As the online holiday shopping season is about to start, Amazon’s push to ramp up its own delivery system has run afoul with drivers who have not been put through background checks, a new investigation has found.
That means potentially dangerous individuals will likely be hitting the road, with access to customer information, and as some managers hard-pressed to meet the online retailer’s ever-demanding need to deliver packages faster turn a blind eye to the break in protocol, according to the probe’s findings.
Managers were found to accept when contract drivers skirted the rules to meet quotas, say current and former employees at the company.
A security guard checks in with a driver at a regional distribution center in Las Vegas, Nevada, this past June. As the online holiday shopping season is about to start, an investigation has found drivers working for Amazon who were not put through background checks
Workers fill orders at Tennessee Amazon fulfillment center on Cyber Monday in 2014. A new investigation has found that contract drivers delivering packages for the holiday shopping season may not have had the proper background checks, posing dangerous risks
As a result, drivers who likely would not have been approved to work have been handed the keys to Amazon vans delivering packages with exposure to customer names, addresses and other sensitive information, as well as access codes for the deliveries, said those interviewed in the investigation conducted by NBC News.
‘They would say, ‘OK, get it done”, a former Amazon delivery company manager told NBC. ‘And as long as it was delivered before deadline that day, that would make their location look amazing, they may turn their head’.
Former managers who said they were aware of the failures in protocol added that they even worried about drivers who had passed background checks not being properly prepared for delivery routes served by trucks dangerously packed beyond their normal capacity.
In response, Amazon says it operates a safe delivery network and that it requires its contractors to obey the law and company rules. The company adds that anyone driving without a background check was in violation of policy. NBC reports that Amazon did not elaborate on how it enforces its policies.
The investigation’s revelation is just the latest to emerge concerning Amazon’s efforts to keep up and improve deliveries to customers who want their purchases faster, if not on the same day if possible.
The company, which pulled out of renewing contracts with traditional delivery services to build out its internal delivery network, has been working to avoid problems that crept up in recent years when last-minute holiday shoppers overwhelmed deliveries, prompting Amazon and UPS to issue some refunds.
Amazon responded with drone delivery and its growing delivering network.
However, the rush to meet growing business had its downside. The rate of serious injuries suffered by factory workers at Amazon warehouses was found to be more than double the national average, according to another devastating analysis.
Records from 23 of the online retail giant’s 110 fulfillment centers across the United States showed that there were 9.6 serious injuries per 100 full-time workers in 2018, which was more than double the warehouse industry average of four in 100.
Workers reported suffering urinary tract infections from ‘holding their pee’ to avoid taking time to go to the bathroom, as well as severe back problems and chronic pain from packing at such fast rates, according to investigations conducted by The Atlantic and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
An investigation revealed there were 60 accidents since June 2015 involving Amazon delivery contractors, which resulted in serious injuries including 10 people who died. Amazon delivery trucks are seen in Miami, Florida, this past August
Another investigation revealed there were 60 accidents since June 2015 involving Amazon delivery contractors, which resulted in serious injuries including 10 people who died, according to findings in the probe by ProPublica, the New York Times reports.
The number of accidents is believed to be under-reported, since many people don’t follow up with lawsuits, and those who do can’t tell that Amazon is involved, according to a review of police reports and news accounts.
The downsides to Amazon’s push to ramp up its delivery services
One analysis found that the rate of serious injuries suffered by factory workers at Amazon warehouses was found to be more than double the national average.
Workers reported suffering urinary tract infections from ‘holding their pee’ to avoid taking time to go to the bathroom, as well as severe back problems and chronic pain from packing at such fast rates.
Another investigation revealed there were 60 accidents since June 2015 involving Amazon delivery contractors, which resulted in serious injuries including 10 people who died.
And as the online holiday shopping season is about to start, a new probe of Amazon’s push to ramp up its own delivery system has found drivers who have not been put through background checks.
That means potentially dangerous individuals will likely be hitting the road, with access to customer information and access codes.
Some managers hard-pressed to meet the online retailer’s ever-demanding need to deliver packages faster turn a blind eye to the break in protocol, according to the probe’s findings, the investigation found.
Amazon has argued that it isn’t liable, and that it has closely watched the drivers it hires to maintain the network.
But the newest findings in NBC’s investigation released Wednesday, just two days before Black Friday, followed by Cyber Monday, shows how there are still contractors under Amazon’s employ without the proper background checks to protect customers.
NBC News says it spoke with 18 people in 11 states who detailed safety problems across Amazon’s delivery network. The broadcast news outlet’s interviews included 13 current and former Amazon employees familiar with the online retailer’s ‘last mile’ delivery program and five people who worked for Amazon-contracted delivery companies.
Names in many cases were withheld because those interviewed by NBC did not have permission and feared retaliation or other threats to their employment for coming forward.
Amazon employs a quarter-of-a-million people to handle the job of fulfillment, sortation and deliveries, in addition to thousands of contractors.
Accounts made to NBC on how the influx of packages have strained Amazon’s delivery network varied.
But the same accounts all had in common how the online retailer’s push to ramp up its deliveries impacted a network that didn’t have enough time to keep up.
The investigation found that at one delivery facility in St. Petersburg, Florida, contract drivers using Amazon photo ID badges that belonged to others on a daily basis.
Amazon’s rate of serious injuries suffered by factory workers at warehouses was found to be more than double the national average, according to a recent analysis. An Amazon associate is pictured at an Amazon Robotics fulfillment center in Orlando, Florida
It was the only way the contractors, already hired, but not vetted by background checks, were able to drive off the facilities, the investigation found.
Managers allowed the break in policy to keep up with quotas, current and former employees told NBC.
Amazon requires a visual check of the badges when drivers pull out of warehouses, but the investigation found that it doesn’t always happen, five people said, either because drivers are able to grab other people’s badges, or security is lax enough that they don’t even need the identification to leave.
Background checks also are sometimes not thorough enough, a former manager says. Once he said he found a driver had a past criminal record with charges for assault and burglary, and had only made the discovery after the driver was found throwing packages into the woods.
The driver’s background had been limited to one county, out of state, the former manager said.
Amazon tolerates such practices, say current and former employees and local delivery contractors.
Records from 23 of the online retail giant’s 110 fulfillment centers in the US showed that there were 9.6 serious injuries per 100 full-time workers in 2018, more than double the idustry average of four in 100. An Amazon Fulfillment warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota
For example, the consequence for not doing a background check may be a warning, but a contractor faces financial penalties if short on drivers to complete its delivery routes. That has added to the pressure of going with drivers who have not be put through a background check, the investigation found.
It also can take weeks for Amazon to complete a background check for what otherwise is a qualified driver, current and former managers told NBC, while a contractor is hard-pressed to a put a new hire to work immediately to avoid losing the worker to a competitor should the employee be forced to wait.
Amazon did not make anyone from the company available for interviews with NBC, and several of its executives did not respond when NBC reached out for comment.
‘This is a comprehensive process that can take time’, Amazon said about the delay in making background checks. The lengthy time is necessary ‘to work with the applicant to verify the information provided and make sure we give them an opportunity to correct any inconsistencies in the information we may have found’.
Drivers have several ways of filing complaints, including a hotline, Amazon told NBC. Such complaints have even lead the company to terminate its contracts with third-party delivery companies, which Amazon calls ‘Delivery Service Provider’, or DSPs.