December 1, 2022

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Tech companies try to address food delivery driver safety

As more people have relied on food delivery apps during the pandemic, questions of workers’ safety have arisen after high-profile crimes.

On Monday, DoorDash delivery driver Andrew Satavu was shot and killed inside his vehicle after dropping off an order near the McHenry Village shopping center in central Modesto. Police have not released any information on a possible motive or suspect. The fatal shooting is the first reported murder of a third-party delivery app worker while on the job in the city.

Both Modesto Police Department and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department spokespeople said incidents involving delivery workers in the region remain rare. Modesto police spokeswoman Sharon Bear said detectives are not working on any robbery or carjacking cases involving delivery drivers. Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Luke Schwartz said his department has seen no “significant increases or noteworthy trends” involving delivery workers.

Still, the city has had incidents in the past. Most third-party app delivery drivers don’t carry large amounts of cash with them, because payments and tips are made through the customer’s mobile phones. But their cars have become targets.

In December 2019, a different DoorDash delivery driver was picking up an order at Garcia Jo Jo’s on McHenry Avenue in Modesto when her car was stolen with her 9-year-old daughter still inside. The thief ditched the vehicle shortly after realizing there was an unexpected passenger, but left the car running, so it crept along the street and clipped parked vehicles before being stopped by a good Samaritan. Neither the girl nor her mother were injured in the carjacking.

Police in some major metropolitan areas, including Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., have reported during the pandemic that carjackings and car thefts have gone up, including against gig workers who drive for third-party apps like DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats.

Grubhub_Delivery2.jpg
Grubhub deliver meals from restaurants to homes. Grubhub

Overall nationally, robberies and rapes are down since the start of the pandemic, according to the Police Executive Research Forum, but homicides including shootings have gone up.

In response, tech companies that employ delivery gig workers have updated some of their policies and procedures. A DoorDash spokesperson said the company offers occupational accident insurance to its drivers (who they call Dashers) at no cost. Last year, it also launched an in-app safety toolkit for its gig workers.

“DoorDash takes the safety of our community extremely seriously. While negative incidents are extremely rare, we’re constantly working to improve our products, policies and processes because even one incident is one too many,” said a DoorDash spokesperson in a written statement to The Bee.

The program, called SafeDash, partners with the national security company ADT and allows for quick contact with one of its agents. It also has a button that will connect delivery workers with emergency services.

Since the pandemic started, rival company Uber Eats also has put new safety guidelines in place, including GPS tracking and an emergency assistance button for delivery people. And Grubhubs, on its website for delivery drivers, said it will “proactively close markets when a market as a whole becomes unsafe for our delivery partners.”

Incidents with food delivery drivers follow years of reports of assaults, harassment and worse for their gig-conomy cousins, rideshare drivers. Platforms like Uber and Lyft have reported claims of of thousands of sexual assaults alone in years past. The tech companies have rolled out features aimed at making the service safer for riders and drivers, including Uber’s new audio recording option during rides that was launched late last year.

This story was originally published April 21, 2022 12:53 PM.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs multiple times a week. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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