Courier Job Description - Requirements, Skills and Career
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What Does a Courier Do?
A courier is a person who delivers parcels and goods on behalf of businesses and private individuals, using their own vehicle (typically a van) or a vehicle supplied by the company they work for.
Couriers work mainly for logistics companies offering national and international express delivery services, - such as shipping companies, express couriers, and international couriers. They usually wear a uniform bearing the logo of the company they work for.
The substantial growth in the e-commerce sector in recent years has led to a steady increase in “last mile” deliveries of parcels to consumers and, consequently, has caused demand for professional couriers to rise significantly.
The typical working day of a courier is generally very demanding, with early starts the norm. Key critical factors in a courier’s daily schedule include the number of deliveries and pick-ups to be made and the traffic situation - especially in large cities. Couriers often use a “multi drop / multi collection system”, which enables them to increase shipping volumes and reduce transport costs. The system works by combining multiple deliveries and collections from multiple recipients and senders (e.g. distributors, retailers and end customers) within a single journey - starting from a central depot.
Among the essential tools used by couriers to help them in their work are satellite navigation systems and route optimization software, which enable the efficient planning of scheduled deliveries and collections. Navigation systems help couriers identify the route that will enable them to visit all of the scheduled delivery and pick up points in the shortest amount of time possible. In addition, couriers use shipment tracking applications, which allow the progress of shipments to be recorded, updated and tracked in real time.
When delivering items, couriers are required to obtain proof of delivery, which typically involves collecting the recipient’s signature using a hand-held device. Couriers are also responsible for processing payments for packages sent on a “payment on delivery” basis using a POS terminal, for making parcel pick-ups and for generally seeking to ensure that customers receive excellent service. Couriers represent the first point of contact for customers - particularly in the event of errors, delays or damage occurring during collection or delivery - and therefore need to be able to confidently deal with a range of critical situations. Couriers should endeavour to understand the customer’s needs and respond in a polite, friendly and efficient manner, providing rapid solutions to any problems or issues. Alternatively, they should inform the customer how they can contact the shipping company’s customer service team.
But that's not all...
In addition to driving and making deliveries and collections (which typically occupy most of a courier’s working day), couriers may also be responsible for loading and unloading their van (at the start and end of the day or - in some cases - on multiple occasions during the day) and for the movement of parcels, packages and pallets in the warehouse, using a forklift truck and/or other goods handling equipment.
Couriers may work on a full time or part time basis, with either standard daytime hours or a combination of day and night shifts.
Couriers typically need to be available to work flexible hours and may be required to travel long distances to carry out national or international deliveries.
Courier Duties and Responsibilities
The typical duties of a courier include:
- Loading parcels, packages and pallets on to their vehicle
- Driving to delivery and/or pick up points
- Delivering goods to recipients
- Recording delivery and handling payments
- Making collections
- Returning to depot and unloading goods
- Movement of goods in the warehouse
How to Become a Courier - Education, Requirements and Training
The most important requirement for an aspiring courier is to hold a license to drive a delivery vehicle (e.g. a van or small truck).
No specific qualifications are required, although job advertisements for couriers may sometimes ask for a high school diploma. Previous experience in the deliveries sector and the ability to use goods handling and lifting equipment, such as pallet jacks and forklifts, are also generally welcomed by employers.
In larger shipping companies, classroom-based induction training may be organized for new couriers. This is often combined with on-the-job training designed to help new recruits gain the experience they need to carry out deliveries and collections without any supervision.
Finally, couriers are also often required to travel long distances to carry out national or international deliveries.
What Skills Are Needed to Work as a Courier?
Couriers require the following skills:
- Excellent driving skills and knowledge of local road networks
- Ability to make deliveries and collections rapidly and efficiently
- Strong interpersonal skills and customer-focused mindset
- Reliability, punctuality and precision
- Organizational and problem-solving skills
- Ability to cope well with pressure
- Physical strength and stamina
Courier Career Path
The major logistics and shipping companies provide excellent career development opportunities for couriers achieving strong performances (i.e. prompt deliveries and collections made within the promised time frame and high levels of customer satisfaction). For example, they may progress to become an area manager or field manager, overseeing the work of a team of couriers in a given area.
Alternatively, a high-performing courier may be promoted to a logistics and administration team, tracking shipments and monitoring parcel flows in a depot or sorting centre.
Both of the above examples are office-based positions which, in addition to being well remunerated, have the benefit of being much less tiring and stressful than a job as as a courier.
Top Reasons to Work as a Courier
A job as a courier is potentially a perfect match for anybody with a real passion for vehicles and driving. Another major draw of the job is the freedom and flexibility that couriers enjoy to organize their working day the way they prefer - with the proviso of course that they meet their scheduled delivery and collection times.
Meanwhile, those on the market for a second job could do worse than consider a position as a part time courier, which offers reasonable levels of pay for relatively little investment in terms of time - say, as little as a few hours or days work a week.
Finally, a job as a courier could potentially act as a launchpad into the world of logistics - an industry that offers a wide range of employment opportunities and strong career growth prospects.