First, Amazon created Flex, an Uber-esque home delivery service for Prime Now customers. Now, the retailer appears to be contracting with private drivers to deliver even standard packages to customers’ doors — cutting out UPS and other traditional delivery companies even more.
In a story published Thursday, Reuters said Amazon has begun inviting select members of Amazon Flex, all living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, to join a new program. The news service said it has spoken to three of the drivers and seen e-mails sent to them by Amazon.
“This new stream of packages will create new delivery opportunities,” Amazon wrote, according to Reuters.
In August, GeekWire was first to report the formation of Amazon Flex. This service contracts with private drivers, who use their own cars and pay their own insurance, to ferry basic household goods to the homes of Prime Now members. The retailer has steadily expanded Flex into new cities. Back in August, GeekWire reported that Amazon intended to eventually use the operation to deliver standard packages.
That appears to be happening now. Reuters said an Amazon spokeswoman confirmed that Flex drivers in Texas are delivering Amazon.com packages.
Any doubts that Amazon intends to rely less on UPS and Fedex are quickly disappearing. The big question now is how far Amazon plans to take home delivery? Amazon executives say only that they wish to supplement delivery. Not everybody buys that. Amazon has been busily obtaining the use of cargo planes and ships and experimenting with package-delivering drones. Is all of this just supplement? Or will Amazon go head-to-head against UPS, Fedex and other package deliverers?
At minimum, Amazon wants to reduce the cost of shipping goods. Earlier this month, the web’s top retailer reported net-shipping costs reached an all-time high of $1.85 billion during the fourth quarter of 2015, and surpassed $5 billion for the full year.
As for what Amazon’s new delivery service may look like, Reuters said the company informed drivers that they initially wouldn’t be able to drive for Prime Now deliveries, but later they’d be allowed to drive for both services.
Amazon said anyone driving for the new service would need a four-door car, “mid-sized sedan or larger,” according to Reuters. Amazon will pay $18 per hour initially and shifts can be scheduled from between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m seven days a week.