Today, Amazon’s logistics operations rival traditional shipping companies like UPS and FedEx. It has invested millions of dollars in infrastructure and technology that makes their deliveries quick, efficient, and cost-effective.
However, their systems are far from perfect. The most expensive part of any delivery is still the “last mile,” when the package arrives at the customer’s home or office. Unfortunately, Amazon’s focus on the bottom line can negatively affect drivers, pedestrians, and other vulnerable road users.
Amazon’s Use of Independent Contractors as Delivery Drivers
Most “last mile” deliveries for Amazon are not done by its employees. Instead, the company hires independent contractors who use box trucks and other vehicles to drop off and pick up packages.
These contractors must carry their own commercial liability insurance coverage and meet other criteria set by Amazon. As part of their partnership, they must sign an agreement that they take on all liability for car crashes caused by their drivers. However, Amazon maintains significant control over the truck driver’s day-to-day work, tracking their progress and directing their routes.
Sometimes, the company pressures truck drivers to meet unattainable goals. Overworked, stressed-out drivers tend to break the rules of the road and cut corners—and their decisions can easily cause a car accident.
But contract truck drivers offer a significant advantage to Amazon—if a truck driver causes a crash, the retailer can argue that it is the independent contractor’s responsibility and their own.
The Amazon Flex Program
Since 2015, Amazon has also leveraged the gig economy for deliveries. Under its Flex Program, individuals can pick up shifts as Amazon delivery drivers using their own vehicles. In some circumstances, these drivers are covered by an Amazon Commercial Auto Insurance Policy. Generally, Amazon drivers are covered if they are actively delivering a package. But there are exceptions to this rule.
First, Amazon requires that all its Flex drivers carry their own personal auto insurance policy. Amazon’s commercial insurance only steps in and pays expenses and losses that the driver’s personal policy does not cover. It does not provide insurance coverage to drivers that are uninsured.
However, many personal auto policies are voided if the driver was engaged in a commercial activity at the time of a crash—and picking up or delivering packages is clearly a commercial activity. If a delivery driver’s insurance policy was void at the time of an accident, Amazon could argue that the driver also did not have insurance coverage through its corporate policy.
Second, if someone other than the approved delivery partner is driving at the time of the crash, Amazon will not cover injured parties’ damages. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for drivers to share their accounts with unauthorized people or team drive (often, friends or family).
These situations can leave individuals injured in an Amazon delivery truck accident in the lurch. They might have to file claims with their own uninsured/underinsured motorist or personal injury protection policies. In the worst cases, they might be unable to recover any compensation at all.