Amazon.comAmazon has quietly been inviting drivers for its new “on-demand” delivery service to handle its standard packages, in an effort to speed up delivery times.  The move is the latest sign that Amazon wants to control more of its own deliveries.  Media reports have said that the company intends to lease its own fleet of jets, and CEO Jeff Bezos eventually wants to use drones to get packages to customers.  Amazon outlined details of its latest plan over the last few weeks in an email to contract drivers who deliver parcels for the program Amazon Flex, which launched last year to handle speedy deliveries of common household goods to customers with the app Prime Now.

If this plan works, industry analysts said that it could help Amazon contain its shipping costs, which expanded more than 18 percent to $11.5 billion last year.  It could also create a logistics network to compete with UPS, FedEx and the various local carriers who currently deliver Amazon packages.  Yesterday an Amazon spokeswoman confirmed that Flex drivers in Texas are already delivering packages.  They didn’t go into details about their plans, but said that they’ll be exploring new ideas for sped up delivery.

In a recent earnings call, an Amazon executive said that the company wasn’t trying to replace partner carriers, but rather find ways to handle more of its own deliveries at peak times.  Amazon Flex works a lot like Uber.  Drivers use the app to sign up for shifts to pick up packages at warehouses and deliver them to customers’ doors.  It’s now available in 14 different cities, and Flex drivers can make between $18 and $25 an hour.  Such a model could be particularly cost-effective in out-of-the-way areas where smaller couriers who charge an average 35 percent of the total shipping cost deliver packages to Amazon customers.

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