As the popularity of next-day and same-day delivery continues to rise, a dark side generated by these transportation demands has been growing, largely out of sight.
According to numerous reports by Curbed, BuzzFeed, and ProPublica, Amazon’s promise of next- and same-day delivery has caused 60 crashes and 10 deaths since 2015. According to a 2018 report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center, deaths related to truck accidents rose 9% last year.
As part of Amazon’s Last Mile program, the company has created a logistics network that relies on contracted delivery services to move products from warehouses to doorsteps.
Since these drivers are contractors, not employees, Amazon has repeatedly denied that it is responsible or accountable for any of the accidents. Under the agreements of the Last Mile program, contracted delivery companies must assume all liability and legal costs, essentially protecting Amazon from blame.
In a court filing regarding the death of an 84-year-old woman who was struck and killed by a contracted driver from delivery service Inpax, lawyers for Amazon state that the “damages, if any, were caused, in whole or in part, by third parties not under the direction or control of Amazon.com.”
While the delivery drivers are not Amazon employees, the Seattle-based company maintains control over the drivers through an app, dictating the order of deliveries and even routes. The app also tracks drivers, and any drivers who start to fall behind schedule will receive a call from an Amazon dispatcher.
The online retailer requires that 999 out of 1,000 deliveries are made on time.
These contracted drivers often have to rent larger delivery vans that are not designed for urban streets to meet their delivery quotas, ProPublica's investigation found.
While large trucks only make up 4% of U.S. fleet vehicles, they cause 7% of pedestrian deaths and 12% of driver and passenger fatalities, according to NACTO.
NACTO also reports that allowing larger vehicles in urban areas is dangerous because they are more difficult to maneuver. They must often double park on city streets, blocking bike lanes and sidewalks, which has contributed to an increase in pedestrian and cyclist deaths.
Some cities are pushing for companies to use smaller vehicles that prioritize cab placement, high-visibility windows, and hood shape, and are specifically designed to protect pedestrians.
However, it is difficult for cities to mandate vehicle requirements for private delivery companies.