FedEx, UPS present different approaches to e-commerce strategies
It’s not just Amazon that FedEx and UPS have different approaches to. The rivals’ overall e-commerce strategies clash with each other, per analysts.
Ray Padilla, Memphis Commercial Appeal
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Video recording systems are a requirement for FedEx Ground delivery vehicles, tapping into a technology transportation companies say improves safety but has also raised employee privacy concerns.
“Service providers under contract with FedEx Ground agree to purchase and install video event data recorder systems in their vehicles to capture video and vehicle data before, during and after on-road events,” FedEx said in a statement.
For some FedEx Ground drivers, driver-facing and forward-facing cameras are a long-established fixture in their vehicles. But other drivers have said cameras have been installed in their vans in recent weeks to fulfill new contractor requirements. FedEx did not say when the recorders began to be required for all contractors.
FedEx Ground uses contracted independent service providers to fulfill customer deliveries. The home delivery-focused company has more than 85,000 vehicles in its fleet.
“Safety is our top priority, both within FedEx operating companies and across our extensive network of vendors and service providers,” FedEx said. “…This data and video can only be accessed by the service provider business, to be used as it deems appropriate.”
Video recorders can incentivize ‘good behavior,’ Ground vendor says
Several companies have video event data recorder (VEDR) systems they say are suited for FedEx Ground operations. The vendors tout that their technology can reduce accident-related costs and aligns with Ground contracting standards.
Velocitor’s VEDR, for example, has an AI-based in-vehicle camera and a road-facing camera. The company says the system provides incident detection and distracted driving alerts, improving safety. The technology also incentivizes “good behavior” by drivers and exonerates “innocent employees against false claims,” per its website. Live-streaming video technology allows users to “see what your drivers are seeing.”
Lytx’s fleet dash cams, which the company says meets FedEx Ground contracting standards, “can capture risky driving events” like distracted driving and speeding, a spokesperson said. These cameras “can help fleets exonerate drivers from false claims, empower drivers to address risky behavior in the moment, and help companies surface insights that help improve business operations,” he said.
“Our clients develop and communicate their own policies with drivers regarding how they plan to deploy and use our technology,” the spokesperson said. “In general, our clients find that being transparent about how the technology works, why it is being adopted, and how it will be used builds trust and alleviates any privacy concerns.”
FedEx rival UPS has deployed the Lytx Drivecam on some of its vehicles in a limited fashion.
UPS installed the devices in package cars in four centers in Oklahoma and Texas in 2020. According to the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, they can be set to record only when triggered by an incident but added that they can “continuously record and even live-stream video and audio footage from outside and inside the truck.”
In a statement, UPS said the company is testing the devices to improve safety. The device inside the cab doesn’t have video or audio capability, while the outward-facing device records video for use in accident claims, it said.
“One device being tested uses sensors inside the cab to monitor driving habits, providing an audible alert so corrective action can be taken,” UPS said. “The other device being tested is an outward-facing camera that also alerts the driver if the vehicle drifts on the roadway, or if a potential hazard is detected. Both devices add an additional layer of safety.”
USPS delivery truck update: Future of USPS trucks is electric: Deal struck to replace, expand 230K-vehicle fleet
E-commerce giant Amazon has been testing artificial intelligence-equipped cameras in vehicles to monitor delivery drivers, which the company says will improve driver safety, CNBC reported in February.
Senators raise concerns, but regulation limited
Five U.S. senators, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sent a letter in March to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos raising concerns about the cameras being used by Amazon. They said the surveillance could “create significant pressure on drivers to speed up their routes” and increase fatigue.
“We are concerned that adding further surveillance tools and monitoring could increase dangers on America’s roads, place unsafe pressure on drivers, and infringe on individuals’ privacy rights,” the Senators wrote.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stepping down, Andy Jassy to take role
Amazon announced that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will step down in the summer of 2021, handing off the retail juggernaut to Andy Jassy.
staff video, USA TODAY
Currently, there are very few regulations regarding workplace monitoring of employees, said Pauline Kim, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis’ School of Law. She said the way the devices could be used, like for identifying union organizers, might be in violation of law, but the surveillance itself is not.
“There’s a common law of privacy, but that was not really envisioned for these kinds of situations,” Kim said. “The common law of privacy has to do with outrageous intrusions… That model doesn’t really work when talking about technological, routine forms of surveillance.”
Some states require companies to inform employees when they are being monitored, but they don’t usually prohibit the practice, Kim added.
“The law has been very hands off in terms of what employers can do in the workplace in terms of observing employees,” she said. “It didn’t matter as much 50 years ago, when observing employees meant walking around on the shop floor.”
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