As of May of 2019, Amazon became the biggest retailer on the planet, surpassing Walmart in market capitalization and annual profits from retail sales. Part of its surge to the top no doubt was a function of the fact that Amazon delivers products to the doorstep, instead of relying on the old “box store” model for selling items, where the consumer drove to a store, shopped, bought their item, and took it home themselves. Per one source, Amazon delivered some 2.3 billion packages to consumers in the United States in 2019. And part of its business model is the opportunity for prompt delivery – its website advertises both a “One-Day Delivery” and a “Same-Day Delivery” option.
How does the world's largest product seller get packages from Amazon warehouses to all of our homes and offices, and so rapidly?
Whereas it used to rely on the U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service, and FedEx for its deliveries, in becoming less dependent on those companies, Amazon created not only a fleet of its own cargo planes, but also (as of one Forbes' article reported in September of2019) runs 60,000 of its own delivery trucks, with another 100,000 on order. Amazon also employs drivers to deliver packages through its “Amazon Flex” program. This allows drivers who sign up through an app to use their own vehicles, so long as they are midsize sedans or larger, to make deliveries of Amazon packages.
In my fortieth year of law practice, I have not that I can recall had a client injured by a FedEx or UPS delivery truck driver. And I can count on one hand the number of cases I've had to pursue against U.S. Postal Service drivers. Those three entities, however, each have driver training programs in place, and their drivers are company employees operating fleet-maintained vehicles in the course and scope of employment, that is, with a solvent entity on the hook for any harm caused by their agents.
But now we have the world's top retailer delivering literally billions of packages annually – in part utilizing non-employees driving their own personal vehicles – with part of its business model including a one day or less delivery promise.
Has Amazon really adequately thought this through? Does anyone else see this as a formula for trouble? Could private delivery vehicles speeding through neighborhoods become an omnipresent hazard putting all of us and our families at risk?
Hopefully Amazon has done this right. In our society today, there is no excuse for a corporation not making safety its Number 1 priority. Human life and health is more important than being able to have a product show up “same-day” or within 24 hours of when it was ordered online by a retailer's customer.
If not, it will be the job of tort lawyers, myself and my firm included, as we seek recompense for clients, to take any company that fails to put safety first to task.