According to data collected in a new report from the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), the number of injuries rose dramatically between 2020 and 2021.
Among the Delivery Service Partner (DSP) drivers for which it found OSHA data, the SOC claimed there was “nearly one injury per five full-time equivalents” in 2021 — an incident rate of 18.3. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent incident rate under “couriers and couriers” stands at just 7.5 per 100. According to SOC, the injury rates in 2021 represent an increase of about 40 percent from the previous year.
However, there are some important limitations to the findings published by the SOC, itself a collaboration between Service Employees International Union, Teamsters, Communications Workers of America and United Farmworkers of America. Because DSPs are outsourced, their injury records are submitted individually to OSHA; SOC was able to obtain incident logs for 201 such delivery companies working with Amazon, but estimates that pool represents only ten percent of the total DSP workforce. Still, given the plethora of injury rate reporting among Amazon’s warehouse workers, the report indicates the trend could apply broadly to the company’s workforce.
Working for a DSP, according to a lawsuit filed by such a company earlier this year, involves agreeing to “almost complete control” by Amazon without the e-commerce giant providing the “guarantees required”. DSP drivers are also regularly monitored by Amazon through the company’s Mentor app and surveillance cameras installed in their vehicles. According to an Indianapolis driver the SOC spoke to in March, Amazon uses a system of scoring that ranks drivers against their own peers in terms of delivery speed and percentage of completion; the driver said she knew of 15 drivers who were fired for not meeting Amazon’s performance requirements. The aforementioned lawsuit notes that “extremely aggressive time limits that could rarely be safely met” are a mainstay.
“This report selects data from less than 10% of our delivery partners to tell an inaccurate and misleading story,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, told Engadget. “Safety is a priority across our network, which is why we have rolled out technology such as innovative camera systems that have resulted in an overall accident reduction of almost 50%, and we will continue to invest in new safety tools to try and get better every day .” It’s not clear whether DSPs are required to share their injury records with both Amazon and OSHA; Engadget has sought clarification.
The DSP program — which Amazon first launched in 2018 to reduce its reliance on USPS, UPS and Fedex — has since grown rapidly to a network of more than 2,000 companies. As Bloomberg noted, many DSP operators are veterans, retirees, aspiring entrepreneurs, and other newcomers to the logistics industry. The same productivity demands placed on drivers are similarly used against DSP owners who have reported razor-sharp margins, and feeling stuck in the program by “exit costs” if they choose to leave.
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