- the new york times has published a report claiming that online retail giant amazon's insistence on quick delivery times has led to 60 known accidents and 10 deaths since 2015 involving delivery contractors.
- citing a propublica investigation, the times story says amazon "argues that it bears no legal responsibility" for these accidents, some of which occurred in cars, trucks, or vans not marked as amazon vehicles.
- amazon requires that 999 out of 1000 deliveries arrive on time, according to the news report, and trains its contractors much less than rivals such as ups and fedex.
a new report takes the giant online retailer amazon.com to task for sidestepping responsibility in a number of crashes involving contractors working as amazon delivery drivers. the watchdog group propublica has published the results of an investigation, asserting amazon exercises so much control over contractors that it crosses the line into being a de facto employer—and thus should bear liability for their actions.
considering that amazon delivered, according to the report, 2.3 billion packages last year in the united states, it is surprising that more accidents have not happened. propublica said ups and the u.s. postal service deliver most of the packages. however, the number of independent contractors is growing, and they are expected to make about 23 percent of amazon's deliveries in 2019. the report claims amazon is allowing people to work as delivery drivers who are insufficiently trained for the role.
propublica contrasts ups's training process in a "multimillion-dollar" facility in which new drivers "are put through virtual-reality and obstacle-course hazards" to amazon's "delivery driver onboarding course," which is done mainly using instructional videos that, propublica claims, "they watch on their phones." very little of this training, such as it is, is devoted to defensive driving tactics, the report asserts.
should you be concerned? well, amazon's chief financial officer said in april that the company will invest $800 million to give all of its u.s. amazon prime members free overnight delivery, a move that is likely to spur more deliveries, more rushing drivers (many of the reported accidents were blamed on overtasked drivers), and more usage of "flexible" contractor-based delivery workforces. it is, after all, the age of uber and doordash—and the new york times story acknowledges that the paper itself uses contractors for delivery. only time—and pending lawsuits—will tell whether amazon's grip over its contractors raises to the level where the company will acknowledge it is their employer, and therefore liable in the event one of its ever growing flotilla of delivery vehicles crashes.