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As Amazon grows, so do contract driver fleets

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Linda Hill, owner of MDD3 Logistics LLC, helps a driver pack his van outside of the DGI3 Amazon delivery center in Newport. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEWPORT – Amazon has grown quickly from its original New Castle warehouse over the last two decades to become one of Delaware’s largest employers with thousands on its payroll.

One little-discussed impact that the e-commerce giant is having though, is its secondary job growth through its delivery service provider (DSP) program. The ubiquitous blue vans that seem to be in every neighborhood at once these days are not actually driven by Amazon employees.

DGI3 Amazon delivery center in Newport is one of the company’s largest in the greater Philadelphia region. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

They are employees of approved contractors, increasingly operating out of Amazon’s new delivery centers. Adjacent to the massive MTN1 sortation center in Newport is DGI3, one of Amazon’s largest delivery centers in the region where workers prepare 50,000 packages daily to pack into the vans that make deliveries to customers’ doorsteps.

While about 330 people are employed by Amazon at DGI3, seven DSPs currently drive hundreds of vans from the facility daily with plans to add two more DSPs very soon, company officials said. The entrepreneur-driven DSPs, which employ anywhere from 20 to 100 people each, have created about as many jobs at the facility as Amazon itself.

These entrepreneurs sometimes rise up through the ranks of Amazon to create their own businesses – the company advertises startup costs for DSPs of at least $10,000 – but also are frequently coming to the opportunity from other careers.

One such entrepreneur is Linda Hill, who had seen the world before she arrived in Delaware to run MDD3 Logistics LLC, a DSP that employs about 70 people out of the Newport facility.

A Brooklyn native, Hill played collegiate basketball at the University of Bridgeport and met some players in the streetball AND1 Mixtape Tour. After college she did some local marketing work for the tour and that opportunity blossomed into her opening a consultancy firm and running the tour’s international logistics for more than a decade.

Linda Hill, owner of MDD3 Logistics LLC, does her morning roundup with drivers outside of the DGI3 Amazon delivery center in Newport. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

She booked sponsors, travel, hotels, venues, security, meals and more for about 25 people on the tour, visiting 72 countries over 14 years. After a private equity firm bought out the tour and refocused its brands, Hill took two years severance and tried to determine what her next step would be.

“The tour got tiresome. I wanted to be at home with my family,” she said. “But I didn’t like just sitting around.”

One day, Hill’s nephew, an executive in Walmart, told her about the opportunity to start her own DSP for Amazon. She investigated it but wasn’t sure it was the right move.

“Amazon ended up calling me three times and the third time they basically said this will be our last call,” Hill said.

She finished the application and went through several rounds of interviews before Amazon accepted her into its DSP program.

“It’s not as easy as people may think,” she said. “Amazon wants [its contractors] to have some history running a business or some history with the company itself.”

Owner Linda Hill, center, runs MDD3 Logistics LLC with the help of Operations Manager Adrianne Johnson, left, and manager Wanda Hollis. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

She launched MDD3 – named after her three children – in September 2019 at the former New Castle delivery center and moved to the new Boxwood delivery center when it opened in September 2021. At one time, she employed more than 120 people, but scaled back following the holiday rush to continue being hands-on with all of her employees.

“To be honest with you, I completely love it,” Hill said. “We are a third-party affiliate with Amazon, but we also run our company, so it’s not like they micromanage you. They have expectations, but as long as we meet those expectations, you’re OK.”

Hill has been able to hire her drivers primarily through word-of-mouth from existing employees and complemented through Indeed searches and Amazon job fair referrals. While hiring has been inconsistent at times, she said she really hasn’t faced shortages like some other employers are reporting in recent months.

While some of her drivers have come from Maryland or Pennsylvania, Hill said the majority have been hired from Delaware. According to online job postings, Wilmington-area DSPs are offering $17 to $19 an hour for a starting wage, well above the state minimum of $10.50.

Among those Hill has hired is retired corporate banking executive Adrianne Johnson.

“I was ready for change,” Johnson said. “After working in the corporate world for 23 years, it’s been like a breath of fresh air, and I get to learn something new.”

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