Amazon is one of the most powerful companies in the world. During the COVID pandemic, e-commerce surged, leading to more and more orders resulting in increased deliveries. Since 2015, the Seattle behemoth has leased or bought roughly 63,000 trailers and hundreds upon hundreds of trucks to pull them. Yet, Amazon does not own and operate all of its trucks. On the contrary, they depend on outside companies to haul the loads. As of August 2022, these numbered north of 1.5 million.
With this many trucks on the road accidents are inevitable. But, a recent Wall Street Journal analysis claims those hauling trailers for Amazon are unusually dangerous. The Journal combed through data on 3,512 Amazon-contracted trucking companies. These companies were singled out as they had been inspected by authorities three or more times since February 2020. This group alone was responsible for 75% of the company’s tractor-trailer shipments. Some of the more damning findings were the following:
- 388 had an unsafe driving record score, ranking them in the worst 5% (of their peers).
- Amazon contractors with troubling scores were twice as likely as similar contractors to be involved in a crash.
Amazon states that trucking contractors must have safety ratings better than “conditional” to drive for the company. However, the Journal discovered 48 companies that ranked “conditional” driving for Amazon in early 2020. Amazon spokespeople reported the addition of a new safety threshold in February where contractors needed to score “substantially better” than the government’s established threshold. Further analysis revealed, however, that 375 companies continued to haul with scores lower than the established minimum and 60 (of the 375) with “worse-than-required” scores.
Well before the pandemic, Amazon executives recognized the capacity of traditional freight companies was lagging behind the company’s projected needs. In 2012 they began purchasing trailers and bypassing freight middlemen, choosing instead to deal directly with trucking companies. The Journal spoke with former Amazon executives who went on record stating that the company tends to favor trucking contractors with impressive on-time records. Those that missed delivery deadlines were either penalized or dismissed.
Amazon has communicated that roughly 80% of those contractors with middling to poor safety records have been terminated. A Michigan State University academic who studies transportation safety validated the Journal’s analysis and concluded that those companies hauling Amazon freight are more likely to have less than exemplary driving scores than similar peers.
This is clearly a public relations issue for Amazon. Time and additional data will tell if delivery safety improves over the coming year.
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