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Couriers make a Comeback

The motorcycle/scooter courier is back, and it’s official, with the number of express deliveries (of all types, not just two-wheelers) more than doubling since 2019. Until recently the golden age of the courier seemed to be long gone – in the 1970s and ‘80s, with countless papers and documents needing urgent same-day delivery in those pre-internet times, a bike was often the fastest way to do it. But now, thanks to Covid and the explosion of internet shopping, the demand for ‘last mile’ deliveries has gone through the roof.

Dr Tracey Worth, Chief Executive of the Institute of Couriers, called on the motorcycle industry to take advantage of what she called “low hanging fruit.” In a speech to the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), she urged the industry to take note of the potential for increased sales L category (Lcat) scooters and small motorcycles – especially battery-electric bikes to suit city centres.
“In 2019, pre-Covid, we made 25 billion express deliveries in a year,” she said. “In 2022 the figures are not exact as we are only just in 2023 (but) there were 60 billion.” Forecasting that the growth will continue, she added: “But my sector can’t deliver it…and that’s where the Lcat is going to help. That is where we are going to be able to expand and that is where you are going to see the low-hanging fruit of opportunity.”

Dr Worth is also the co-author of a history of the UK’s courier industry, focusing on bikes, from its origins in the 1960s, to the Honda CX500-powered 1980s, and the decline and rebound thanks to internet business and fast food deliveries.

BMF Chair Jim Freeman acknowledged that two-wheel couriers are part of Britain’s motorcycling history. “Amazing, I thought bike couriers were long defunct, the only couriers I see are in vans and jolly useful they are. The Pizza delivery riders, as part of the gig economy, have raised numerous concerns about riding standards, the state of their equipment and, especially, Training and Testing. There have been calls for the employers to only hire Full licence holders. I’d have thought that the electric bike was the most appropriate choice, in an increasingly 20 mph urban environment.”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Home Counties Couriers