“If we are forcing these drivers to go like bats out of hell to get this stuff all over town, that’s OK, because we are making it great for our customers. The human cost of this is too much.”
That’s what a former Amazon.com Inc. manager, who quit in frustration in 2017, said in a Buzzfeed News/ProPublica report published Monday that accused the e-commerce giant of prioritizing cheap and speedy deliveries over safety.
According to the report, Amazon AMZN, +0.36% declined on numerous occasions to implement safety-training measures for its fleet of contract drivers and repeatedly ignored complaints that the drivers were overworked.
The report found drivers delivering Amazon packages have been involved in more than 60 crashes resulting in serious injuries, including at least 13 deaths. The toll includes Joy Covey, Amazon’s former chief financial officer, who was killed when a delivery van carrying Amazon packages hit her while she was bicycling in 2013.
Amazon denied the allegations, saying in a statement that the report was “another attempt by ProPublica and BuzzFeed to push a preconceived narrative that is simply untrue. Nothing is more important to us than safety.”
ProPublica and BuzzFeed interviewed dozens of current and former Amazon workers and contractors, and were told stories of how Amazon’s desire for speed has placed a crushing burden on drivers to deliver packages at an unsafe and unrealistic pace.
One 2013 proposal to pay drivers per package and cap the number of deliveries, so drivers would be able to take breaks and have leeway in heavy-traffic conditions, was reportedly estimated to cost the company about 4 cents more per package. It was rejected, with a senior vice president reportedly calling it “garbage.”
“There was a maniacal focus on increasing shipments per route,” former Amazon worker Will Gordon told the reporters. And he claimed safety was routinely overlooked. “It should have come up more often,” he said.
That complaint was echoed by managers who oversaw contracted delivery drivers, who said there were no metrics in place to measure safety. “We need a greater focus on safety,” one manager reportedly wrote in a memo earlier this year.
“The means to the end is something they don’t care about,” said the Amazon manager who quit in 2017.
Amazon shares are up 19% year to date, compared to the S&P 500’s SPX, +0.09% 29% gain.