way too often.
It simply seems like couriers don’t know or understand traffic rules, and Wolt is not taking any responsibility in training them or fixing the situation. This causes genuine concern, as these offenses are endangering people’s safety. This has been going on for years, and Wolt is doing nothing about it, even though the company claims to take it seriously.
What the situation looks like from a courier’s point of view
A Wolt courier delivers food from restaurants to customers with their own means of transport – by bike, car or scooter. Every courier driving a motor vehicle has a valid driver’s license, and like everyone else in traffic, has the responsibility to comply with traffic rules.
The average courier makes deliveries around 22 hours per week, during which he or she picks up and drops off tens or hundreds of orders from restaurants to customers. Couriers are always in a rush to be somewhere: restaurants are waiting for the courier to pick up orders that are ready, and customers are waiting for their food. Couriers are always doing their best in traffic to ensure that orders get delivered safely and on time. All couriers are contractors and not employed by Wolt, which means that they don’t have shifts or a boss telling them what to do, for example. Because of this, couriers don’t want to hear too many comments or criticism from Wolt about their behavior in traffic – they are responsible for their own actions, after all.
Restaurants are most often located in city centers, where there are very limited (if any) parking spaces. Multiple times a day, couriers are facing situations where they can’t find a suitable parking spot. Sometimes in these situations a courier might feel that they can stop the car for a while in an unauthorized manner without realistically causing harm or danger to anyone. Pickups and dropoffs are most typically quick stops: pick up the order from the restaurant, deliver it to the customer’s door. Sometimes, however, unexpected things happen and the stop becomes longer than expected: for example, the restaurant can be late in preparing the order, or the customer’s address information can be incomplete and it can take longer than usual to find the right address.
There can also be genuine misunderstandings in traffic. Even though the courier knows traffic rules, it isn’t always clear – especially in a rush or while driving in a new area – what’s the allowed bike line or which street you’re allowed to drive to. The same can be true for a person who just recently started as a courier. Respectively, when you’ve done deliveries in demanding conditions on a daily basis during a year or so, you’ve inevitably made a few human errors. When there are hundreds of couriers out on the streets at all times, even a few errors per courier really add up in the overall city landscape.
Before a courier starts making deliveries, he or she participates in an introduction session organized by Wolt. In the session, the topic of complying to traffic rules is discussed. Every courier knows that repeated violations in traffic can lead to a termination of the partnership agreement with Wolt, and that such terminations have been made in the past. In addition to this, couriers receive regular reminders about traffic related matters from Wolt. To couriers, this can feel frustrating, because they feel very familiar with traffic rules and they never intentionally cause danger. Couriers know they are responsible for their own actions.
What the situation looks like from Wolt’s point of view
Wolt has 2 000 courier partners making deliveries in 21 cities in Finland. We recognize that there are recurring problems with couriers complying with traffic regulations, and we have been actively working to find solutions to them.
In terms of parking, we have identified challenges, especially in the largest cities, where available parking spaces are few and far between and parking in the vicinity of restaurant hubs is very challenging. We have sought to solve these problems through an ongoing dialogue with parking regulators in major cities as well as representatives of urban planning, for example regarding the possibility of adding more short-term parking spaces to city centers. In the Spring of 2019, we delivered a petition signed by dozens of restaurants to the City of Helsinki. The last time we met with the representatives of the City of Helsinki was at the end of last year, when we discussed, in particular, the renewal of traffic signs on Iso-Roobertinkatu so that the parking spaces allowed for trucks could also be used for cars. Moreover, we have met with representatives from several shopping malls and sought to find solutions that would facilitate pickups from restaurants located in the malls.
There are certain challenges that we have not yet found a solution to. We can send couriers reminders about traffic rules, but in the end, couriers are self-employed contractors, and by law, we are not allowed to lead them like employees. It is also virtually humanly impossible to remotely control a person who makes his or her own choices in traffic every single second. Every professional group that operates in traffic – from bus drivers to taxi drivers and food delivery couriers to mail carriers – ultimately operates based on their own judgment in any one given situation.
At the same time, it is understandable that every mistake of every Wolt courier gets linked to Wolt. However, we hope that when you see violations in traffic, your primary contact would be the police or parking authorities, since the enforcement of traffic laws is the responsibility of these authorities. If you wish, you can also provide us with this information, and we will take it into account in our feedback sessions and reminders. Please note, however, that when publicly posting an image where the person can be identified without their consent, you might be guilty of a privacy violation.
How can we make the situation better?
There is definitely room for improvement – we all agree on that. Going forward, we want to have even more open discussions with city representatives and push forward initiatives that would allow for better short-term parking. Having more short-term parking spaces would benefit not only the couriers but anyone who works with delivery or transportation, as well as the restaurants and other businesses that benefit from those services. We are also very happy to hear constructive feedback from city authorities on this topic.
Based on the feedback we have received, we intend to go through traffic rules and parking regulations even more thoroughly in our courier introduction sessions. Moreover, we commit to sharing information regarding the new road traffic law with our courier partners. In addition to these, we will continue to actively have feedback sessions with couriers.
We appreciate your patience and understanding while we work in finding lasting solutions. The couriers are doing some very valuable work for the cities we live in, and they are doing their best, sometimes in very challenging conditions. During the pandemic, for example, their work has allowed hundreds of restaurants to stay in business, and allowed hundreds of thousands of people to avoid physical contacts. It is also important to recognize that, with the means at our disposal, it is not humanly possible or realistic to get into a situation where none of the 2 000 independent couriers operating in busy traffic from morning to night all year round would never break any traffic rules.
In this post, we have only gone through a few perspectives on a complicated subject. We are sure that there are things we have not taken into account, and the situation could be made better through actions we haven’t even thought of. If you come up with other ways to improve the situation, we would love to hear about them – we all want the situation to improve. None of us intentionally causes issues in traffic, and we all have our own point of view on the matter.
In other words: if you were us, what would you do to improve the situation?