Beginners Guide to Amazon Flex

Since my return to the U.K, I have been looking for self-employment, with flexible hours, and just anything but a desk job… Which brought me to the idea of the shared economy opportunities (like Uber and Airbnb), where Amazon Logistics offer similar opportunities through their Amazon Flex multi-drop delivery drivers. Which may not seem like a “dream job” but I do literally pay lots of money to drive aimlessly through Europe and Asia on road trips (e.g. we only arrived back from 8 days of snow in the Scottish Highlands). At the same time, when working as an Amazon Flex delivery driver, I could make roughly £400 a week (after van rental etc.) to drive around Northern Ireland dropping off parcels. So I was for once in my life excited about a job and in becoming an Amazon Delivery Provider through the Amazon Flex program. Which adds as well to my other self-employed services as an Amazon Sales Associate, and a KDP Publisher with Amazon. As my life would become ‘Peak Amazon’. So along the way, I share the processes, procedures and pitfalls of becoming finding a driving position in Amazon Flex

Things You Need?

First off, there are a number of things you will need before taking a job an Amazon Flex Driver (other than wheels), and to even enter the warehouse/facility you will need safety boots and a hi-vis vest. Then to actually do the job, you will need a phone (Android or iOS) which the route and job will rely on given it works off an app (found here) on your own smartphone. So I personally bought myself a basic Moto G6 along with a rugged ‘armorbox’ case, although many Amazon Delivery Drivers opt for the recommended/purpose built Blackview mobiles which are not so different to normal Androids with rugged cases. Anyway, given many Amazon delivery drivers will be working 9-hour block shifts, the job also needs a lot of battery power, so it is also advised to have a second phone, and maybe a power bank. And other handy gadgets include a dashboard mount with charger, and a retractable key chain. Anyway, this is just a simple starter pack for an Amazon Delivery Driver, and to start out I spent around £200 on a phone (Moto G6), boots, jacket and other gadgets.  

The Amazon Flex App

Applications depend on availability, meaning it can be hard to register with the Amazon Flex App, and for months was receiving the same response. “Sorry, there aren’t any delivery sites in your area looking for new Delivery Partners at the moment. Check back regularly to see if any openings become available”. So I just do as they say. I checked back regularly until I found openings at the local depot in Northern Ireland. I am then forwarded in the Amazon Flex App to complete some basic details e.g. car make, model, and year, and tax details (if necessary). I then added my bank details used to receive direct payments for jobs completed. It then goes on to simple tutorial videos (around 7 in total) which included quizzes after each section. And are all fairly simple. So this is pretty much training complete, and you should be capable now of just turning up at the depot, assisted by little more than the App. But first, there must be a background check (Accurate Background), just to be sure of criminal records for things like driving bans, or fraud, or theft, which should take around 10 days.

Accurate Background Check

Before starting there will be a background check (Accurate Background), just to be sure of past criminal records in things like driving bans, or theft or fraud. And this should be completed within 10 days of the application (check your email) and it takes no more than 30 minutes to complete. This will also include proof of ID (e.g. passport copy), and proof of address, so it’s best to have these documents ready before starting. Otherwise I’m still quite confused on this process. Normal turn around time is 10 up to 14 business days. But the first time I applied on the run up to Christmas (01/12/18) I received no response/communication and it was “in review” for months. But I kept logging in online to check (as here) until its completion before messaging Amazon Support (31/01/19). Only I’m told “you are not eligible to provide services with Amazon Flex at this time. No further communication on this topic will follow from us”. Which was weird considering my background is squeaky clean. At the same time, my nephew was training with CEMPS, and was owed around £300 at the time, before failing his Background Check. They then cut off all contact and never paid him. He then applied independently and his background check came back fine. He now just works off the App.

Performance Based Drivers?

Amazon obviously is a smart company, and they thrive on efficiency, so I would guess, whether or not they say it, that they follow the performance of drivers. They know the time given for slots, the distances and complications between deliveries, as well as the times that parcels are actually delivered. But it is treated as a job. So if you get a 4-hour slot of 40 parcels one day, and 20 parcels the next day in the same area on a 4-hour slot, I would treat them exactly the same. So instead of slacking or running chores or eating sandwiches during the “easier” jobs, I would complete them with the same efficiency. Otherwise, performance, as well as efficiency against other drivers, will be recorded below your actual ability. Meaning, in theory, that Amazon “should” favour drivers who are more efficient than others. And deliveries and jobs will be ultimately be offered to the more efficient drivers than others. And the same obviously goes for effectiveness, where, if drivers fail to complete any deliveries, this will affect their performance and the jobs offered to them.  

Self-Employed Couriers 

At its simplest, an Amazon Delivery Driver should be able to drive to the depot, take on a job, grab the allotted bunch of bags, then just go about the day delivering them. Then home again. Making it the perfect job for a flexible stress-free work life. But things are not quite this simple for Amazon Delivery Drivers in the U.K, or at least it’s becoming a lot less likely. As Amazon relies more on contractors/service providers to recruit and guarantee drivers are put out to work, every day, 6-days a week, on a full-time basis. As this is somewhat necessary to keep up with their somewhat unrealistic guarantees to customers e.g. Guaranteed Next Day Delivery. At the same time, these contractors guarantee work on a daily basis, and for those aiming to make some decent money out of these Amazon Delivery Driver jobs, they are perfect. Although you’re kind of thrown in at the deep-end.

The Service Providers

Contractors, or service providers, advertise and employ new drivers pretty much weekly, where listings are easily found through sites like Total Jobs and Indeed with daily alerts of nearby Amazon delivery driver jobs (there does seem to be a high employee turnover in the industry). They also help to get your foot through the door as delivery drivers, with training, experience, and guaranteed work for the foreseeable future. They also help to source a van, for those without one, and they will guarantee a wage if planning to save for your own van down the line. And things do move quickly following application, where I was at job ‘interviews’ and inductions in the same week as I applied, through the 2 different courier providers I contacted. As there are a number of active contractors found on these websites; including CEMPS (UK) Ltd, Pegasus Couriers, Deva Services, and DCS Recruitment Limited. Each sharing their own perks and benefits.

Induction Day

Before the interview (which is more of a group induction) the applicants must first confirm to have held a driving licence for more than 2 years, with no points or bans on the licence, and have no unspent criminal convictions. Then it’s almost immediately into inductions with Amazon Flex. As these are held weekly, sometimes at the warehouse (work boots and hi-vis necessary), or maybe at a hotel facility etc. The gist of the day, is more or less to learn about and to register with Amazon as Delivery Providers. Which takes roughly an hour or two with a lot of online forms, and signatures. As well as the drugs and alcohol test; the alcohol test being little more than a quick blow into a breathalyzer, while the drugs test is a urinalysis, meaning you have to pee in a cup in the washrooms. There will then be a further background check (through Accurate Background) before delivery drivers can go to work (filtering out potential thieves). Note, these processes have changed slightly, as Amazon now requires 2 half-day inductions, with applicants following training videos and taking easy exams.

Training Day(s)

Next comes training days (normally 2 or 3) where potential drivers sit alongside one of the more experienced Amazon delivery drivers for half-day shifts. Although this will probably be a full-day given the job and processes are slowed down with all the training. Otherwise an efficient aim for a delivery driver is to deliver around 20 parcels per hour in residential areas, which sounds relatively simple, but it’s also 1 parcel per 3 minutes. So it’s a rather fast-paced job. And in these 3 minutes; you will be driving between houses, finding and scanning the parcel from the back of the van, rushing to the door for delivery, and waiting for the homeowner to answer (I’d give 20 seconds). But homeowners are not always home, so already delivery drivers will be considering alternative options even before arrival. And hopefully it will be their ‘safe place’, as you’ll otherwise be knocking on neighbours’ doors hoping to have them take the parcel for you. The neighbour then takes the parcel, and signs the card, and it’s back again to the delivery address to put the card through the door. Then you swipe the app for completion, on the doorstep, before rushing on to the next delivery. In three minutes. Then there are just so many other niggly bits of routine and protocol between.

Survival of the Fittest

It’s hard to look at these jobs as long-term given the environment, where job security is next to none, and you’re very much an insignificant cog in a ginormous global wheel. Where you technically work for yourself, as a self-employed courier, meaning Amazon has no real obligation to supply you with the jobs necessary to make a worthwhile wage. So if you’re paying for weekly van hire, you may barely be breaking even on half-day shifts. This mean, if you are underperforming, the service providers can just reduce your supply of shifts, and ultimately forcing you to quit the contract. Which may be why there’s such a high turnover in jobs in the industry. But again, there are also recorded concessions, where if you fail to follow the strict instructions of Amazon (e.g. leaving a package on the doorstep aka doorstepping) you will be penalised. Where a handful of these can see your supply contract ended. And once you’re out of Amazon, I really have no idea how to get back in. However, if Amazon delivery drivers perform professionally, and well, they can pull together a decent wage, and this can hopefully help create more secure opportunities in the future.

Alternatives: Yodel?

Similar delivery driver operations are run by a number of multi-drop providers, such as Hermes and DPD as well as other big names like Royal Mail, DHL and whatnot. But most of these will require drivers with their own vans and vehicles, or they will focus more on full-time employment. And they’re just hard to get. Then there’s Yodel (online sign-up here) who are similar enough to Amazon’s operations (and they’ll again help source vans for self-employed couriers) only they courier instead for companies like Tesco, Marks and Spencers, Argos, and just a load of well-known brands shown here. As well, Yodel are more lenient when it comes to their procedures, and they allow delivery drivers to take blocks and routes with their own vehicles. They don’t seem to have the same strict background checks etc, either, and when I applied for the local courier job, I would have the parcels delivered to my home address each morning, for delivery in my own car, and in my local area. Offering more stress-free and independent jobs to the Amazon Flex delivery drivers.

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