- Drivers who deliver packages for Amazon described anxiety-ridden shifts where they drove in trucks with broken windows, cracked mirrors, jammed doors, faulty brakes, and tires with poor traction.
- “You are riding on bald tires in trucks with broken mirrors and messed-up doors,” a former driver named Arnold Burns said.
- The drivers we interviewed are managed by third-party courier companies that work out of Amazon facilities.
- Amazon is now rolling out a new program designed to make it less costly for delivery companies to provide regular vehicle maintenance.
- This story follows an earlier investigation: Missing wages, gruelling shifts, and bottles of urine: The disturbing accounts of Amazon delivery drivers may reveal the true human cost of “free” shipping.
Some Amazon delivery drivers say the trucks they have used to transport packages to customers’ doorsteps were beaten up and falling apart.
In interviews with Business Insider, current and recently employed drivers and managers of Amazon-affiliated courier companies described anxiety-ridden shifts where they drove in trucks with broken windows, cracked mirrors, jammed doors, faulty brakes, and tires with poor traction.
“You are riding on bald tires in trucks with broken mirrors and messed-up doors,” said Arnold Burns, a former delivery driver for Amazon-affiliated TL Transportation in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. “They have a serious problem with upkeep of their vehicles.”
Omer Childs, a former driver, said she drove vans with broken windshields, broken doors, and low tire pressure when she worked for Amazon-affiliated Second Samuel Transportation in Michigan.
TL Transportation and Second Samuel Transportation did not respond to requests for comment.
Sid Shah managed vehicle inspections and repairs for DeliverOL, another Amazon-affiliated company, out of an Amazon facility in Aurora, Colorado.
He described vehicle upkeep as “pathetic” and said it was a constant battle to get funding authorization for repairs. Workers were regularly forced to drive trucks with expired registration tags, bald tires, missing side mirrors, jammed doors, broken lights, and other problems, he said.
“I had brake pads and brake discs on one van that needed to be replaced. I called [DeliverOL] and said someone is going to die in this truck if they drive it,” Shah recalled. “They forwarded me to some maintenance guy who said, ‘You don’t need new brake pads – they aren’t under warranty.’
“If brakes are screeching and it’s literally rubbing metal to metal, you need to fix your brakes,” he said. DeliverOL did not respond to requests for comment.
In response to the claims in this story, Amazon provided a statement highlighting a new program designed to alleviate some of the costs of vehicle maintenance.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to safety and to assist our small business partners scale, we recently launched the Delivery Service Partners program,” the company said. “Among other things, this program provides tools and services to our small business partners including new state of the art delivery vans; ongoing preventative maintenance services; regular equipment audits; and technology to ensure the safe operation and upkeep of their vans.”
Amazon isn’t technically responsible for vehicle repairs
Amazon said that reports of poor vehicle maintenance were unacceptable.
But the company isn’t technically responsible for maintaining the vehicles that transport its packages. Amazon’s delivery system pushes that burden onto the delivery companies it hires.
Instead of employing drivers directly, Amazon transports packages to customers using drivers employed by UPS, FedEx, the US Postal Service, and several smaller companies that manage their own fleets, like TL Transportation, Second Samuel Transportation, and DeliverOL. Amazon calls these smaller companies “delivery service partners.”
These delivery service partners work out of Amazon facilities, and Amazon provides them packages, delivery routes, navigation software, and scanning devices.
Amazon requires the companies to abide by a code of conduct, which says: “Suppliers must implement a regular machinery maintenance program. Production and other machinery must be routinely evaluated for safety hazards.”
The code also requires suppliers to provide workers with a “safe and healthy work environment.”
But some delivery companies working with Amazon are failing to follow the code, sources said.
“On one van we had, the driver-side window wouldn’t roll up – and this was during winter in Colorado,” said Eric Jefferies, a former driver for DeliverOL.
He said he suffered severe anxiety while delivering packages for Amazon from “not knowing if my van was going to break down because the company didn’t keep up maintenance on them.”
When Shanaea Burnett, a former delivery driver, reported problems like faulty brakes and broken mirrors to her manager at Prime EFS, based in New Jersey, he accused her of “always complaining” and told her to “get out of his face,” she said.
Prime EFS did not respond to requests for comment.
One courier-company owner, who asked to remain anonymous, acknowledged sending broken vans out on the road when his company delivered packages for Amazon.
He said that profit margins were thin from his Amazon business and that he couldn’t afford to lose revenue by having a truck sit in a repair shop for several days. On top of that, Amazon fines couriers if they can’t complete a route assignment because they don’t have enough vans, he said. Two other sources confirmed that Amazon fines couriers for route assignments that they can’t complete.
He said many other courier-company owners were facing the same pressures.
A former Amazon manager who acted as a liaison between courier companies and Amazon also cited rampant problems with vehicle maintenance and driver safety in general.
“Trucks were rusted out and driving around on spare tires,” said this person, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. He said Amazon ignored some of his warnings about driver safety.
“We were sounding the alarms,” this person said. “It rolled off their backs.”
New Amazon program offers discounts on vehicle maintenance
In a recent push to grow its network of delivery service partners, Amazon announced a new program that advertised $US300,000 in profits for anyone willing to start a courier company operating a fleet of up to 40 trucks.
Amazon purchased 40,000 Mercedes-Benz vans for the new program that courier companies can lease from it, as well as negotiated special rates for van insurance and regular maintenance.
The rates are part of a package of incentives – which include discounts on insurance plans for employees and a customised payroll system – designed to lower couriers’ costs of operating.
The company said it launched the incentives after analysing its existing system of delivery providers and determining where the companies could make improvements.
“We have worked with our partners, listened to their needs, and have implemented new programs to ensure small delivery businesses serving Amazon customers have the tools they need to deliver a great customer and employee experience,” the company said in response to a recent Business Insider story highlighting problems within its delivery network.
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