rideshare and delivery drivers

How rideshare and delivery drivers can prepare for a COVID-19 surge


Wish we didn’t have to tell you this but… cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again, and there’s plenty of talk about further closures and shutdowns. 

We don’t know for sure that lockdowns will be as widespread and extreme as they were in March, but we do know this: More cases and more protective measures are coming, and we want all drivers to be prepared—which is why we put together this blog post.

We’ll examine where and by how much cases are rising, and what a new surge in virus cases might mean for the rideshare and delivery business. Then, we’ll give you some ideas about how to get ready for it. Here’s how we’ll break the post down:

A spike in COVID cases is upon us

There’s been a lot of talk, and concern, about a second wave of COVID in the United States. Unfortunately, our society’s political rancor makes it hard to sort through the hyperbole to find the facts. 

So, without getting bogged down in who could have done what better, or who will do what if it happens again, let’s look at some scientific and data-backed information.

First of all, it’s a fact that a surge in cases is currently sweeping through Europe. In an October 19, 2020, Forbes article, Hans Kluge, Europe’s regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO), notes there has been a severe increase in daily COVID cases across the continent, including in the U.K. and other countries not in the European Union. 

In one recent seven-day period, the number of deaths averaged 1,200 per day.

According to a November 3, 2020, BBC article, reactions of various European governments have been swift in an effort to err on the side of safety. 

In France, for instance, there is a new national lockdown, replete with curfews. Germany is under a partial lockdown, having closed down restaurants, bars, shops, public markets, gyms, and swim facilities. Britain is under new lockdown orders, Spain has declared a second state of national emergency, and Italy has ordered early closings for bars and restaurants, and a mandatory mask order. Other countries going into full or partial lockdown include the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, and the Czech Republic. 

In Australia and New Zealand, a surge in cases has definitely taken hold, as have rounds of testing, tracing, and mandatory masking. COVID-19 is even spreading on ships in that part of the world.

Although Europe, Australia, and New Zealand are far away from the U.S., we learned from the first COVID wave that when it comes to a deadly infectious disease, the world is much smaller than we may think. Already, there are rumors of second, and even third waves hitting various parts of this country.

American epidemiologists believe there will be surges in COVID-19 cases, but they might not be uniform across the U.S. With a landmass so huge, and the resulting variety of regional climatic conditions, the “waves” of COVID cases might be more noticeable in some regions than in others. Add to that the various measures being taken by individual state governments, and the variables become endless.

In a recent article on the news and opinion site, Make It Count (Mic), Henry Raymond of Rutgers University says he believes a surge of cases will definitely be noticeable in the Northeast as temperatures cool and people congregate indoors more often. In the Midwest, the South, and in California, says Raymond, the first and second waves of infection might blur into one another. 

In that same Mic article, John Hopkins disease specialist Larry Chang notes that it’s hard to tell what wave the U.S. is experiencing because we never brought down the number of COVID cases to a level that could be managed. Chang fears that future waves, as a result, could be more severe than earlier ones. 

Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert who directs the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed his concern during an interview on The Daily Show. Dr. Fauci said he fears that a second wave is likely because the U.S. hasn’t reached a low enough level of cases to indicate the virus is under control.

Given that more cases of the virus are being reported throughout the world, what will that mean for rideshare and delivery drivers?

How individual cities and states will react

As we previously mentioned, because politics seems to influence so much of what happens in our country, it’s hard to separate a particular action from the political motives behind it. Still, we can’t ignore that there are different ideas about how any future outbreak might be handled.

Many political leaders and policy makers believe we should have a national mandate for mitigation efforts such as masking and social distancing, and that businesses should remain shut down. Others believe the country should open, and the vulnerable should be protected while the rest of society gets back to business.

Some hope lies in the measures being taken to produce remedies and vaccines, but history also offers some hints at the possibility of the pandemic fading, eventually. The Spanish Flu, which spread worldwide in 1918, killed 50 million people. While many point to this time in history and draw parallels to our experience in 2020, there are major differences that should make us breathe somewhat easier.

COVID-19 is a coronavirus, which is different from a flu virus. Part of what made a second wave of the Spanish Flu so virulent was that the virus had mutated. Unlike flu viruses, coronaviruses have less likelihood of mutating to a point where they become more infectious or create more severe symptoms. While there has been speculation in the news media that COVID-19 is becoming more contagious and more severe, there are no studies that substantiate that.

Perhaps it’s the lack of certainty that has everyone in such a state of panic. 

What’s happening in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, where governments are cracking down on those who don’t comply with their mitigation measures, is somewhat unsettling.

Especially for us drivers, who depend on a healthy economy to keep doing what we do, the uncertainty can create a nasty case of agita.

The first time COVID-19 struck our economy and sent a shockwave throughout the gig driving industry, we didn’t know what was going to happen. 

This time, we have a general idea of what we’ll be dealing with, which is good. Even better, we have data to show us what happened last spring, and what we will probably need to cushion ourselves against now.

What gig-driving looked like when COVID-19 first hit, and what might happen this time

The first thing to look at is what happened, in general, to mobility, or the measure of how much people moved around before and after the first COVID lockdowns last spring. Take a look at this COVID-19 Mobility Trends report.

As you can see, there was a sharp drop in mobility last spring. Once businesses began to open back up, traffic volumes of all kinds bounced back somewhat, but people are still not moving around as much as before.

Specifically, in the cases of rideshare, food delivery, and grocery delivery, we have concrete evidence of what happened to earnings in the gig driving economy. 

We get our data from information recorded anonymously by our population of over 150,000 drivers across the us.

The chart below shows the trend of rideshare hourly earnings by month for in 2020. As you can see, while COVID didn’t kill it off completely, rideshare earnings took a big hit. 

Subsequent increases in earnings were due to the short supply of drivers because many were reluctant and/or unable to return to driving. In fact, 71% of drivers decided to stop driving. The companies offered additional surges and promotions that made earnings rise, but there’s no guarantee that will happen again this time around.

Delivery driving wasn’t much more than a blip on our radar before COVID-19 broke out—but once the pandemic kept more people in their homes, delivery exploded. 

Many rideshare drivers started including delivery as part of their gig driving portfolios. Also, many displaced workers from other industries took to delivery as a way to keep money coming in after losing their income. 

You can see from the chart below what’s happened to delivery over the course of that same time period. It went up like a rocket, and has stayed very stable ever since as people have become accustomed to getting meals, groceries, and other goods delivered, rather than going out to get what they need and want. Here are some charts that show meal and grocery delivery driver earnings.

While it’s pretty safe to assume drivers can continue to make money in delivery, it may be more challenging with rideshare. 

More people are working at home than ever, and they don’t venture out nearly as much as they used to. And you, as a driver, might not want to leave home either. As we said about the first round, the companies were forced to lure drivers back out on the road, and here’s why.

In the spring, rideshare and delivery drivers could collect unemployment under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. This allowed drivers who were either afraid of being infected, or who had little to no business, to collect state unemployment plus a $600 weekly federal supplement.

While this was going on, companies had to offer drivers big incentives to go back out and work the rideshare beat. Surges and bonuses were ubiquitous in the spring and summer, and we suspect that had a lot to do with bolstering the numbers for rideshare during that time period.

This time around, unemployment relief for rideshare drivers is not guaranteed, nor is the prospect of more company surges and bonuses a done deal. 

It’s true that delivery earnings have remained stable throughout the time period, and they may remain so. Still, there are reasons why all drivers need to prepare for COVID’s next attack. That’s why we’ve come up with some crucial measures we think you should consider.

4 ways drivers can protect themselves, and their earnings, amid a COVID spike this winter

So, what can you do to make sure that, no matter what happens, you protect yourself from physical and economic harm? Here are some suggestions.

1. Create a hybrid driving gig.

Sign up with at least two, if not three or four companies, so you will consistently be able to get work. Ideally, mix rideshare and delivery, and consider grocery delivery part of your mix. Check out the articles we linked here to get a clear understanding of what different services have to offer. 

Even if there’s no fresh wave of COVID infections, or civil unrest, where you live and work, anticipate that it will happen and sign up for multiple services as soon as you can.

Often, there is a waiting list for new drivers, and you’ll want to work your way up to the top of that list as soon as possible. Be aware, also, that if more businesses start shutting down, displaced workers are likely to queue up to drive and deliver, which will create a surplus of drivers. 

Once you get your hybrid driving gig together, remember to use Gridwise to log and compare your earnings. Knowing which gig is making you the most money and when can help you plan out a schedule that will maximize your earnings and keep your money-making potential safe, steady, and secure. 

With the new Gridwise auto-tracking feature, you can link all your apps to our earnings tracker. Then, all you have to do is sit back, drive, and let Gridwise crunch the numbers for you.

2. Take extra precautions to protect yourself.

You’ll want to keep driving, if you can, and you’ll also want to stay as safe as possible from catching the dreaded COVID-19. Along with keeping your vehicle sanitized, consider putting in a barrier. This company, Driver Bubble™, has viable and economical options from which you can choose. A barrier, or “sneeze guard,” is an extra layer of protection between you and your passengers. You’ll be safe from any germs they might be carrying, and … you’ll get more tips. Passengers love it when drivers are extra-careful and considerate of their health.

3. Look to alternative ways of earning.

Driving is our favorite way of making money, and it’s probably yours too. Yet, there are other ways you can earn, even if you find yourself stuck at home. Check this blog post for some ideas, or consider training for an entirely different field. Kenzie Academy offers an excellent array of classes in tech specialties like systems engineering and UX design. 

One really good thing is, we’ve already been through the COVID crisis once, so we have a good idea what to expect. We’ve got equipment, knowledge, and skills that will help protect us from getting infected. And we’ve also learned how to use our creativity and capabilities to keep earning money, even in times of crisis.

4. Get Gridwise Protection

No one wants to get sick or have to be hospitalized—but in a pandemic, nothing is guaranteed. That’s what inspired us to develop a plan we call Gridwise Protection.

When a crisis happens, you shouldn’t have to worry about where you’ll get enough money to keep yourself supplied with the basics. We wanted to do something to help, so we met with our insurance partner, Kover, and developed the Gridwise Protection program. 

Gridwise Protection is extra insurance that would replace 80 percent of your lost income when you can’t work due to sickness, hospitalization, lost time due to accidents, or even an unfair deactivation. The cost for this protection is only about $7 per month … which isn’t much for your peace of mind. 

With another round of COVID shutdowns coming at us this fall and winter, doesn’t Gridwise Protection sound like a smart idea? We know it’ll make you feel safer, and by signing up now, you’ll get your first month absolutely FREE. 

This protection package from Gridwise could take a huge load of worry off your mind—but that’s not all Gridwise can do.

Gridwise is here for ya!

No matter what else 2020 might throw at drivers, you can count on being taken care of as long as you ride with Gridwise. Our new automatic tracking feature is in beta testing now. Once we know it’s ready to go, we’ll roll it out so everyone can link their delivery and driving apps to seamlessly record earnings and mileage figures.

We’ve already developed slick reports that show all your gigs and how well you’re doing with each of them. Check out these charts.

Along with these amazing features, Gridwise gives you airport and event information, traffic, weather, and…our Perks tab! Get easy access to the Gridwise blog, and breaking news from our YouTube channel. While you’re there, check out the special offers, deals, and discounts for drivers. And … join us on Facebook to get in on our awesome gas card giveaways.
Say what? You don’t have our app yet?? What are you waiting for? Download it now!


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