More from Terry, in his own words:
I used to deliver Amazon packages myself. I started driving in Austin, Texas, and it was a great way to learn my way around the city and meet new people. Before driving, I was a biology teacher, so when I was given the opportunity to combine my teaching skills and my driver background, I was super excited about the intersection of my interests. Now, I am a program manager at DDE6, Amazon’s Last Mile Driver Academy in Denver. This site was built to create a best-in-industry training program for Amazon’s Delivery Service Partners (DSPs) and their drivers.
The Last Mile Driver Academy is a first-of-its-kind facility in Amazon’s network. We set up an all-indoor training site and help prepare drivers for conditions and safety practices so they can stay safe on the job throughout all four seasons. It also helps to improve safety; not just for drivers, but the communities in which they deliver. This job is exciting and rewarding—I love being able to work directly with drivers. I relate to them, since I used to work in a similar role and am passionate about helping people learn and excel. One of my favorite parts of the job is working with the people who are the face of Amazon in local communities. I also love hearing directly from the drivers about their experiences delivering for their DSPs. It’s all about the connection to people, it can’t be substituted for anything else.
This facility has successfully helped more than 6,000 drivers (and counting) complete training since opening in March 2022.
Here are some of the most interesting components of the facility:
Load Out teaches trainees how to load up the vehicle before dispatch. Drivers will utilize carts at a delivery station to transport packages from the station holding area to the van. We teach them proper cart-handling procedures, and how to safely load and organize their vehicles in less than 12 minutes. We also teach trainees the best way to navigate the vehicle safely outside of the delivery station.
The Bellevue Course gives drivers an opportunity to learn road maneuvers and proper vehicle handling in a studio-like setting, before they are faced with real-life scenarios on the job. We have trainees reverse, execute three-point turns, try 45-degree and parallel parking, and serpentine around cones. Trust me—it’s not as easy as it looks, especially if you are new to driving a delivery van! We teach drivers how to do these maneuvers in both the custom Rivian electric delivery vehicles and our standard cargo vans.
One of the more challenging maneuvers is the reverse serpentine. We have all the drivers go through the same course, but in reverse. It really helps them understand the vehicle dynamics and to trust the mirrors. I’ve seen so many drivers nervous about this part of the course, but when they can do it, they are elated. It's rewarding to see them have this “Ah-ha!” moment, and realize they are a great driver. The gratification and satisfaction of completing this section of the course is one of my favorite parts.
In the Egress stage, trainees learn how to enter and exit a vehicle while holding a package safely. We teach them how to handle packages without placing stress on the body, and coach using three points of contact, using handle bars to exit the vehicle safely and properly.
Slip, Trip, and Fall Simulator
This is my favorite part of the training! We teach drivers how to walk on ice and how to navigate slip hazards, using a technique involving taking small steps. It allows the driver to center their weight and have the most control, which reduces the chance of a slip. We spray a glass floor with water to simulate ice, and use that method to teach drivers on how to stay focused and avoid distractions. Drivers are put inside a harness while practicing, so they don’t fall. This is a very humbling experience that helps them remember how to navigate slippery grounds. Many drivers have told me that this is their favorite training and one that is also helpful outside of work. We also teach them how to install snow cables to improve tire traction on ice and snow, which is essential for drivers delivering in snowy conditions in this part of Colorado.
To ensure the safety of the driver and delivery vehicles, drivers are required to complete a Driver Vehicle Inspection Checklist on any vehicle they are using to deliver packages. The checklist is designed to meet Amazon’s Roadworthy Guidelines, as well as applicable Department of Transportation inspection requirements, and includes checking for vehicle safety defects, such as foreign objects in tires. During the training, drivers interact with a staged delivery vehicle that simulates inspection items, and drivers are taught how to identify and report any defects, and certify and submit an inspection. This process trains the drivers to be tuned-in to the delivery vehicle safety characteristics, to ensure their vehicle is safe to drive before going on road.
Last but not least, we also offer a Virtual Reality session, where trainees follow an interactive video to highlight being on the road and simulate different safe delivery practices. This is an essential component of the training, as it provides four times the amount of practice that can be completed on the road.
We are really proud of the work that happens at the Last Mile Driver Academy. All DSPs in the Denver metro area require drivers to pass this course before they become a driver, and once they do, they deliver out of one of five delivery stations in the area.
I’m most proud of the impact our program has had on our DSPs, and helping these local small businesses succeed. While we’re focused on helping them stay safe on the road, many DSPs have even told me this has helped their bottom line. Knowing that we’ve created a positive and uplifting program, that helps the face of Amazon on the road, is the most rewarding part of my job.
Next, watch how Amazon delivers to customers off the coast of Florida on Sanibel Island, one year after Hurricane Ian.