Hiring Delivery Drivers: What You Need to Know

What do businesses need to know when hiring delivery drivers? Learn about contractor versus employee classification, hiring best practices, and more.

9 min read
Hiring Delivery Drivers

Today, you can get nearly anything you want delivered — from a sandwich freshly made by your local sandwich shop, to something as wild as a tin of uranium ore or a bag of delicious earthworm jerky. As delivery becomes the norm, many businesses are exploring new ways to get goods to customers — including hiring their own delivery teams. 

Delivery drivers are often crucial to businesses’ ability to grow their sales today. According to BentoBox, nearly 80% of current delivery and takeout consumers will continue to order at the same frequency as COVID-19 restrictions lessen. 

However, the process of hiring delivery drivers can be more complicated than hiring front-of-house or back-of-house staff. Keep reading to learn what businesses should know when considering hiring delivery drivers vs working with third-party delivery platforms.

Have your own delivery team already or plan to hire your own drivers? You can still reach new customers on DoorDash and deliver with your team at a lower commission rate with Self-Delivery

Legal classification of delivery drivers

Before businesses even start the process of hiring a delivery team, they need to consider the legal classification for their delivery staff. In the United States, drivers can be classified either as employees or as independent contractors — and there's a clear, legal distinction between the two. Here’s a high-level description of some of the ways in which they differ. (Note: Since local regulations and tax laws can apply, always consult with a professional to determine what's best — and legally sound — for your business.)

Hiring drivers as employees

When you hire an employee, you have the right to specify how their work is performed — down to the uniform they wear and the way they greet customers. There are also financial considerations for businesses hiring employees: employees receive regular wages, tips, and are eligible to receive employee benefits like health insurance and sick days. In the US, employers are also required to withhold certain taxes from employees’ wages, and report this information to the IRS.

Hiring drivers as independent contractors

According to the IRS, a driver can be classified as an independent contractor “if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.” Independent contractors thus have more freedom in how they manage deliveries — for example, whether that’s getting around by bike or by car, or the clothing they choose to wear when performing the work. The tradeoff is that businesses don’t withhold taxes from independent contractors, and aren’t required to offer benefits.

Again, since worker classification can get complicated quickly, make sure to consult with tax and legal professionals to determine what’s right for your business.

Third-party partnerships

Beyond hiring employees or independent contractors directly, there’s another option for businesses looking to offer delivery: third-party partnerships. Some businesses choose to contract with third-party courier companies that handle all deliveries in-house. Similarly, when working with a platform like DoorDash, businesses can tap into a fleet of drivers to fulfill local deliveries as orders come in.

It’s not an all-or-nothing choice, either. With products like DoorDash Self-Delivery, businesses with existing delivery teams can opt into Flexible Fulfillment: relying on their own drivers for a set radius or schedule, and partnering with Dashers to fulfill orders outside of those parameters. It’s a great way to grow demand and reach more customers.

Hiring delivery drivers, step by step

Once you identify the worker classification model that's right for your business, you’re ready to add delivery to your business. Here’s how to hire delivery drivers, one step at a time.

1. Create a job description

Write a job post that sums up the required skills for a driver and makes it clear what would make someone a good candidate. Provide clear information about pay structure, hours, and if they’ll be working as an independent contractor or an employee. Don’t forget to note that they’ll need a valid driver’s license, and specify if they’ll need to provide their own vehicle or if they’ll be driving one of yours. Additionally, don’t shy away from including information about what makes working for your company great—health benefits if it’s an employee role, recognition, a strong culture, and more. Hiring candidates is a two-way street: it needs to be a good fit for both of you.

See this driver job description from Better Team for a great starting point.

2. Grow a pipeline of applicants

Job boards such as Indeed and Craigslist are great places to post your job ad, but you can also share on your social media channels as well as sites such as PoachedJobs and SnagaJob. Another way to get great leads is to create a referral program, incentivizing existing employees and contractors to refer qualified friends and family to the job.

3. Interview and test candidates

You may choose to interview or test the candidates that are interested in your job. Start the interview process with a short phone screen or email interview to confirm the applicant meets your job criteria.

After the applicant passes the initial screening, conduct a phone interview to determine if the candidate would be a good fit for your needs. This is also the time to make sure you’re aligned on expectations for their pay rate and work schedule, before moving to the next step.

4. Hire and train your drivers

Once you’ve confirmed a candidate is a good fit, let them know you’d like to move forward and send them the relevant paperwork to sign, which will vary depending on if they’re an employee or an independent contractor. (Again, work with a professional to ensure all your paperwork is updated.)

If you choose to background check your candidates, work with a legal professional to get the proper disclosures and candidate permissions in place.  According to Intuit, background checks can cost from $20 to $100 per hire — but the cost may be well worth the investment, especially if you’re using employees who are operating a company-owned vehicle, and therefore under your business insurance policy.

Whether it’s in writing or in person, it may also be worth taking the time to go over your company policies (and benefits if you are hiring employees) so that your drivers know how to make the most of all that your company has to offer.

Finally, before you send your delivery drivers out into the world, consider whether to train them on all of your delivery logistics. Whether the drivers are independent contractors or employees may affect how much you want to train them, so consider working with a legal professional. Regardless, ensuring that your drivers are thoroughly prepared can contribute to a better overall customer experience, helping drive repeat sales.

5. Ensure your drivers follow safety protocols

As an ongoing component of hiring delivery drivers, you also need to make sure they continue to follow all safety protocols. Not only does this mean following the rules of the road, which is a given, but learning and adhering to food safety guidelines is important too — especially in the wake of COVID-19. For example, many counties require drivers to wear masks when interacting with customers. As rules and regulations change near you, continue to make sure your drivers are properly informed and prepared. Learn more about the safety protocols that DoorDash has in place for Dashers here.

The cost of hiring delivery drivers

Delivery driver costs can vary from state to state. Here are some recent figures for the US:

Food delivery driver pay range

  • According to Appjobs, the average amount delivery drivers make in the US is around $14 to $17 per hour; that’s an average salary range from $16,040 to $35,360

  • On Indeed, the average for delivery drivers is $9 to $20 an hour

  • GlassDoor reports that the typical US Foods Delivery Driver makes $24 per hour; that’s an average salary range from $27,497 to roughly $49,974

  • According to DoorDash, from January through March 2021, Dashers made over $25 an hour while they were on a delivery

Additional costs for hiring employees

Hiring delivery drivers as employees also comes with additional costs outside of wages:

  • Health insurance and employee benefits

  • Employment tax

  • Business insurance

  • Vehicle maintenance

  • Potential reimbursement for mileage or fuel

Creating a profitable delivery program 

Did you know that even with a commission rate, delivery can be more profitable than dine-in since orders only require delivery drivers and not extra in-person staff?

Today, new DoorDash partnership plans make it easier than ever to calculate how online ordering for delivery and pickup can grow your business’ bottom line. Reach new customers with flexible delivery options through DoorDash, and even increase your sales—65% of restaurants say they were able to increase their profits during COVID-19 because of DoorDash. Here are a few options:

  • Hiring your own delivery team? You can reach new customers through the DoorDash App and deliver with your own team for a lower commission rate with DoorDash Self-Delivery

  • Not ready to hire delivery couriers, but still want to offer delivery for your customers? Sign up for the DoorDash App to reach new customers and work with Dashers to deliver your goods.

  • Already have a great customer base and want to offer delivery and pickup to them, commission-free? Set up Storefront as an online ordering solution from your website, free of monthly fees. Instead, businesses pay payment processing fees per order.

For customers, delivery is on the rise because of its convenience. For business owners, a delivery service can provide a much-needed revenue stream. Sign up for DoorDash today. 


Ali Cottong
Ali Cottong


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