Bear Down notified Ohio, Virginia, Minnesota and Illinois that it would close facilities in those states in April, resulting in the loss of almost 280 jobs. Another Bear Down facility near Grand Rapids, Mich., will also close in April, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg.
About 120 drivers work at the Michigan facility, said a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of company policies about speaking with the news media. The company also has Amazon delivery operations in Wisconsin, the status of which was not immediately clear.
“Occasionally we need to end a relationship with a partner and when this happens we are committed to helping the impacted employees find opportunities with other delivery service partners or to learn more about the thousands of available roles at Amazon delivery stations and fulfillment centers,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in an email. Calls to Bear Down weren’t immediately returned.
Amazon in 2018 launched a program encouraging aspiring entrepreneurs to lease vans, hire drivers and build their own businesses delivering packages to its customers. More than 100 such businesses have sprouted around the country, helping Amazon increase delivery capacity.
Amazon also has greater negotiating power over each small operator than it does with UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Drivers working for Amazon delivery partners typically earn less than their counterparts employed by larger delivery companies like UPS, and that helps Amazon lower costs.
One driver working for Bear Down in Michigan said he earned about $15 an hour delivering Amazon packages, while UPS paid seasonal drivers doing the same work in that area about $20 an hour.
A big challenge for Amazon is balancing safety with its efforts to deliver things quickly at the lowest possible cost.
ProPublica in December revealed internal Amazon documents showing it prioritized speed over safety in its delivery network, which followed other investigations exposing the injuries and deaths that accompany Amazon’s quick expansion of its delivery program.
The Bear Down experience also shows how hard it is to make a go of such businesses. When Amazon courted entrepreneurs, it touted the prospects of earning $300,000 a year with as little as $10,000 in upfront costs, significantly less than most franchise businesses that can cost more than $100,000 to launch.