Amazon is rapidly dispensing with carriers such as FedEx for its retail deliveries, bringing the logistics business in-house to ship more Prime packages more quickly. The speed and money savings, though, seem to be coming at the cost of health and safety concerns—and a new report says the company is well aware, and Amazon is letting it happen anyway.
Internal documents show the company had plans to implement driver safety training courses but scrapped them in order to get drivers up and running faster, ProPublica and BuzzFeed News report.
“We chose not to have onroad practical training because it was a bottleneck” to getting drivers on the road, a senior manager wrote.
It was just one of many examples the reporters found of Amazon ignoring evidence its logistics business was overburdened.
Amazon said back in 2016 it wanted to bring last-mile delivery under its own enormous roof, and it has done just that. The company today is happily bragging about the performance of its logistics business this Christmas season, revealing that it delivered more than 3.5 billion packages with its in-house delivery business in 2019 to date.
But that “in-house” business is mostly outsourced. Hundreds of small firms—more than 800 now, according to Amazon—work under contract to provide those Prime delivery services. Some of those contractors no doubt do focus on worker safety. Several reports in the past year, though, have highlighted many that emphatically do not. NBC News in November published a report describing Amazon logistics as a “chaotic environment” where all-but-impossible delivery quotas put unmanageable and unsafe demands on drivers.
“You don’t take your lunch break. You don’t use the bathroom… There were guys peeing in bottles in the van,” one driver told NBC at the time, including himself in that category. “You speed. You run stop signs in a neighborhood… You start conditioning yourself to just go as fast as possible.”
In September, ProPublica and BuzzFeed also published separate independent reports detailing a lack of oversight with several delivery contractors. Both reports detailed several instances of severe injuries and deaths tied to crashes involving Amazon transport vans.
Amazon strenuously objected to the new story, calling the report “another attempt by ProPublica and BuzzFeed to push a preconceived narrative that is simply untrue.”
The company told ProPublica it provided more than 1 million hours of safety training to employees and contractors in the last year but did not say how many of its 750,000 worldwide employees participated in said training. Amazon also said it spent $55 million on “safety improvement projects” last year—”about one-fifth of 1% of the $27.7 billion the company spent on shipping last year,” the reporters write.
“Nothing is more important to us than safety,” the company added.