Apriansa is a 36-year-old truck driver from Bekasi, West Java. He has been a truck driver since 2017. In 2019, he joined Deliveree, a logistics and last-mile delivery platform that lets customers book drivers to transport goods within and between cities in Indonesia.

The Indonesian digital economy has surged over the past few years, as more and more individuals and companies come online. The pandemic has pushed users online, and, today, the “e-conomy” of online commerce and services is worth $44 billion, according to analysis by Bain & Company. Companies like Deliveree and its competitors have sprung up to help untangle the logistics challenges posed by Indonesia’s often poor infrastructure and keep the economy moving.

(Note: $1 is approximately 14,275 rupiah.)

Jakarta traffic is the worst. The roads are like mazes, people sound their horns all the time, and there’s white smog hanging over the road all day. The vehicles only move an inch at a time. But this is where I make a living and get a kind of freedom. 

My day starts at 8 a.m. I turn on the Deliveree app and head over to the drivers’ base camp in East Jakarta, near the mayor’s office. It’s an empty field that some local residents turned into a parking lot. I pay 200,000 rupiah [about $14] a month to use it. The first order doesn’t usually come in until about 10 a.m., so I have time for a coffee and some chitchat with my friends among the other Deliveree drivers. I’m alerted to an available job by a blaring alarm on my phone. You get five seconds to calculate whether you want the job or not before someone else grabs it. I don’t take an order if the pickup point is too far from where I am, otherwise I’m just wasting fuel.

My first task of the day is to pick up 95 boxes of custom-printed mugs and take them from Bekasi to Tanah Abang, an overcrowded district in Central Jakarta known as the center of the textile and garment trade. The cargo weighs nearly two tonnes, and with a heavy load and the traffic, it’ll take around six hours, even though it’s only a 21-kilometer trip. The app automatically generates my fare. For the first 5 kilometers, I get 299,000 rupiah, and then 2,000 rupiah for each successive kilometer. This order pays around 400,000 rupiah, excluding road tolls, parking, fuel, food, and 20% commission from the app. Not bad for a start.

My truck is an old Isuzu Elf. It’s a 2,700 cc beast made in 2001. It cost me 55 million rupiah two years ago. It never fails me. It can take a payload of nearly three tonnes. But it doesn’t have a power steering system, so when it’s fully loaded, it’s tough on the arms. In this kind of job, you have to rely on your muscles. But I have high cholesterol, so I avoid meat.

I’m a chain-smoker. It’s justified when I have to wait for hours watching two workers unload boxes of mugs from my truck. It takes two hours to load up and two hours to unload at the other end. You spend a lot of time waiting in this job, so I smoke two packs of unfiltered clove cigarettes per day. They keep me awake. 

Once I finish my order, I go back to the base camp, waiting for my next order. You can’t just park your truck somewhere and wait for an order there. You’ll get towed. It’s 4 p.m. already, and the app is still silent. Looks like I won’t get any more orders. If by 6 p.m I don’t get another order, I’ll drive home. I have a wife and three children, and to make enough to support them, I need to finish at least two orders a day. It’s not unusual for me to get home at midnight. But the work can fluctuate. Sometimes you get three orders a day, sometimes none. I can’t complain. 

Sometimes an order comes in to deliver cargo outside Jakarta. The pay is better, but it can be tricky. You have to calculate your costs carefully. If I get another cargo to take from the destination back into the city, that’s good. If I don’t, I’ll lose money. Right now, I take orders only within the radius of 200 kilometers, which I can finish within one day. Any further than that, I have to pass.

“More app competitors means there’s an ongoing price war, and it’s no secret that the fares have gotten lower and lower.”

Before I got into driving a truck, I was a waiter on luxury cruise lines, operated by Costa Crociere, for seven years. I served on the Costa Concordia and the Costa Fortuna. The pay was good, but I knew it wasn’t sustainable. I got 90 days off a year, and, during that time, I was practically jobless and used to run out of money. So in 2014, I resigned and started my own tour and travel agency. But that went bankrupt after three years.

A friend of mine offered me a job as a truck driver, and I said yes right away. It was before there were any apps. I saved up for two years to buy my own truck. Truckers are practically invisible to many people, but we’re the cogs in the machine. The country is still relying on a network of truck drivers to deliver your groceries, your clothes, your electronic devices, everything. Without us, the economy would grind to a halt.

By the time Deliveree entered the Indonesian market, I had my own vehicle, so I signed up. It gives me a sense of freedom, because you’re responsible for your own fate. There’s no boss to tell you what to do, and I can take my days off whenever I need to. 

At first, the pay was good. But as more trucking apps have come into the market, my income has fallen. More app competitors means there’s an ongoing price war, and it’s no secret that the fares have gotten lower and lower. The rate when I started was around 4,000 rupiah per kilometer. Now it’s only half that.

My performance rating has never dropped below 5.0. I’m never late in picking up or delivering cargo. I’ve never canceled an order. The rating matters. If you go below 4.9, you don’t get prioritized by the algorithm for orders. I dream of building my own logistics fleet. That’s my retirement plan. I won’t be a driver for the rest of my life. I hope to buy another truck or a pickup truck that I can rent out to friends this year. And as long as I keep my performance rating, I think I can make it soon enough.