Owner Operator update on Wal-Mart, Amazon, Google and Uber
Wal-Mart has partnered with Google Express to challenge Amazon for voice ordered purchases.
Wal-Mart will share a buyer’s purchase history with “Google’s Virtual Assistant”, enabling faster processing for items frequently shopped. Amazon has long utilized voice shopping which analyzes buying history by recalling preferred items purchased in the past.
Google Express currently enlists Uber and Instacart to complete online orders fulfilled by Target, Costco, Wholesale Corp, Walgreens and Whole Foods while earning commissions on these transactions, but Wal-Mart is choosing to fulfill these orders themselves.
Wal-Mart works with Uber, actively encourages in store pickup and is also testing deliveries by store workers. A Wal-Mart store employee finishing their hourly shift could then theoretically volunteer to make 2 or 3 deliveries on their way home driving their personal auto.
This is where it could get interesting from an Owner Operator or Independent Contractor standpoint.
These retail giants undoubtedly understand that the activity of “pickup and delivery of products is excluded” in most personal auto policies. So it’s safe to assume they have healthy Hired Auto and Cargo policies or more than likely are simply self-insuring these deliveries.
When does an Employee delivery person become an Owner Operator or Independent Contractor? When do they purchase a Commercial Auto policy to protect their own interests as a delivery person? What if he chooses to make other outside deliveries?
Is the “employee” acting as an “independent contractor” choosing their own runs when they are “volunteering” to make those deliveries?
How about the Wal-Mart store employee who takes the bus to work and doesn’t own a car? Could they perceive themselves as held back from earning more because they can’t provide their own “equipment” as an Independent Contractor would when providing their own unit for service? Stranger things have happened recently.
Moreover, how would you like to be the Logistics Person coordinating the deliveries each day as employees leave work at various times or make mistakes in the App designed to communicate what they can and cannot haul?
So now Wal-Mart and Google Express with ever changing dynamics in play along with Amazon Flex, Amazon Middle Mile Providers and Uber Freight.
Check out Steve Banker of Logistics Viewpoints who wrote The Ubers of Last Mile Freight this time last year. He offered some initial insight to these very interesting developments in our industry.
I'd be interested to know what all of you think!
Shelly Benisch, TRS, CIC
Commercial Insurance Solutions Inc. (CIS)