Amazon orders 20,000 vans for new delivery program

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When Amazon announced the delivery van program just about three months ago, it anticipated ordering 4,500 vans. The response since, from more than 10,000 applicants, pushed the company’s order of new Sprinter model vans to 20,000. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Amazon says it has ordered 20,000 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans for use in its new last-mile delivery program. The company is offering training, discounts on van leasing, and the promise of contract package-delivery work to select interested entrepreneurs.

Amazon has ordered 20,000 Mercedes-Benz vans for use in a new package delivery service, more than four times as many as the retail and technology giant anticipated when it announced the program this summer.

The vans are part of Amazon’s effort to meet its rising demand for trucks and personnel to take items from its warehouse network to customers’ doorsteps, called last-mile delivery in the industry. Amazon currently relies on logistics giants UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service, as well as independent contractors, for that work.

The Seattle company announced a new entrant in June in the form of a program for entrepreneurs interested in building a business on the back of Amazon’s delivery ambitions. The company said it would offer select interested entrepreneurs deep discounts on branded trucks and uniforms. It envisioned successful participants building out a network of 20 to 40 trucks, and fewer than 100 employees.

When Amazon announced the program just about three months ago, it anticipated ordering 4,500 vans. The response since, from more than 10,000 applicants, pushed the company’s order of new Sprinter model vans to 20,000, Amazon and Mercedes parent Daimler disclosed at an event Wednesday that coincided with the opening of a new Mercedes production facility in North Charleston, S.C.

Amazon won’t own the vehicles itself. The company says fleet-management companies will buy the trucks and lease them to the contractors that have gone through Amazon’s application and training process.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company anticipates having more than 100 contractors up and running under the new program by the end of the year.

The spokeswoman didn’t say how many of the 10,000 applicants Amazon would approve. That pool, she said, includes many existing logistics firms that contract with Amazon.

Matt Day: 206-464-2420 or mday@seattletimes.com.