Now that vaccine rates are up, rideshare app users are starting to feel more comfortable hailing an Uber or a Lyft to get around. The only issue is that there aren’t enough drivers to meet rising customer demand, and prices are soaring as a result.
In March, Uber saw the most ride bookings in a single month in the company’s history.
But the company is still struggling to recruit and maintain drivers. In Las Vegas, half of all Uber ride requests go unfulfilled, Fox 5 Vegas reported last month. That’s because only 30 percent of drivers who were working for the company prior to the start of the pandemic have returned.
As a result, across the US, customers have to wait longer than they did in the past to get picked up and prices are skyrocketing, according to The Washington Post.
“We’ve seen prices that are sometimes triple what they normally are,” Ygal Arounian, a financial analyst with Wedbush Securities, told ABC7.
Customers say the lack of available drivers is, at times, putting their safety at risk because they’ll have to resort to walking home alone late at night.
“As vaccination rates increase in the United States, we are observing that consumer demand for Mobility is recovering faster than driver availability,” Uber stated in April in its report submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
When the pandemic first hit, both rideshare drivers and passengers were concerned about contracting Covid-19 while in transit. Now, even though about 45 percent of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, drivers are still hesitant to return to their posts, according to The Washington Post.
The issue isn’t just about safety, though. Some drivers say they aren’t interested in rushing back to a job that doesn’t feel fulfilling.
Some drivers say spending hours crammed in a vehicle is detrimental to their physical and mental health. The company’s changes to its pay model have also drastically cut compensation. Some drivers went from getting more than $1,000 a week to hundreds of dollars, according to The Washington Post.
“It’s very much not a career,” Bruce Blood, a driver for Lyft, told The Post.
The reluctance of drivers to return to work is also part of a larger employment trend. In the US, 68 percent of US workers earned more from unemployment benefits when they stopped working during the pandemic than from the paychecks they received while going to work daily, according to the Foundation for Government Ability. For some of those workers, going back to their day jobs just doesn’t make sense.
“A lot of people were making as much money, or more, not driving. Since that’s been extended, there’s no incentive to get back behind the wheel,” Steve Kolb, a driver for Uber and Lyft, told Fox 4. “You’re putting the miles on your car, spending the gas, all the wear and tear. Why not just keep collecting the check every week?”
To incentivize drivers to come back, Uber announced it will spend $250 million in boosted incentives and bonuses for its drivers.
In Massachusetts, the average Uber driver was making around $20 an hour before the stimulus. With the stimulus in place, the average hourly wage is expected to come closer to $30, according to WBZ-TV.
“We want drivers to take advantage of higher earnings now because this is likely a temporary situation,” Uber Vice President of U.S. & Canada Mobility Dennis Cinelli wrote in a post announcing the benefits. “As the recovery continues, we expect more drivers will be hitting the road, which means that over time earnings will come back to pre-Covid levels.”