Amazon Thumbs Its Nose At Sustainability, Orders 20,000 Conventional Mercedes Sprinter Vans


September 10th, 2018 by Steve Hanley 

Amazon this week became just the second corporation in history to attain a market value of more than one trillion dollars. Apple reached that lofty status last month. Amazon has grown from a lowly bookseller into the largest marketing company in history. For every dollar spent online by US shoppers, 50 cents goes into the already overflowing coffers of Amazon.

Amazon Mercedes Sprinter van

A New Delivery Model

Getting all the merchandise people order from Amazon online to their doorstep on time requires the services of FedEx, UPS, and USPS. Now Amazon is pushing into a new phase of its operations. It intends to have more of its packages delivered by independent contractors who deliver exclusively for Amazon and it has ordered 20,000 Mercedes Sprinter vans for them to drive.

The plan calls for those vans to be distributed to fleet management companies who in turn will hire the actual drivers. On its website, Amazon says entrepreneurs who qualify can get started for as low a $10,000 and earn between $75,000 and $300,000 a year managing a fleet of 20 to 40 trucks.

“If you’re a customer-obsessed people person who loves coaching teams in a high speed, ever-changing environment, becoming an Amazon Delivery Service Partner is an ideal opportunity for you. As an owner, you will operate with 20-40 vans and have 40-100 employees. You’ll be fully responsible for hiring and developing a team of high-performing, hardworking drivers, while we take care of getting you set up and ready to operate out of an Amazon delivery station in your city. You’ll be expected to provide consistent coaching and support for your team to ensure the successful delivery of packages in a 7 days/week, 365 days/year operation.”

New Mercedes Factory in South Carolina

Mercedes has just opened a new $500 million production facility in North Charleston, South Carolina, to build the third generation Sprinter vans. It announced the order from Amazon as part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the factory on September 5, according to Digital Trends. The Sprinter is available in a dizzying variety of chassis lengths, roof heights, powertrains, and interior configurations. In fact, when the options are totaled up, they come to more than 1,700 possible combinations.

Amazon Embraces Internal Combustion Techology

But here’s the part that will be of interest to CleanTechnica readers. All of the vans will be powered by an internal combustion engine that runs on either gasoline or diesel. An electric Sprinter is in the works but Mercedes declines to say if it will be available in America. How’s that for making a statement about Amazon’s commitment to the environment? AWS, the web services division of Amazon, touts its “long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure.” In the UK, Amazon is adding solar panels and battery storage to its fulfillment centers.

But when it comes to polluting American skies with more filthy toxins from internal combustion engines, Amazon sings a different tune. This was an opportunity for one of America’s leading companies to boldly go where no company had gone before. It could have followed the lead of Deutsche Post, which is so committed to sustainability it designed and built its own electric delivery vans.

It could have approached the people at Workhorse to build a fleet of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles tailored to its individual needs. It could have presented a green face to the world by having all trucks in its new delivery program emblazoned with signage touting their zero emissions or low emissions, something that WB Mason is already doing. In fact, there is no indication that anyone at Amazon even thought about creating a fleet of zero or low emissions vehicles.

It could have followed the quest for sustainability that UPS is showcasing as it strives to clean up the emissions from its worldwide fleet of nearly 120,000 vehicles worldwide. Or noticed that Walmart, JB Hunt, Anheuser Busch and other trucking industry giants are all lining up to buy electric trucks from Tesla. Instead, Amazon decided it is OK to poison us and our families with the detritus spewing from the tailpipes of 20,000 trucks that depend on 120 year old fossil fuel technology.

Amazon has every right to take on UPS and FedEx with its own delivery service if it wants to, and it had a once in a century opportunity to show true leadership  in the business community. Instead, it chose to stick with a business as usual approach while the world burns and the polar ice caps melt. Andy Miles has an interesting piece about corporations being a form of cancer. His thoughts seem relevant to Amazon’s utter disregard for the environment and sustainable business practices.

I don’t expect enough people will be outraged by this clueless, tone deaf decision by Amazon to mount a boycott of the company, but it has certainly gotten me to reconsider where I do my online shopping. Maybe it will cause you to rethink your buying decisions as well.

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Tags: Amazon, Amazon orders Sprinter vans, Deutsche Post, diesel emissions, Mercedes Sprinter van, Workhorse

About the Author

Steve Hanley Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may take him. His muse is Charles Kuralt — “I see the road ahead is turning. I wonder what’s around the bend?”

You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

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