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The Corona Virus Could Be Making Amazon Drivers Deadlier

As the global COVID-19 pandemic keeps people indoors, the demand for delivery services has naturally risen. With its nearly 50% share of all online sales in the US, and a significant footprint overseas as well, this means big changes for the ecommerce giant, Amazon.

Because of the overload of their infrastructure, Amazon has been refusing since March 17th to accept shipments of what they consider non-essential goods from their suppliers. To put that into perspective, after years of doing its best to dominate the supply of almost everything people buy, Amazon is currently turning business away. In a time when people are looking for ways to keep themselves and their children in good spirits at home, and when bricks-and-mortar stores carrying things like videogames, board games, toys, DVDs, and paper books are closed, Amazon is declining the chance to be the nearly sole provider of these things, so that it can instead keep up with deliveries of food, toilet paper, diapers, and other absolute necessities. That’s how overwhelmed its system is.

Most of this change is the result of people, including many at Amazon, doing the best they can to prevent more deaths. Deliveries, especially no-contact deliveries, are safer in terms of preventing the virus’s spread than in-person shopping. However, this sudden expansion of Amazon shipping may also create increased dangers on the road.

Amazon Is Hiring More Hands to Cover Increased Demand

According to a recent announcement, Amazon is hoping to expand its workforce by 100,000 people, across both warehouse and delivery jobs, to help it keep up with the public’s increased delivery needs. It will also be temporarily raising worker pay by $2 per hour.

Many new delivery drivers will be contractors working through Amazon Flex, a service much like Uber or Lyft, but for Amazon packages rather than passengers. Amazon may also expand the use of local logistics companies for delivery contracts.

Drivers Are Likely to Be Inexperienced, Rushed, and Possibly Ill

Amazon contractor drivers have caused, at a low estimate, 60 accidents and 10 deaths since 2015, and the conditions that make them unsafe are almost certain to worsen under COVID-19.

The requirements to become a driver with Amazon Flex are minimal. Applicants must be 21 years old, licensed and insured to drive, have access to a qualifying vehicle and smartphone, and pass a background check. Given the high demand, hiring standards are likely to fall, and the already dangerous pressure to deliver as fast as possible will rise.

Flex drivers are also denied paid sick leave unless they test positive for COVID-19, which is almost impossible for the average person to do, while testing remains expensive and reserved for only the most severe cases. As a result, many Flex drivers who contract the virus will have no economic option but to continue making deliveries, which can pose a road hazard as well as a contagion risk. According to one study conducted in England in 2012, even driving with the much milder common cold can be the impairment equivalent to driving drunk.

If you or someone you love is injured in an Amazon-involved accident during this global crisis, or at any time, The Stoddard Firm can help.