For the 275,000 Amazon drivers dropping off 10 million packages a day around the globe, the job generally is a grind. But rather a lot has modified since drivers in 2021 told CNBC about unrealistic workloads, peeing in bottles, dog bites and error-prone routing software.
Amongst the most important developments is the arrival of a brand-new electric van from Rivian.
Amazon was an enormous and early investor in the electrical vehicle company, which went public in late 2021 with a plan to construct trucks and SUVs for consumers and delivery vans for businesses. Since July, Amazon has rolled out greater than 1,000 latest Rivian vans, which are actually making deliveries in greater than 100 U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, Las Vegas, Nashville, Latest York City and Austin, Texas.
The partnership began in 2019, when Amazon founder and ex-CEO Jeff Bezos announced Amazon had purchased 100,000 electric vans from Rivian as one step toward his company’s ambitious promise of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.
″[We] may have prototypes on the road next yr, but 100,000 deployed by 2024,” Bezos said on the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in September 2019. Amazon has since revised the timeline, saying it expects all 100,000 Rivian vans on the road by 2030.
Rivian has faced several challenges in recent months. It reduce 2022 production amid supply chain and assembly line issues. Its stock price dropped so sharply last yr that Amazon recorded a combined $11.5 billion markdown on its holdings in the primary two quarters.
CNBC talked to drivers to see what’s modified with the driving experience. We also went to Amazon’s Delivering the Future event in Boston in November for a have a look at the technology designed to maximise safety and efficiency for delivery personnel.
For now, most Amazon drivers are still in about 110,000 gas-powered vans — primarily Ford Transits, Mercedes-Benz Sprinters and Ram ProMasters. Amazon would not share the way it determines which of its 3,500 third-party delivery firms, or delivery service partners (DSPs), are receiving Rivian vans first.
The e-commerce giant has been using DSPs to deliver its packages since 2018, allowing the corporate to scale back its reliance on UPS and the U.S. Postal Service for the so-called last mile, the most costly portion of the delivery journey. The DSP, which works exclusively with Amazon, employs the drivers and is answerable for the liabilities of the road, vehicle maintenance, and the prices of hiring, advantages and time beyond regulation pay.
Amazon leases the vans to DSP owners at a reduction. The corporate covers the fuel for gas-powered vans and installs charging stations for electric vehicles.
The corporate says DSP owners have generated $26 billion in revenue and now operate in 15 countries, including Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, Canada, and throughout Europe.
Within the early days of testing the Rivian vans, some drivers voiced concerns about range. An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC the vans can travel as much as 150 miles on a single charge, which is often loads of power for a full shift and allows drivers to recharge the vehicle overnight.
As for maintenance, Amazon says that takes place at Rivian service centers near delivery stations or by a Rivian mobile service team, depending on location.
Julietta Dennis launched a DSP, Kangaroo Direct, in Baltimore three years ago. She employs about 75 drivers and leases greater than 50 vans from Amazon. She now has 15 Rivian vehicles.
“It is very easy to get out and in with all of different handles to carry on to,” Dennis said. She said that some drivers were hesitant at first since the vehicles were so latest and different, “however the moment they get in there and have their first experience, that is the van that they need to drive.”
Baltimore DSP owner Julieta Dennis shows off a Rivian electric van at Amazon’s Delivering the Future event in Boston, Maryland, on November 10, 2022.
Brandi Monroe has been delivering for Kangaroo Direct for 2 years. She pointed to features on a Rivian van which are upgrades over what she’s driven prior to now. There is a large non-slip step on the back, a hand cart for helping with heavy packages and further space for standing and walking within the cargo area.
“We now have two shelves on each side to permit for more room,” Monroe said, adding that she’d prefer to drive a Rivian for each shift. “After which the lights at the highest: very modern to assist us see the packages and address rather a lot easier, especially at nighttime.”
There’s even a heated steering wheel.
Former driver B.J. Natividad, who goes by Avionyx on YouTube, says his non-electric van could get very cramped.
“I remember one time I had 23 or 24 bags and over 40 oversize packages and I needed to have the ability to work out stuff that every one in there throughout the quarter-hour that they offer us to load up within the morning,” said Natividad, who now works for USPS.
The Rivian vans have no less than 100 more cubic feet than the Sprinter and as much as double the cargo space of the Ford Transit vans Natividad drove in Las Vegas. Rivian vans are still sufficiently small that they do not require a special license to drive, though Amazon provides its own training for drivers.
One driver in Seattle, who asked to stay unnamed, was especially excited in regards to the latest Rivian vans. He offered an extensive tour of the brand new driving experience on his YouTube channel called Friday Adventure Club.
He said considered one of his favorite features is a light-weight bar “that goes all the way in which across the back.” He also likes that the windshield is “absolutely massive,” the wide doors allow for straightforward entry and exit, and the cargo door mechanically opens when the van is parked. There are two rows of shelves that fold up and down within the cargo area.
There’s also latest technology, resembling an embedded tablet with the driving route and a 360-degree view that shows all sides of the van.
Mai Le, Amazon’s vp of Last Mile, oversaw the testing of the middle console and Rivian’s integrated software.
“We did a number of deliveries as a test,” Le said. “As a lady, I need to be certain that that the seats are comfortable for me and that my legs can reach the pedals, I can see over the steering wheel.”
She demonstrated a few of the advantages of the brand new technology.
“Once we begin to notice that you just’re slowing down, that signifies that we will inform you’re getting near to your destination,” she said. “The map begins to zoom in, so you start to seek out where’s your delivery location, which constructing and where parking could possibly be.”
The brand new vans have keyless entry. They mechanically lock when the driving force is 15 feet away and unlock as the driving force approaches.
Employees load packages into Amazon Rivian Electric trucks at an Amazon facility in Poway, California, November 16, 2022.
Sandy Huffaker | Reuters
Above all else, Amazon says the changes were designed to make the delivery job safer.
A ProPublica report found Amazon’s contract drivers were involved in greater than 60 serious crashes from 2015 to 2019, no less than 10 of which were fatal. Amazon put cameras and sensors all around the Rivian vans, which enable warnings and lane assist technology that autocorrects if the vehicle veers out of the lane.
Dennis mentioned the importance of automatic braking and the steering wheel that starts “just sort of shaking once you get too near something.”
“There’s just so many features that may really, really help reduce on a few of those incidental accidents,” she said.
Amazon vans have driver-facing cameras inside, which might catch unsafe driving practices as they occur.
“The in-vehicle safety technology we’ve got watches for poor safety behaviors like distracted driving, seat belts not being fastened, running stop signs, traffic lights,” said Beryl Tomay, who helps run the technology side of delivery as vp of Last Mile for Amazon.
“We have seen over the past yr a discount of 80% to 95% in these events once we’ve warned drivers real time,” she said. “However the really game-changing results that we have seen have been almost a 50% reduction in accidents.”
As a DSP owner, Dennis gets alerts if her drivers exhibit patterns of unsafe behavior.
“If something with a seat belt or simply something flags, then our team will contact the driving force and be certain that that that is coached on and brought care of and discovered, like what actually happened,” Dennis said.
That level of constant surveillance could also be unsettling for some drivers. Dennis said that issues have not come up amongst her staffers. And Amazon stresses it’s focused on driver privacy.
“We have taken great care from a privacy perspective,” Tomay said. “There is not any sound ever being recorded. There is not any camera recording if the driving force’s not driving and there is a privacy mode.”
Amazon says the cabin-facing camera mechanically switches off when the ignition is off, and privacy mode means it also turns off if the vehicle is stationary for greater than 30 seconds.
Safety concerns extend beyond the vehicle itself. For instance, an Amazon driver in Missouri was found dead in a front yard in October, allegedly after a dog attack.
Amazon says latest technology may help. Drivers can decide to manually notify customers ahead of a delivery, giving them time to restrain pets. One other feature that is coming, in line with Le, will allow drivers to mark delivery locations which have pets.
Natividad said he had multiple close calls with dogs charging at him during deliveries.
“You customers on the market, please restrain your dogs when a package is coming,” he said. “Please keep them inside. Don’t leave them just outside.”
Providing drivers with more efficient and higher detailed routes could improve safety, too. Drivers in 2021 told us about losing time because Amazon’s routing software made a mistake, like not recognizing a closed road or gated community. In response, they often tried to save lots of time in other ways.
“Persons are running through stop signs, running through yellow lights,” said Adrienne Williams, a former DSP driver. “Everybody I knew was buckling their seat belt behind their backs since the time it took simply to buckle your seat belt, unbuckle your seat belt each time was enough time to get you behind schedule.”
Amazon listened. The corporate has been adding an enormous amount of detail to driver maps, using information from 16 third-party map vendors in addition to machine learning models informed by satellite driver feedback and other sources.
One example is a latest in-vehicle data collection system called Fleet Edge, which is currently in a number of thousand vans. Fleet Edge collects real-time data from a street view camera and GPS device during a driver’s route.
“As a result of Fleet Edge, we have added over 120,000 latest street signs to Amazon’s mapping system,” Tomay said. “The accuracy of GPS locations has increased by over two and a half times in our test areas, improving navigation safety by announcing upcoming turns sooner.”
Tomay said the maps also added points of interest like coffee shops and restrooms, so in about 95% of metro areas, “drivers can discover a spot to take a break inside five minutes of a stop.”
In 2021, Amazon apologized for dismissing claims that drivers were urinating in bottles in consequence of demanding delivery schedules. Natividad said he occasionally found urine-filled bottles in his vans before his shift within the mornings.
“As soon as I open the van, I’m looking around, I see a bottle of urine. I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m not touching this,'” he said.
Pay for Amazon drivers is as much as the discretion of every individual DSP, although Amazon says it recurrently audits DSP rates to be certain that they’re competitive. Indeed.com puts average Amazon driver pay at nearly $19 an hour, 16% higher than the national average.
Natividad began delivering for Amazon in 2021 when his gigs as a fulltime disc jockey dried up due to pandemic. He liked the job on the time, generally delivering no less than 200 packages along the identical route. Nevertheless, in the course of the holiday season that yr, he once had greater than 400 packages and 200 stops in a single shift.
“Towards the top of my day, they sent out two rescues to me to assist out to be certain that every little thing’s done before 10 hours,” he said.
Amazon is working to optimize its routes. But it surely’s an unwieldy operation. The corporate says it’s generated 225,000 unique routes per day during peak season.
Tomay said the corporate looks on the density of packages, the complexity of delivery locations “and every other considerations like weather and traffic from past history to place a route together that we predict is right.”
There is not any one-size-fits-all solution.
“On condition that we’re in over 20 countries and each geography looks different, it is not nearly delivery vehicles or vans anymore,” Tomay said. “We now have rickshaws in India. We now have walkers in Manhattan.”
In Las Vegas, Amazon held a roundtable last yr for DSP owners and drivers. Natividad says he spoke for 20 minutes on the event in regards to the need for Amazon to enhance its routing algorithms.
“I believe they need to do this probably once a month, with all of the DSP supervision and a number of of the drivers, and never the identical drivers each time. That way different feedback is given. And like seriously hearken to them,” Natividad said. “Because they don’t seem to be those on the market seeing and experiencing what we undergo.”
Natividad didn’t get to check out the routing technology within the Rivian vans before he left to deliver for USPS in July. He’s excited that the postal service is following in Amazon’s footsteps with 66,000 electric vans coming by 2028.
Amazon, meanwhile, is diversifying its electric fleet beyond Rivian. The corporate has ordered hundreds of electrical Ram vans from Stellantis and likewise has some on the way in which from Mercedes-Benz.