Ecommerce company Amazon.com is launching a new fleet of bigger, boxier trucks. These are much like those favored by rival package carriers United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp. The company is fighting to fix widespread pandemic-fueled delivery delays that sent customers into the arms of competitors, like Walmart Inc.
Amazon.com is the Seattle-based world’s No.1 online retailer, owned by the world’s richest man to date, Jeff Bezos. Bezos witnessed his wealth inflating to nearly $180 billion during the coronavirus outbreak over a robust upsurge in online deliveries.
Amazon has ordered more than 2,200 heavy-duty Utilimaster “walk-in” delivery trucks from Shyft Group, a Michigan-based specialty vehicle company.
This suggests a strident approach from the retailer to solve the pandemic-fuelled delays in its deliveries.
The Shyft Group declined to say how many of the vehicles they sent to Amazon delivery contractors. In fact, it has not provided information about where they would be deployed.
It is now under pressure to make good on one and two-day deliveries. This was their promise to customers who subscribe to its $119 annual Prime service.
Online ordering for food, computers, toys, and exercise equipment surged after states issued stay-at-home orders to battle the pandemic. This then overwhelmed Amazon’s network, adding days and even weeks to delivery times.
Drivers assigned to the new trucks showed training materials from Wisconsin-based safety and compliance consultancy J.J. Keller & Associates. This confirmed that Amazon is a client of the Shyft Group, but it did not respond to requests for comment.
There were recent sightings of one of the new Amazon trucks operating in Chicago, according to a reporter. Drivers said training is under way in the Los Angeles area.
The Company’s New Fleet
Amazon purchased the vehicles last year, but they have remained parked for months in locations around the United States. This includes Amazon.com’s lots in New Jersey and California dairy country. The world’s largest online retailer declined to state why it waited so long to roll out the new fleet.
Drivers said they can carry more and bigger packages than the Mercedes-Benz and Fiat Chrysler and Ford Motor Co vans. More specifically, these are those drivers that Amazon contractors dispatch around the country.
Two drivers, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, opted not to switch to the new vehicles. This is because they are heavier and more difficult to maneuver than Amazon vans.
Amazon.com came under fire in 2019 after ProPublica, BuzzFeed, and other news outlets reported on Amazon’s training practices. This includes van accidents that resulted in injuries and deaths.
Van drivers must undergo training, said Amazon in an email. It should, therefore, include two days of classroom instruction and two days of ride-alongs with experienced drivers.
Amazon decided to suspend its upstart Amazon Shipping program for non-Amazon packages in June. This is in order to prioritize deliveries to its own customers.
Amazon did not disclose whether they would use the new fleet to restart this service. In this aspect, it is competing directly with UPS and FedEx.