At Amazon Site, Tornado Collided With Company’s Peak Delivery Season

Unlike Amazon’s huge multi-story fulfillment centers, where you store inventory and pack items into individual packages, delivery stations employ fewer people. Amazon employees sort packages for each delivery route in an area. Drivers working for contractors then take the vans to another area, where the packages are rolled up onto carts, loaded onto the vans, and removed.

Amazon had about 70 delivery stations in the United States in 2017 and now has almost 600, with more plans, according to industry consultancy MWPVL International. Globally, the company delivers more than half of its own packages and up to three-quarters of its packages in the United States.

Most drivers work for other companies under a program called Delivery Service Partners. Amazon has said that the hiring agreement helps support small businesses that are able to hire in their communities. But industry consultants and Amazon employees directly involved in the program have said it allows the company to avoid liability for accidents and other risks, and limits labor organization in a heavily unionized industry.

Sucharita Kodali, an analyst at Forrester Research, said that while the holiday season is critical for all retailers, it is particularly intense for Amazon. “They promise these delivery dates, so they are likely to experience the majority of last minute purchases,” he said.

The Edwardsville delivery station, which Amazon calls DLI4, opened last year and had room for 60 vans at a time, according to planning documents.

On Friday, a tornado warning was in effect for Edwardsville at 8:06 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. At 8:27 p.m., the county’s emergency management agency reported a partial roof collapse at Amazon’s delivery depot and people being trapped inside.

Aerial footage of the wreckage showed dozens of trucks, many of which bore the Amazon logo, under the rubble. Some of the trucks were U-Hauls, which contractors sometimes rent to meet demand during peak periods.

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