A highlight from Amazon's Highway Tragedies
I'll read from your story. A spokesperson said quote amazon operates a shipping network into otherwise is simply not true. The spokesperson went on to say there are tens of thousands of drivers moving millions of customer packages every week almost all without incident and we continue to invest in improving transportation safety across our operations with the goal of achieving zero incidents unquote but paris. It seems to me from your reporting that amazon has a ways to go toward that call. The company is going to continue facing. Be safety questions right. And it's important to understand why this is becoming a bigger deal for amazon now amazon's explosive rise in retailing has in part been propelled by the company's innovations and shipping in recent years. Yeah you've written a lot about this. What does that involved one way. Is that amazon closely monitors. It's trucking partners performance. Track their precise location their speed. The length of the brakes even taken by drivers. If a driver say pulled over to arrest up for more than forty five minutes they'll get a call from amazon. The company also sets the routes that drivers take penalizes truckers that fail to use amazon's tracking software properly and it makes sense that a company like amazon would push for efficiency. This is how they became a global behemoth. But let's remember that these truck driving jobs are already really difficult right so one guy. I call when. I wanna learn more about this in the trucking industry. In general is steve sally. He's a university of pennsylvania so all professor who studies free transportation. He's written a book about how the rise of independent contracting turns trucking from one of the best blue collar jobs in the us into one of the toughest and he actually worked as a truck driver as part of his research. Oftentimes drivers are out especially when they first start out in their career. The first year to they're working weeks sometimes months at a time without returning home living truck stops living out of the truck twenty four hours a day and it's a total shift in your entire life. You've obviously spoken with a lot of truckers and continue to of the ones that you've spoken to that have worked for amazon are considered it. What is their take on. How amazon compares to the other jobs available while you know the the big thing is that here drivers is that amazon stuff You know they are very cost conscious as a company like amazon moves more and more freight with some of its own vehicles. Lots of transportation they have more and more information about the market and so they can set that market rate more and more precisely they can squeeze more out of drivers and that puts you on the treadmill of choosing between compensation time at home and sometimes unfortunately safety and this is an industry wide problem every ecommerce companies trying to figure out a way to deal with it. Consumers won't buy something if it takes twenty days to arrive and they won't buy it if shipping cost twenty dollars but amazon has a lot of leverage. They control an increasingly large part of the trucking market. And they're even as previous reporting has shown selling part of their trucking services to other companies. I asked vasily truckers. Don't quit amazon. Why did so many people still do it. Why wouldn't they go somewhere else. I do think talking to drivers a lot of it is the novelty that they're the big new shipper. You know they have lots of freight to move it. And that can be very attractive to drivers that consistent. Big pool of frank that siri in can keep you move all the time. The other advantage is that you know. It's it's amazon right. And everybody sees that. They're the future in at least commerce. And you wanna get in on the ground level right. You want to work for the company. That's that's got a bright future and truckers are no different than than others in seeing that essentially vantage and this takes us back to the beginning of the episode. That nine one tape you heard of the crash that killed two people involving the semi truck calling amazon goods driven by corey. Munson munson seemed overworked. We know this because of a court case filed by the victims of the crash one of the documents admitted as part of the discovery process included. Munson facebook posts in which he complained repeatedly about his long shifts. His exhaustion insomnia. So what could happen in this case if there is a legal filing about this. What's what's going to happen. It could help raise new questions but amazon's liability munson for instance worked for this big trucking company called j. b. hunt which has division dedicated to hauling freight for amazon in the two or so years leading up to the crash months and exclusively moved amazon branded trailers between amazon warehouses. During that time he also had a lot of close calls according to j. b. hunt employment records that were also submitted as part of this court case. He was written up nine times for almost causing crashes. His managers blamed munson. Inattention and quote. Complacency is monson. The only one is facing potential liability here now. So some of the victim's family of the victims in this houston crash of sued not only munson and g behind but they also do amazon. The victims attorneys are trying to determine whether he put pressure on companies like j. b. hunt to or clear drivers harder during the early weeks that pandemic which is one. This crash happened and what might happen. And has there been president for something like this so this is actually one of a couple cases that have cropped up recently on this question. Another involves a florida crash that we mentioned earlier. The one val copter footage where an amazon branded tractor trailer drove off the road over the median and into oncoming traffic killing one man and severely injuring another and wives that case notable so. The driver of the truck worked for the small trucking company. That's part of this program. I've reported on previously called amazon freight partners. They're one of about a hundred and thirty or so companies that have agreed to haul loads exclusively for amazon amazon. Leases them up to twenty amazon branded tractors. That's the front part of the truck that pulls the trailer and amazon controls. How much they can earn. What kind of jobs they can take and basically everything they can do with these Vehicles during the time. Okay so amazon freight partners in these kind of deals. How might that impact this case. So the case is in the state of florida which allows the owner of the vehicle to be held at least partially liable for the actions of its drivers that could put the responsibility on amazon and make it a lot harder for the company to waco its way out of paying restitution to the victims and it appears to be the first time that one of these crashes and lawsuits has happened involving an amazon freight partner. So it's definitely a case to keep our eyes on going forward. These questions are all about who should pay for the deadly consequences of the e commerce boom paris. Thanks so much for coming on the show. Hope everyone listening. Have the chance to take a look at your fantastic story. Thanks carring always great talking to you. That's our show this week. Thanks so much to keenan cash for producing today's episode. We'll be back next week. Have a great weekend everybody.