Aynur Tekin/ DUVAR

The number of motorbike delivery drivers continues to increase in Turkey’s major cities. Some deliver documents and items for companies while others try to deliver food orders on time all day long in traffic. As the sector grows, so do the problems. Çağdaş Yavuz, an experienced delivery driver who is also the head of a federation representing his colleagues, is fighting against the problems that drivers face, including excessive pressure, bullying, low wages, lack of insurance, and long working hours. “If one day motorbike delivery drivers can’t start their engines, Turkey shuts down,” Yavuz said. 

According to statistics provided by Yavuz’ federation, 75 of the 103 motorcyclists who died in traffic accidents were delivery drivers. The primary reason for this, according to Yavuz, are automobile drivers not paying enough attention to the motorcyclists. 

“I got stuck in a really risky position and I looked and the driver wasn’t even aware. Then there was a red light and I approached them. I looked and they were playing Candy Crush on their phone,” Yavuz said. 

Yavuz himself has been a delivery driver for 18 years: “We aren’t hoodlums, we are workers that are delivering bread to people’s homes under two wheels. Things weren’t going right and we were being marginalized. Neither our customers nor our employers were showing us respect. In traffic there is an unbelievable level of respect as it is. In the end, we said ‘we need to change the order of things’ and first established an association and then a federation,” Yavuz said. 

Çağdaş Yavuz

While it is estimated that 100,000 motorcyclist delivery drivers are currently working in Turkey, at least 50,000 are believed to be working under the table. Those working informally get paid less, and usually these workers are immigrants or high school students on summer break. While a delivery driver can make between 150-200 TL a day, immigrants and drivers without licenses are paid only 50-60 TL a day: “They are benefitting from the victimization of immigrants and exploiting their labor,” Yavuz said. 

Another problem is restaurant managers pressuring their drivers to deliver orders as fast as possible, which results in them taking risks that put them at harms way: 

“Employers are putting pressure on the drivers, telling them to hurry up. First of all, we need to change this. Drivers need to first think about their own safety when making deliveries. It’s not worth dying for a 20 TL order,” Yavuz said. 

Drivers also complain about disrespectful and extraordinary requests from customers: 

“They try to make us take care of their own personal needs. For example, when making an order, they write ‘can you bring cigarettes or drinks’ and apart from that one day when I was walking down the stairs someone said ‘when you leave can you take out my trash,’” said Aygün Karacakol, who has been working as a delivery driver for four years. 

While delivery drivers are currently officially considered to be an occupation that is under low risk, the federation is demanding that they be considered a high-risk occupation.