Jeff Bezos is, by nature, a disruptor. He’s been one since he founded Amazon, his online bookstore in the late '90s. I love to read. And so I was an early Amazon customer and fan:
My first purchase was on May 20, 1998. It was a book called The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark. I needed the book to research a story I was working on and couldn’t find it locally. I placed 3 more orders with Amazon that year. The following year, my order count more than doubled, with 13 books purchased. Last year, I bought items from Amazon more than 50 times – including clothing, Christmas ornaments, household electronics, soap, cologne, music, movies, kitchen utensils, furniture, sunglasses and, of course, books (which are electronic now – another Bezos contribution to our world).
I haven’t purchased any food yet from Amazon, or any other online retailer. But doing so is simply a matter of time. Which brings us to the news last week that Bezos may be gearing up to launch an Amazon parcel delivery service, which would bring the company into direct competition with the companies moving its merchandise to consumers today, including FedEx, UPS, USPS and many others.
Several major media outlets reporting on this move noted that the company has been quietly leasing cargo aircraft, locking in maritime shipping contracts, and building up a corps of drivers both here at home and abroad. Depending on who you talk to, these moves are either Amazon simply posturing to force its shipper partners to cut rates and boost service, or Amazon is about to move into the world of trucking and logistics in a major way.
If that ends up being the case – and I suspect it will be – then look for disruption and technological adoption throughout the global trucking industry to accelerate exponentially.
Bear in mind that Bezos has become the richest, and one of the most powerful men on the planet simply by taking new, emerging technology, and applying it in ways that simple never occurred to more conventional managers in traditional companies. And there’s no reason to think he will do anything differently if he decides he needs another tool at his disposal to make sure his customers get their purchases as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Which means that in a world where Amazon is moving freight, nothing will be off the table: Drones, autonomous technologies, new distribution models, electric trucks, new warehousing techniques, transparent supply chains, telematics, and other technologies I either don’t have the space to list here, or we haven’t heard of yet, will be carefully examined, fielded and tested to see if they can help fulfil that mission.
And Bezos doesn’t come from a trucking background. He has no preconceived notions as to why one particular technology or fuel or management approach or any other aspect of fleet operations is “bad,” and why another is “good.” He’s interested in results and is a True Believer in technology. Where things go from there is anybody’s guess.
The mainstream press focused on the business aspect of Bezos potentially launching his own P&D fleet, and portrayed existing shippers as losing out on Amazon business as a result. But that’s missing the real story, in my opinion. Some experts are predicting in-home food deliveries increasing by a factor for 30 or more in the next two years. If that scenario unfolds, there will be plenty of freight and business for P&D fleets worldwide.
So, for me, the real impact of an Amazon P&D fleet will be on the technology and business model front, as shippers will be forced to scramble to adopt, learn, and leverage new methods and means of moving goods in a hyper-efficient manner in order to compete with a technological disruptor of this magnitude.