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Amazon offers innovative freight transportation solutions

Amazon welcomes new carriers to the industry

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Amazon has taken the logistics world by storm. First, the company popularized two-day shipping. Then, Amazon Relay was created to help fill growing capacity needs. This paved the way for further innovation, including Amazon Freight for shippers and Amazon Freight Partner for carriers.

Amazon has expanded its offerings for both shippers and carriers. With Amazon Relay, the company provides flexibility and freedom for carriers to choose their loads, and maximize the use of their assets while also serving Amazon’s customers. Amazon Freight is the company’s external trucking company for shippers. Finally, Amazon Freight Partner is a program that helps entrepreneurs start—and existing carriers grow—their own trucking businesses.

The company’s first foray into freight transportation —Amazon Relay—offered carriers of all sizes an opportunity to move freight for top-performing companies, including Amazon, via a self-serve portal. Now, that network includes over 50,000 trailers and carriers from the U.S. and Canada, spanning a plethora of equipment and service types.

From there, the company started Amazon Freight to serve another customer: shippers.

“Amazon Freight is an idea we dreamed up in 2017 and formally launched in 2019. Back then, we had one big customer,” Hannah McClellan, Vice President of Amazon Freight, said. “It was a customer that had very high standards and demanded very high levels of service that they weren’t necessarily consistently finding across the different carriers they were working with. That customer was, of course, Amazon.”

Since its inception in 2019, Amazon Freight has continued to grow.. While owning all those assets allowed the fleet to move more product for Amazon, it also introduced a new problem: empty backhauls.

This is when the company realized that in order to best serve Amazon, it would also need to work with external shippers to keep its trucks filled in both directions. That is why Amazon Freight entered the wider industry and began offering “an Amazon-caliber, tech-enabled, customer-obsessed transportation product” to the masses, according to McClellan. 

Now, Amazon Freight enables a wide variety of shippers to access reliable, safe, and high-performing service, helping them provide a top-notch experience for their own customers.

In addition to creating Amazon Freight to better meet its shipping needs, Amazon saw the need to revolutionize its Middle Mile in order to continue wowing its customers with top-notch, expectation-setting service.

“As our customer base grew and really enjoyed two-day shipping-type initiatives, we wanted to continue to delight them,” said Terri Creech, Head of Product and Learning for Amazon Freight Partner. “We needed to grow more in our Middle Mile. I like to describe the Middle Mile as everything from picking and packing the customer order to that last mile of delivery.”

Amazon Freight Partner is one way that the company accomplishes this for carriers. It encourages entrepreneurship through its Amazon-exclusive Accelerator training, which onboards carriers who are new to trucking into the program and industry. The Amazon Freight Partner program provides carriers everything they need— including trucks, maintenance, insurance, fuel, and parking—to run safe, efficient trucking companies.

By lowering the barrier to entry into the carrier space, Amazon simultaneously bolsters overall interest in the industry and allows entrepreneurs and existing carriers from diverse backgrounds a chance to pursue opportunities through lower barriers to entry. These opportunities can include Amazon Relay or Amazon Freight Partner and its Accelerator training and low startup costs, depending on the size, age, and needs of each individual company. 

Amazon has set out to revolutionize trucking through the power of data and science. The company utilizes Amazon Web Services and machine learning to not only create new solutions but also continue improving existing ones. 

That improvement includes a serious emphasis on diversity, sustainability, and safety.

Diversity and inclusion are of the utmost importance at Amazon, both in the recruiting process and the environment the company creates for its existing employees.

“We’ve got a number of investments and partnerships to enable us to connect with and recruit from more diverse talent pools,” McClellan said. “We make an effort every day to create a more inclusive and comfortable experience for employees at Amazon through a variety of trainings and mechanisms to educate our employees on the importance of diversity and the research that tells us that having more diverse teams leads to better results for businesses.”

Every meeting at Amazon starts with a diversity and inclusion spotlight, often offering employees “DEI tips” to help them evaluate their own biases, think more critically, and foster more welcoming team environments.

Amazon also understands its responsibility to be a leader when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and taking care of the planet. The company demonstrated this responsibility by co-founding The Climate Pledge – a public commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 – in 2019.

Over the long-term, Amazon plans to reach that goal by limiting its reliance on diesel. The company is investing time and money into that effort, but the process can be challenging and time-consuming, according to McClellan. In the meantime, Amazon is focusing on more sustainable technologies and embracing available alternative fuels like renewable natural gas.

“Sustainability is a team sport. We know we can’t do this alone,” McClellan said. “We definitely want to be a thought leader and an investment leader, but we’re also doing a lot of work with partners, including [everyone] from start-ups to established companies to state and local governments.”

As of 2021, 253 companies have joined Amazon in signing The Climate Pledge. These leaders have all committed to slashing their carbon emissions a full 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. 

Additionally, Amazon is ramping up its safety investments. 

“In 2022, we are going to spend more than $1 billion on safety-related investment across our product portfolio—our trailers, our tractors, and the [Amazon Relay] driver app,” McClellan said.

In terms of equipment, the company is investing in sensors that alert drivers to maintenance issues, as well as sensors dedicated to collision avoidance and lane departures. 

Through the Amazon Relay driver app, Amazon has focused efforts on being able to understand each truck’s height, weight, and route in order to make sure drivers are aware of hazards, restrictions, bridges, and weather issues they may face.

“I’ve talked to several folks in our Amazon Freight Partner program that have really appreciated those types of safety innovations that we have through the app and on the trailers to make things safer for them,” Creech said. “Also, all of the Amazon-branded fleet has technology that can help give additional feedback into what is happening on the road so we can really have the safest fleet.”

Ultimately, Amazon is working to set high standards across the logistics industry by creating value, welcoming new entrants, and providing excellent service.

Ashley Coker

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She covers air cargo, trucking and sponsored content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.