Amazon’s model of using contractors is part of a huge push the company launched in 2018 to expand its own deliveries, rather than relying solely on shipping companies like UPS. The company has built a network of delivery stations, like the one in Edwardsville, which are typically cavernous one-story buildings.
Unlike Amazon’s huge, multi-story distribution centers where it stores inventory and packs items into individual packages, delivery stations employ fewer people. Amazon employees sort packages for each delivery route in an area. Then the drivers working for subcontractors take the vans to another area, where the packages are rolled into carts, loaded into vans and evacuated.
Amazon had around 70 delivery stations in the United States in 2017 and now has nearly 600, with more expected, according to industry consultant MWPVL International. Globally, the company delivers more than half of its own packages and up to three-quarters of its packages to the United States.
Most drivers work for other companies under a program called Delivery Service Partners. Amazon said the contractual arrangement helps support small businesses who can hire in their communities. But industry consultants and Amazon employees directly involved in the program said it helps the company avoid liability for accidents and other risks, and limits work organization. in a heavily unionized industry.
Sucharita Kodali, analyst at Forrester Research, said that while the holiday season is essential for all retailers, it is particularly intense for Amazon. “They promise these delivery dates, so they’re likely to experience last minute shopping,” she said.
The Edwardsville delivery station, which Amazon calls DLI4, opened last year and could accommodate 60 vans at a time, according to planning documents.
A tornado warning was in effect for Edwardsville starting at 8:06 p.m. on Friday, according to the national weather service. At 8:27 p.m., the county emergency management agency reported a partial collapse of the roof of Amazon’s delivery depot and people were trapped inside.