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Last MileNewsRegulation

Amazon scolded for being “evasive” on contract drivers

Amazon’s response to concerns about the safety of its last-mile delivery contract drivers was not enough to satisfy one of the lawmakers looking into the matter.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), who along with Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), recently demanded Amazon stop doing business with contractors that violate federal labor and motor carrier regulations, called the company’s response to a set of inquiries “evasive,” and that it should “throw open its books” if it was committed to proving its safety record.

“Instead, as multiple press reports and their response to our letter demonstrate, Amazon chooses to hide behind its delivery partners and a mandated veil of secrecy to protect itself from a disastrous record and true accountability,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “The public deserves a substantive conversation about worker safety and a commitment to real reform. Amazon’s time would be better spent working to provide specific answers to the questions we asked and addressing the troubling issues we raised.”

Blumenthal and his colleagues cited a year-long investigation by BuzzFeed and other reports claiming that Amazon [NYSE: AMZN] continues to contract with last-mile delivery companies that have been sued or cited for allegedly failing to pay overtime, denying breaks and sexual harassment.

“At a minimum, Amazon is falling far short of its responsibility to ensure its contractors are following labor laws and safety regulations,” Blumenthal contended. “I will continue to press the company until it stops looking the other way as its contracted drivers are forced into unsafe vehicles and given dangerous workloads.”

In response to being asked by the lawmakers if the company would commit to ending contracts with companies that have violated labor laws, or that have “checkered” track records, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s Vice President for Public Policy, said the company does not condone labor law violations. “Where we find repeated violations, or an inability to correct labor violations, we terminate contracts with DSP [Delivery Service Partner] program participants,” Huseman said. “We will continue to hold DSPs to high standards and take appropriate actions when DSPs fail to meet those standards.”

Asked to make public the names of the companies with which it contracts, Huseman responded that Amazon partners with over 800 delivery drivers and doesn’t disclose their names publicly for competitive reasons, but noted their operating authority registrations with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) are publicly available.

Huseman also pointed out that Amazon requires that DSPs carry auto insurance of at least $1 million – more than triple the federal insurance required for motor carriers operating lightweight vehicles. In addition, while federal safety regulations do not apply to vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less, “we apply many federal safety standards for drivers, vehicles, and operations to these smaller vehicles and DSP drivers,” he asserted.

Responding to the lawmakers’ request for details on labor law compliance audits of their drivers, Huseman noted that DSPs, who are paid a minimum of $15/hour, are audited when they’re onboarded, at 90 days, and regularly after that. “We examine their compliance with wage, hour and benefits requirements, and if shortcomings are identified, we document issues and give the DSP two weeks to implement a corrective plan or risk having their contract terminated.”

Amazon did not directly respond to whether it has ever “thwarted the creation of a union,” but Huseman said that it respects its employees’ and contractors’ rights on whether or not to join. “Amazon maintains an open-door policy that encourages employees to bring their comments, questions and concerns directly to their management team for discussion and resolution.”

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John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

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