Amazon vans will hit road in C-U today

 

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Biz questions? Email Ben Zigterman at bzigterman@news-gazette.com

CHAMPAIGN — Instead of arriving in a UPS or FedEx truck, your Black Friday online orders may show up today in an Amazon van.

The Seattle-based shopping site has started using Amazon-branded vans for deliveries in the Champaign-Urbana area after recently opening a delivery center on the north end of town.

The warehouse owned by The Atkins Group at 2901 Boardwalk Drive helps Amazon speed up the last leg of delivery, spokeswoman Amanda Ip said.

After arriving at that warehouse, some packages will be delivered in Amazon vans, which are driven by local shipping businesses through the company's new Logistics program.

"They're operated by small businesses that own their own delivery company," Ip said. "They hire their own employees to make package deliveries and are contracted by Amazon. That's what the community of Champaign is seeing."

Amazon also uses independent contractors to deliver packages through its Flex program, akin to how Uber and Lyft operate.

"They can be their own boss with their own schedule," Ip said.

Asked why drivers aren't Amazon employees, as the warehouse workers are, Ip compared the Flex and Logistics programs to shopping on Amazon.com, where third-party businesses can sell their products.

"This is nothing new for Amazon as a whole," she said.

Ip said she isn't sure what percent of local orders will use the Amazon vans, but she said the vans won't take away from FedEx and UPS.

"We're still leveraging traditional partners," Ip said. "Our delivery stations essentially are a tool for us to supplement capacity."

The van drivers might not have access to apartment building lobbies, as larger delivery services do, so Ip recommended customers include a note about any entry codes they want drivers to know about.

"You can write delivery instructions," she said. "For example, I live in an apartment complex where you have to put in a special code, and I'm able to put that in the delivery notes."

But she said deliveries made with Amazon vans will have better tracking.

Customers "can get an alert on their phone if their package is ten stops away from delivery," Ip said. "If they're really excited, they could theoretically be ready to receive the package when the driver comes to their door."

She also said deliveries made through the Logistics program can be tracked on a map.

With the Logistics program, Amazon trains the business owners for three weeks and helps them get set up.

Ip didn't know how many people will work at the new warehouse or how many drivers it will use. She also declined to say when same-day shipping would come to Champaign-Urbana.

Amazon currently offers two-day shipping for Prime members in C-U.

Also, in fall 2016, it opened a pickup location at the Illini Union bookstore on campus that allows customers to receive same-day shipping for "millions of items" if they select that location for delivery.

Amazon has been expanding same-day delivery, with it now available in more than 8,000 cities and towns, according to its website. With same-day delivery, Amazon says if you order by around noon, the package should be delivered by 9 p.m.