Amazon curtails some service, highways closed, as protests impact freight and driver safety

George Floyd protests impact Amazon

As protests over the death of George Floyd continued around the country on Saturday and into this morning, many turning violent, their impact is now spreading to the freight world.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced that it is recalling drivers and adjusting routes in several cities affected by protests, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon sent delivery drivers in Chicago and Los Angeles a message advising them to stop delivering packages immediately and “return home.”

“If you have not completed your route, please return undelivered packages to the pick-up location whenever you’re able to do so,” Bloomberg reported the message said.

In a viral video, a man died in St. Louis after being run over by a FedEx (NYSE: FDX) truck on Saturday. The truck, according to police, was forced to leave Interstate 70 as protestors blocked the highway. Once on a local road, more protestors forced the driver to stop. According to KMOV4, protestors began climbing onto and banging the cab while others began looting packages from the trailer. At least two people pointed guns at the driver, the station reported.

Fearing for his life, the FedEx driver blew his air horn and started driving off. A bystander, Jared Arms, captured the entire scene on the video and told KMOV4 people started yelling as the truck drove off.

“I was standing on the side of the pavement and I started to notice a crowd go to the truck, so when I went over there, I heard people say there’s a guy trapped under the tire,” Arms told the station.

Police said the man died of his injuries at the hospital.

In a statement released to KMOV4, a FedEx spokesperson said, “Our hearts go out to all those who are grieving the events of this week. We are deeply saddened to learn of a tragic situation involving a demonstrator in St. Louis and one of our vehicles. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family of the individual involved. There is no higher priority for FedEx than safety, and we are cooperating fully with the investigating authorities at this time.”

In a statement issued to FreightWaves, FedEx said it is focused on the safety of its employees and customers but was preparing alternative plans if necessary to ensure continued operations.

“We join all those grieving the events of this week,” FedEx said. “The safety of our team members and customers is our top priority.  We are closely monitoring the situation nationwide, and we continue to operate in areas where we are able to do so safely. We are taking the proper precautions to help ensure team members stay safe, but have contingency plans in place to help lessen any possible impact on service. Customers can visit to check the status of shipments.”

UPS (NYSE: UPS) said its operations continue, but a spokesperson for the company declined to offer further comment on what impact the protests may be having.

“We are saddened to see that violence has impacted numerous cities and communities,” the spokesperson wrote to FreightWaves. “UPS service continues, with the exception of some The UPS Store locations that will remain closed as we work with authorities. We cannot comment further while ongoing investigations are underway.”

Road closures shutting off access to cites

As protestors started blocking highways, states began closing the roadways for safety reasons in response.

At the heart of the protests in Minneapolis, the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) took the unusual step of closing five major routes into the city at 7 p.m. local time on Saturday, and leaving those routes closed until 6 a.m. this morning. These included sections of Interstate 35 west and east, Interstate 94 west and east, Interstate 394 east and Highway 55 both north and south.

FreightWaves reached out to the start DOT to inquire about potential closures today but as of publication time, had not received a response.

In Seattle, the Washington State Patrol shut down Interstate 5 in both directions Saturday night as protestors ventured onto the highway. The highway was also closed in Sacramento, California, Saturday night and highways in New York and Atlanta as well as numerous other states have seen closures, either from proactive state actions or because protestors have blocked them.

Near Chicago, the Illinois State Police closed Interstate 290 eastbound to Ida B. Wells Drive on Saturday afternoon, as it did the Ohio and Ontario feeder ramps into and out of the city, reported CBS 2 Chicago. It was unclear when those routes would reopen.

On social media, drivers started cautioning each other about trouble areas. Some have warned of protestors throwing objects from bridges. Kenny Long, who is an administrator of the popular Rates & Lanes Facebook group, urged drivers to exercise caution.

“Protests and violent riots are erupting in cities nationwide. Use extreme caution while driving, especially through major cities and congested areas. Avoid these areas whenever possible, especially after dark. Stay on major highways to avoid traffic congestion, and do not stop if confronted. Park in lighted areas at least 50 miles from all areas with protest or violent activity. Be sure to keep adequate fuel in your truck so you do not need to make unplanned stops. Make sure to double check the routing through these areas when booking loads,” Long wrote to members of the group Saturday night.

Others are simply suggesting drivers avoid areas of protest, or simply shut down their trucks until they end and it is safe to resume operations.