Prime Day is here, and that means a lot of deliveries for Amazon’s army of 115,000 drivers who work for small businesses, called Delivery Service Partners. Amazon has relied less and less on UPS and the US Postal Service, and has built its own network of more than 2,000 independent contractors who then hire drivers for those dark blue Prime trucks.
However, since Amazon set one-day shipping as the default in 2019, DSP controllers have voiced some big concerns. CNBC spoke with current and former hosts about the pressure of delivering packages to some 200 million Prime members overnight.
“People go through the stop signs, through the yellow lights. Everyone I knew buckled their seat belts behind their back because the time it took to just buckle their seatbelt, unbuckling their seatbelt each time was enough to delay the schedule, “said Adrienne Williams, who drove for a DSP from Amazon from November 2019 to July 2020.
A 2019 ProPublica report found that Amazon’s hired drivers have been involved in more than 60 serious accidents since 2015, at least 10 of which were fatal. In court, Amazon has repeatedly said that it is not responsible for the actions of its contractors.
“Amazon fights tooth and nail to maintain the status quo that these are contractors. They are not employees, because if they are employees, then you have to pay the benefits. You have to cover their expenses for uniforms, trucks, what do you have. And then Amazon’s cost structure changes. And if Amazon’s cost structure changes, so will yours, “said Mark Solomon, who tracks Amazon for logistics analyst FreightWaves.
In an effort to improve safety, Amazon added artificial intelligence-enabled cameras to some trucks earlier this year, with four lenses to observe the road, both sides of the vehicle and the driver. An instructional video from Amazon says it is recording “100% of the time.”
“I just don’t feel like I have to be watched eight to ten hours a day,” said Shaleen Williams, a DSP driver in Lansing, Michigan. He spoke to CNBC after a 10-hour shift last month and said his busiest day yet had 199 stops and 320 packages.
Drivers told us that poor routing practices have led them into dangerous situations and left them no time to find a bathroom.
“That’s why some people are peeing in glasses and everything and plastic bottles,” Williams said. “They just let them, which is definitely disgusting, get into the vans the next day and see someone’s bottle of urine sitting behind the seat or on the cup holder.”
Watch the video to hear from more drivers on the realities of the job, how the model works, and why Amazon outsources delivery to DSPs.