From the moment a customer clicks ‘add to basket’ and proceeds to checkout, a complex chain of events is set in motion. So many pieces have to fall into place before you’re tearing open your package that it can seem like delivery from van to door is just the tiniest piece of the puzzle – but arguably, it’s the most crucial.

Since the e-commerce boom, companies like Amazon, Evri, and Royal Mail have been thrust into the spotlight. The importance of the partnership between industry and last-mile organisations grew exponentially with the pandemic when companies relied on operators to meet new standards of customer convenience, efficiency and demand to deliver at scale.

Delivery drivers have become the lynchpin in business fulfilment but are continually hampered by hurdles that make that last stretch more of a struggle than it needs to be.

Delivery challenges

Recent strikes have shown drivers face harsh working conditions, such as extreme temperatures. Additionally, the Global Delivery Insight – Delivery Driver Challenges in the Last Mile report reveals that drivers’ day-to-day roles are filled with additional stressors like traffic congestion (34%), difficult customers (28%), and inaccessible addresses (29%).

This is made even less manageable with an increasing workload. The research found nearly two in three drivers noticed increased delivery volumes. Drivers deliver around nine packages every hour, averaging six and a half minutes per package. Increasingly, drivers are tasked with extra responsibilities like verifying IDs and providing proof of delivery photos.

While it’s impossible to eliminate all points of friction – like getting caught in traffic – with technological advancements, businesses can implement smarter technologies to address some of delivery drivers’ day-to-day pain points.

The gap in technology

Better, smarter technologies have the potential to empower delivery drivers. According to the Global Delivery Insight – Driver Technology in the Last Mile report, 82% of drivers use smartphones in their delivery processes.

However, businesses still assign additional operational tools, like barcode scanners, to drivers that are unwieldy and limited in their capabilities. Alarmingly, these technologies often add another layer of difficulty, as 90% of drivers report being frustrated by such handheld devices.

These frustrations are evidence of the gap between what drivers need to perform their role and what existing technology offers. Issues like unreadable barcodes, scanners failing with damaged labels, and devices struggling in low light or from a distance all impact efficiency and are instances where better technology is required.

Harnessing the potential of smart data capture

Smart data capture provides a way to enhance the capabilities of existing tech, like smartphones. More intelligent forms of data capture can combine multiple data sources like barcodes, text, or IDs and provide insights at the point of capture. This means drivers are able to significantly increase their productivity by simplifying and speeding up repetitive processes – like scanning parcel labels to prove delivery, loading and unloading vans and inventory checks.

For example, rather than scanning one barcode at a time, smart data capture technology allows drivers to scan multiple parcels at once. This eases the pressure drivers are under to operate more efficiently, accelerating van loading to make the all-important parcel drops in a timely fashion and flex in times of peak demand thanks to efficient bulk deliveries to PUDO points and lockers. Nearly half of the drivers reported that interacting with satisfied customers was the most fulfilling part of the job.

Digital transformation in the form of smart data capture doesn’t need to be a massive overhaul –  it can be integrated with existing scanning hardware. This can increase efficiency and improve worker satisfaction, benefiting customers and businesses.

Enabling drivers make someone’s day

Being so far removed from the check-out process, it’s sometimes easy for businesses to forget the critical role of delivery drivers in the customer experience.

The reality is that drivers often face other hurdles, like extreme weather, traffic jams, and malfunctioning technology, before delivering the much-anticipated parcel. With increasing workloads and expanding responsibilities, it’s important for businesses to invest in smarter technologies to alleviate drivers’ stressors and empower these frontline workers to focus on what they do best: connecting with customers.

Author: Patricia Bleiker, Director of Transport & Logistics Industry Solutions, Scandit