One of the largest companies in the world and the suburbs of Boston is making lawsuits that can have broad implications for a booming business: quickly bringing goods to your front door.
Amazon has sued Town of Braintree for the requirement that shipping vehicles going to and from warehouses planned to be built by Amazon must carry signs that identify them.
This is the condition attached by the Braintree Planning Board last summer to the approval of territorial determination for a 250,000 square foot facility. Local officials said the signs would enable them to ensure drivers – who would become contractors, not Amazon employees – adhere to the traffic management plans they obtain with online retailers.
At that time, Amazon’s attorney said the sign requirements “made sense,” according to the videotape of the meeting. But the company later demanded, saying the rules of signage, along with the requirements for additional driver safety and insurance checks, were “arbitrary, arbitrary and illegal.”
The warehouse, in the industrial park at Campanelli Drive, will be the main link in the growing Amazon distribution network in the Boston area. The 24/7 operation will allow for more similar deliveries and the following day to most cities and their southern and western suburbs.
But many Braintree residents objected, citing the impact of hundreds of one-hour cars and trucks traveling along busy Granite Avenue to and from Route 128. After several controversial public hearings last year, the Planning Agency approved the facility, but on condition.
“If they drive through the environment and speed up, I know Amazon wants to know. But how do people know to call Amazon? “The Chairman of the Planning Agency, Bob Harnais, told the hearing in July.” Drivers must have some sort of sign on their car. ”
In its lawsuit, Amazon said the requirement was “a burdensome requirement that was not applied to other people operating similar businesses in Braintree City.” A spokesperson did not respond to a message requesting further comments.
Both Mayor Joseph Sullivan and a city lawyer refused to discuss the case, although the city said in a court filing that the Planning Board gave Amazon a position of “careful consideration” before voting on the rules.
The hearing scheduled for earlier this month was postponed while the two sides “continued to pursue the possibility of a settlement,” according to a court filing. Meanwhile, Braintree competes with a separate lawsuit from other property owners near the warehouse, which is challenging rezoning for Amazon.
Despite the results, nameplate disputes have implications for Amazon and other businesses that increasingly rely on contract drivers who use their own vehicles to carry packages from the warehouse to the customer’s door. They are paid hourly, without compensation or reimbursement.
Since 2016, the Massachusetts state law requires drivers to ride vehicles such as Uber and Lyft to have identification on their cars. But there is no such requirement for independent shipping drivers, who have multiplied not only through Amazon Flex contract delivery services – last year, it was reported to have around 8,000 drivers in Massachusetts – but also with food delivery applications such as DoorDash and Grubhub.
While more traditional shipping services, such as those offered by pizza shops, often use signs to advertise, identifying marks is usually not needed. That raises legal questions about Braintree’s approach, said Bruce Schaller, a New York City transportation consultant who studies car riding and other application-based services.
“The question for Braintree is why choose Amazon?” “If a city says to do business in our city, we want you to be identified, then the signs of the Amazon will enter into the overall scheme. But that’s not what they do.”
City officials note, however, that unlike pizzerias and other small businesses, Amazon’s warehouse requires major zoning changes to work. This, they say, gives the city a way to deal with issues such as traffic and security.
This is the kind of litigation that Amazon and other fast delivery services should expect if they open more warehouses in densely populated neighborhoods, said Peter Plumeau, managing director of EDR Group, a consulting firm. Boston-based economic development consulting.
“The demand for fast delivery and the need for warehouse space are really the cause of this,” he said. “If Amazon and other e-commerce companies continue to search for locations for distribution centers that are increasingly close to urban customers, I think these types of challenges will continue to arise.”
How disputes are resolved will also affect how high-tech companies, such as Amazon, will ship their parcels in the future to their customers, “said Robin Chase, transportation contractor and co-founder of Zipcar.
If you think it can be difficult to know who is double parking on your block to deliver parcels now, she said, wait for the robots to make deliveries.
“Imagine when we get drones, or commercial drones,” says Chase. “If they are not marked, I can not say who it belongs to. Who should I shout to?