Uber and Lyft drivers battle high gas prices

When Adam Potash started driving for Lyft six months ago to help make ends meet, he was happy with the pay. The business was far from l...


When Adam Potash started driving for Lyft six months ago to help make ends meet, he was happy with the pay. The business was far from lucrative, but he made about $200 a day before paying expenses like gas and car maintenance.

But as gasoline prices have risen in recent weeks, Mr. Potash has barely broken even. To compensate, he focused on driving during rush hour and tried to fill up at cheaper gas stations in the San Francisco area where he works. He also reduced his driving time from around 45 hours a week to around 20 hours.

“It hurts. I don’t have any money coming in,” Mr Potash, 48, said of his reduced hours. “But I’m not prepared to operate at a loss.”

Workers who drive for ride-sharing and delivery companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have been hit hard by rising gas prices because their ability to earn money is directly tied to commuting hundreds miles each week. And because the drivers are contract workers, the companies do not reimburse them for refueling costs.

Some motorists say they have had enough and that the extra cost of gasoline makes an already difficult financial equation untenable. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline peaked at a record $4.33 last week, according to AAA. In California, where Mr. Potash lives, gasoline now costs an average of $5.77 a gallon.

“High gas prices are the final nail in the coffin,” said Harry Campbell, who writes a blog called Rideshare Guy and produces a podcast aimed at helping rideshare drivers. “Rising gas prices are making a difficult situation even more difficult, and for a lot of drivers it’s sort of the straw that pushes them over the edge.”

In a survey last week of 325 drivers who follow his content, Mr Campbell found that 38% were driving less due to high petrol prices and 15% had stopped driving altogether.

Some drivers across the country staged a boycott of ride-sharing apps on Thursday, though it’s hard to say for sure how many took part. The effort, initially organized to raise awareness of driver safety, gave way to an outpouring of frustration over how high gas prices were making a difficult undertaking even more difficult.

“We started organizing months ago about the lack of security, and when gas prices skyrocketed, many drivers said, ‘We have to stand up and make the companies stand up.’ involve in both,'” said Torsten Kunert, who advises drivers. on his YouTube channel, Rideshare Professor.

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash say the total number of drivers is not declining. Uber said it has more active drivers now than in January. Both Uber and Lyft have added small fees to the price of rides in most places over the next two months, a change they say will help compensate drivers.

“We know drivers and couriers are feeling the pain of record high prices at the pump,” Liza Winship, head of Uber’s U.S. and Canada driver operations, said in a statement announcing the surcharge for gasoline. Lyft echoed that sentiment in a blog post Monday.

DoorDash announced a gasoline rewards program on Tuesday. Those who use a prepaid debit card designed for DoorDash workers will receive 10% cash back at gas stations, the company said, and DoorDash adds bonuses based on miles driven. Grubhub also said it has increased driver salaries.

Uber and Lyft both say drivers are making more money since the lockdowns were lifted than they were at the start of the pandemic or even pre-pandemic, even taking into account rising gas prices. And the two companies are promoting a partnership with an app called GetUpside that offers cashback for gas purchases.

Gridwise, an app that helps drivers track their earnings and tally data, found driver earnings increased nationwide in recent months, from an average of $308 per week in early January. at $426 in early March. But gas charges for taxi drivers have also increased, from $31 per transaction to nearly $39 over the same period.

Uber and Lyft say all of their new gas fees — 35 to 55 cents per ride for Uber and 55 cents for Lyft — will go to drivers. Corn some drivers say the action is inadequate. Gas prices, on average, have risen 49% over the past year, according to AAA.

“It literally insulted every driver, and it was their first communication since gas prices were going up,” said Philippe Jean, an Uber and Lyft driver in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania.

Jennifer Montgomery, an UberEats driver in Las Vegas, where gas costs $5 a gallon, agreed that gas charges “don’t even reduce” the cost of fuel, which for her has been at least $30. more every day since prices started to rise.

Ms Montgomery, 40, said she was starting to get disillusioned with the job and started looking for another job that didn’t require her to drive. She has halved her daily six-hour shifts because “it’s really not a profit anymore”.

“I don’t want to give birth anymore,” she said. “Especially when you have bills to pay and an increase in the cost of rent and mortgage, groceries – it affects everything.”

Mr. Jean primarily drives for Uber and Lyft during the winter and spring, when his handyman job tends to slow down. He said he enjoys interacting with the passengers and usually earns between $300 and $400 a week, including about $60 to fill up his tank.

Lately, however, Mr. Jean has been paying twice that amount for gas and has had to cut elsewhere to compensate, including reducing his car insurance coverage.

“I drive Uber now hoping I don’t have an accident because if I do I’m going to completely lose my car,” he said.

The gas price woes actually caused Mr. Jean to drive more in the short term, because people whose cars were fuel efficient told him that they had stopped driving. With his hybrid Toyota Prius, he thought he would be able to take over part of their business while continuing to earn money. But Mr. Jean said he would most likely quit Uber later in the spring when his handyman job resumes, due to high gas prices.

He wondered if he or other drivers were even profiting from the ride-sharing business, after all the costs involved.

“I personally think if I sat down and did the numbers, it would break even,” Jean said. “I don’t think we made more money on it. I think I’m afraid to admit it, because then I’d definitely stop doing it.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Uber and Lyft drivers battle high gas prices
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