Higher Risks & Few Protections Mean Amazon Drivers Get Hurt More Than Their Peers
Delivery drivers have one of the top ten most dangerous jobs in the U.S., with Amazon drivers leading the pack when it comes to on-the-job dangers and injuries. In fact, a recent study from the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) has reported that Amazon delivery drivers are getting hurt at least twice as often as their colleagues in the delivery and courier industry.
Driving up those high injury rates are Amazon’s protocols, systems, and failures, researchers say. While all of that’s contributing to incredibly risky working conditions and high injury rates for Amazon delivery drivers, these workers also have very few protections from their employer.
That’s because experts report that “Amazon has structured its operations to insulate itself from responsibility for these workers’ safety.”
Why Do Amazon Delivery Drivers Have Such High Risks & Injury Rates?
Delivery drivers, in general, face some job-related risks that are simply a function of their work. This can include anything from crash risks on the roads to warehouse and cargo accidents off the roads. For Amazon delivery drivers, however, that’s usually just the starting point for work-related risks and dangers, the SOC report reveals. That’s because researchers say that:
- Amazon sets nearly impossible delivery quotas: Drivers are commonly expected to deliver at least a few hundred packages a day, leaving them just a couple of minutes at most to deliver each package. That means working more than 10 hours straight to complete the deliveries. And it’s resulting in “sky-high production pressure and delivery quotas which push Amazon workers to work too fast and [delivery service partner] drivers to risk injury as they rush to hit delivery targets.”
- Amazon strictly oversees delivery routes: Amazon apps, algorithms, and productivity targets are used to establish delivery routes, and drivers are not allowed to veer off course, regardless of whether a different route would be safer and more efficient.
- Amazon incentivizes ‘fantastic drivers’: Amazon rates drivers, giving them a score from 100 to 850, based on their driving behaviors and whether they are able to make their daily deliveries in under 10 hours (remember from point 1 above that the quotas make it nearly impossible to complete daily deliveries in less than 10 hours). Drivers get bonuses if their scores are 800+. That’s putting even more pressure on drivers to hurry and risk safety in order to get paid.
All of this could explain why the SOC has discovered that:
- Nearly 1 in 5 of the drivers for Amazon’s delivery service partners (DSPs) was hurt on the job last year.
- Amazon delivery driver injuries have increased by nearly 40% since 2020.
- Some DSPs have reportedly seen driver injuries triple over the past few years, despite the fact that “Amazon claims to have spent $300 million on worker safety initiatives in 2021.”
How Amazon Dodges Liability for Delivery Drivers
Although Amazon sets quotas, routes, and incentives for DSP drivers, Amazon attempts to classify through contracts those drivers as independent contractors.
As the SOC study has noted, this classification is not a mistake. Amazon has intentionally hired DSP drivers and labeled as independent contractors in order for the following intention:
- Shift liability for drivers onto the DSPs: DSPs are the small companies that technically employ delivery drivers and are, therefore, responsible for their wages. Amazon hires these DSPs and its drivers to make the company’s deliveries. By classifying DSP drivers as independent contractors, Amazon seeks to avoid liability for those drivers and shift to the DSPs.
- Exclude DSP driver injuries from its injury reporting data: Because DSP drivers are not on Amazon’s direct payroll, Amazon has a loophole letting the company avoid reporting the injuries suffered by those drivers. Again, this responsibility falls on the DSP employer, not Amazon. That has added “insult to injury,” according to the SOC study, as “Amazon has made repeated public claims about injury rates in its delivery operations as if half of the workers who perform this work simply do not exist, misleading its workers, shareholders and the public about the true dangers that Amazon’s operations create in communities across the nation.”
Notably, even though Amazon says DSP drivers are independent contractors, the company’s actions speak louder than its words here. In fact, the level of control and oversight that Amazon has over its drivers can open up room to argue that DSP drivers are employees, under state and federal law, and, therefore, deserving of employee benefits.
How DSPs Can Increase Amazon Delivery Drivers’ Risks
Amazon’s strict oversight of its routes, quotas, and drivers, coupled with its liability shield, has put both DSPs and their drivers in a difficult position. In fact, there are an increasing number of reports that many DSPs are trying to game the system by instructing or pushing their drivers to:
- Keep their Amazon tracking app, Mentor, on for just part of their shift: Usually, DSP drivers are told to keep Mentor on when they start their deliveries. And when the app is on and monitoring them, drivers are ordered to be really careful to adhere to traffic laws, good driving behaviors, and the app’s directions.
- Turn Mentor off after a few hours or so: Drivers have reported that they have specifically told them to disable Mentor, so they could speed and break other traffic laws to hit their targets.
- Finish shifts in under 10 hours: Wanting that bonus money, DSPs put heavy pressure on their drivers to get deliveries for a day done in less than 10 hours, with some even pushing for completion in as little as 7 hours. In some cases, drivers report getting text messages telling them that a delivery should not take that long or that they need to go faster to hit their target. This has even become a routine and a near-constant pressure for some DSP drivers.
- Not report vehicle damage: DSPs were concerned that reporting delivery van damage to Amazon would mean grounding vehicles and losing routes. So, DSPs told their drivers to withhold these reports. That meant not telling Amazon about significant damage to delivery vehicles — like tire damage, broken doors, and water leaks. It also resulted in basic, yet essential, maintenance like oil changes not getting done. Consequently, drivers may have had to operate riskier vehicles, on top of enduring the other substantial dangers they already face.
These actions from DSPs have intensified the stress, pressure, and risks their drivers face on the job in order to meet Amazon’s standards.
Amazon Delivery Driver Risks & Injuries: The Bottom Line
The latest report on Amazon’s working conditions for delivery drivers paints a grim picture, revealing:
- Exactly how these drivers endure some significant risks
- Why they sustain injuries at a higher rate than drivers for other delivery and courier companies
- How Amazon and DSPs have been behind the “unsafe work conditions” and high injury rates that delivery drivers face
If you or someone you love works as an Amazon delivery driver, these findings may confirm what you’ve already experienced in your day-to-day work life. But they won’t help you recover if you’re hurt on the job. Talking to an Amazon delivery driver accident lawyer can help, however. That can be the first step in learning more about your rights, the available legal remedies, and how to move forward with a potential claim.