Getting the job done for Amazon means leaving a few shattered rules in the wake of speeding delivery trucks, according to a new report.
The report from Motherboard claims drivers are being told by Amazon delivery companies to shut off a monitoring app called Mentor that Amazon uses to track speed and score drivers on safety.
The report, which largely relies on unnamed sources, cites text messages telling drivers to sign out of the system, which supposedly monitors them at all times.
“By getting drivers to turn off the Mentor app, Amazon’s delivery companies … can push drivers to circumvent Amazon’s strict driving rules intended to prevent accidents in turn raising stats that can increase revenue in a cutthroat landscape where many delivery companies are barely scraping by, and get paid per package delivered on time in addition to bonuses that are earned through efficient, safe driving recorded by the Mentor app,” the report said.
In one Michigan case, the driver was reportedly told to sign out of the system halfway through his shift. The report said drivers in Georgia, Michigan, New York, Tennessee and Texas were told to use various tactics, including shutting off their phones, to avoid being monitored.
In a 2020 example from the Atlanta region, drivers working 10-hour shifts were told “Starting tomorrow everyone needs to be logged into Mentor for at least 2 hours no more no less, so make sure that’s one of the first things we’re doing in the mornings,” the report said.
Mentor works on the phones of drivers at Amazon Delivery Service Partners, which are “quasi-independent companies who are contracted by Amazon to deliver packages in Amazon-branded vans.” The app collects data on speeding, braking, cornering and other behaviors as well as phone usage.
Drivers who spoke to Motherboard, and whose names were not used, said the companies contracted by Amazon want speed over safety to meet Amazon’s delivery quotas. The report summed up drivers as feeling “threatened and pressured to break traffic laws and risk their own safety while delivering Amazon packages.”
“Speeding was the main thing. They were harsh on drivers that weren’t going as fast as they wanted,” the report quoted a former driver from Romulus, Michigan, as saying. “I complied when they asked me to turn off the app because I didn’t want to cause friction. But it was a lot of stress, high blood pressure, seething anger and frustration.”
Amazon said it is not encouraging risky driving.
“This behavior is unacceptable and does not adhere to the safety standards that we expect of all Delivery Service Partners,” said Rena Lunak, an Amazon spokeswoman. “It’s also misleading to suggest that this behavior is necessary — in fact, more than 90% of all drivers are able to complete their deliveries before the scheduled time while following all safety procedures.”
But Amazon sets the rules of the game that push its contractors to break them.
“Amazon delivery drivers are asked to deliver upwards of 400 packages a day on grueling 10-hour shifts under pressure from contractors who earn extra revenue from Amazon when their drivers deliver packages quickly and efficiently,” Motherboard reported.
“Amazon adds an additional revenue per package delivered, in addition to bonuses that can be pocketed by delivery companies or distributed to drivers at their discretion. These bonuses are only offered if drivers’ stats on the Mentor app collectively average to above 800 on a 100-850 scale.”
“Because of these bonuses, drivers say their companies ask them to drive a few hours or a couple stops, while minding their speed and braking, so that the app registers a high score, and then turn off the app for the rest of their shift.”
Amazon drivers and an Amazon delivery company owner told Motherboard low Mentor scores can also mean companies lose access to Amazon routes.
“The issue here is Amazon does not compensate delivery companies fairly for what they’re asking us to do. Everything is done on a shoestring budget,” the report quoted the owner of a delivery company near Seattle as saying. “Companies that tell their drivers to turn off the app are trying to get a perfect score so they can get their incentives. In my opinion, this is not ethical.”
But it is reality, according to the report.
“Our dispatcher told us after three or four hours you can turn Mentor off, and sign off, because when the thing with Mentor is when it’s on, it’s regulating things,” a driver from the Nashville area was quoted as saying. “People are driving slower and following traffic laws and rules Amazon wants us to follow, turning off vans, putting on hazards, wearing seatbelts.”
“Once it’s turned off there’s no tracking of speed, how fast you’re taking corners,” he said.
“I turned off the app around lunch everyday,” a former California delivery driver said. “I would be constantly stressed, worried all the time about making my quotas.”
Safety issues with Amazon vehicles also emerge because delivery companies do not want to report any problems in the app that might ground a vehicle.
“My vehicle had a damaged roof, rain leaked inside, the side door was broken for months. It also needed an oil change and tire pressure was low, but we weren’t allowed to report anything, because Amazon would ground the van, and that’s one less route that delivery company would have,” said Leonard Hodges, a former Amazon delivery driver in Houston.
A former Amazon delivery driver in Buffalo, New York, called the safety problem “a catch-22 situation. Either you turn the app off so you can deliver faster or you leave it on and deliver slower and don’t get your bonuses.”
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