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Amazon’s ‘ultra-fast’ service offers freelance drivers, cabbies here extra source of income

SINGAPORE — Drawn by an attractive hourly wage rate and the prospect of earning extra income, freelance drivers here — some of whom work for ride-hailing firms Grab and Uber — are taking on deliveries for Amazon’s “ultra-fast” Prime Now service.

Amazon’s ‘ultra-fast’ service offers freelance drivers, cabbies here extra source of income

Queue of cars and van seen waiting to receive the Amazon's Prime Now orders at the loading bay on 27 July 2017, taken during the Launch of Amazon Prime Now, its speedy two-hour delivery service in Singapore . Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

SINGAPORE — Drawn by an attractive hourly wage rate and the prospect of earning extra income, freelance drivers here — some of whom work for ride-hailing firms Grab and Uber — are taking on deliveries for Amazon’s “ultra-fast” Prime Now service.

Drivers who spoke to TODAY on Friday (July 28) at Amazon’s warehouse at Toh Guan Road East said they earn an hourly rate of up to S$30, comprising a basic wage of S$25 and a S$5 bonus. 

Since the service was launched in Singapore on Thursday, they have been putting in 12-hour shifts on the average, such as between 9am and 9pm. 

On each trip, drivers deliver goods to clients in a “cluster”, which means their destinations are not far from one another. They do up to five trips each day, which translate to between 15 and 20 deliveries. 

At least three firms, recruitment company Adecco Personnel, logistics start-up Ninja Van and logistics solutions firm Riverwood, are understood to be supplying manpower to fulfil Amazon’s delivery needs. 

Mr Chris Koh, 50, who has been driving for Grab and Uber for about two years, put in shifts of between eight and 10 hours over the past two days. On Thursday, he completed 15 deliveries over eight hours.

Mr Koh, who has also been driving part-time for Ninja Van for about half a year, said he works in continuous two-hour blocks, snatching quick breaks between deliveries to refuel at petrol stations or have a “quick bite”. 

For instance, if a driver begins his shift at 10am, he should “ideally” return to Amazon’s warehouse by noon. But he acknowledged that if the “route planning” on the app provided by Amazon for its drivers was “not good”, they  “may be a bit late”. 

The schedule is “quite crammed”, Mr Koh added. 

He said the S$25 hourly rate is comparable to the “up to S$20 to S$25” he earns every hour on regular Ninja Van deliveries. 

To retired polymer component expert T W Koh, 58, the schedule is  “still manageable”. He clocks up to five trips a day from 10am to 10pm, which add up to between 16 and 20 deliveries. 

Another delivery driver, who gave his name only as Mr Reno, 42, has a job in construction safety, where he works from 11.30pm to 5.30am. 

But he decided to take on Amazon deliveries after learning about the opportunity through a friend.

Over the past two days, he has been fulfilling orders from 3pm to 10pm. Saying it was “not really tiring”, Mr Reno added: “One hour S$25, who (else) wants to give?”  

Another driver, who gave his name only as Mr Shafiq, 30, has been driving for Grab since May. He found out that Amazon was hiring drivers through logistics solutions firm Riverwood via the online marketplace Carousell.

Fulfilling Amazon orders from 9am to 9pm since Thursday, he has had to hold off his Grab assignments until his deliveries are completed. 

While he acknowledged that he can earn a higher wage driving for Grab, Mr Shafiq said the Amazon deliveries mean that he goes to “just a few” locations, compared with having to “move about a lot” with Grab.

“As long as the income’s good, I’ll just go for it,” he said, adding that he was told 200 vehicles had been deployed to fulfil orders on the first day of the service’s launch here.

Apart from freelance drivers, Ninja Van is also roping in its full-time drivers. One Ninja Van driver, who wanted to be known only as Mr Wan, 35, said the schedule has been “very hectic” and he delivers orders to between 15 and 16 locations each day. 

Ninja Van started out by deploying seven full-time drivers for the Prime Now service, he said. 

DELIVERY WINDOWS SOLD OUT

Hours after the official launch of the shopping application on Thursday, consumers were left disappointed after they were notified that delivery was “unavailable”. Some also experienced delays in downloading the app. 

On Friday, consumers hoping to place orders via the app were also told that delivery services were unavailable. Those who continued to place orders were informed that all delivery windows for Friday and Saturday had been taken up.

Amazon spokesperson Amanda Ip told TODAY that delivery windows were sold out because of “great customer response” and the firm was rapidly opening up new windows. 

Asked about the number of drivers it has on its books here and how it plans to ramp up manpower to meet demand, she would only say that the company works with a “variety of locally sourced delivery partners to get thousands and thousands of packages to customers each day”. 

Adecco and Ninja Van declined to comment when approached.

At about 7.30pm on Friday, seven ComfortDelGro taxis were spotted in the warehouse’s loading area but it was not clear if their drivers were doing deliveries.

(ComfortDelGro taxis seen waiting at the loading area of Amazon's warehouse at Toh Guan Road East in this photo taken at about 7.30pm on Friday, July 28. Photo: Chris Koh)

As demand on the Amazon app remains high, other drivers, such as cabbie Rani Krishnasamy, are also not ruling out the possibility of riding the wave. 

Mrs Rani, 51, who drives for SMRT Taxis, said that if the taxi operator allows its drivers to take on Amazon deliveries, she “would not mind” giving it a shot if it brings her extra income. 

While she earns more than S$30 an hour as a taxi driver during peak periods, for instance, “with such competition in the market, I would not mind doing it for S$30”. “It’s a good deal,” she added.

However, Mr Wong Hui Fong, 34, a taxi driver with HDT, was not keen on fulfilling orders for Amazon. He noted that there will come a point when Amazon would have to adjust its wages for drivers according to the company’s profits.

“While it may look attractive now, over time it may not be so attractive,” he said.

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