Big changes in the mask policy at Uber and Lyft have drivers and passengers equally excited, if for very different reasons. Many feel that it’s about time they stop having to mask up for hours while doing a driving gig. Others fear that passengers without masks could threaten their health and put them out of work until they can recover from the virus.
In this blog post, we’ll update you on the status of mask mandates for rideshare drivers, and how they’ll affect the way drivers do their jobs. Here’s what we’ll “cover,” if you’ll pardon the pun:
- What exactly is the mask policy for drivers and passengers?
- Will the “masks optional” policy cause driver vs. passenger conflicts?
- Is driving for Uber or Lyft worth it?
What exactly is the rideshare mask policy for drivers and passengers?
Driving for Uber or Lyft under the fearful specter of COVID-19 has presented huge challenges. Drivers have had to take extra precautions, and so have passengers. Following the recommendations of the federal government, the TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) placed mask mandates on drivers and passengers. Both had to let the app snap photos of them wearing masks before they would be able to fully unlock the screen and go about their business.
This policy has been in effect since 2020, at the height of the pandemic. Often, drivers have been put in the position of enforcing the mask policy and were given the option, if not the authority, to refuse rides if customers didn’t comply. Similarly, drivers who worked maskless could be reported, and potentially deactivated, for not following the masking policy.
The masking mandates Uber and Lyft placed on the people who provided and used their services represented the companies’ efforts to make both drivers and passengers feel safe and comfortable. There was no federal mandate until January 29, 2021, when the CDC required anyone using public transportation to wear a mask.
Before and after the mandate, masks were routinely worn on buses, subways, airplanes, and ferries, as well as taxicabs and rideshare vehicles. This was “the new normal,” until recently. On April 18, 2022, the federal mandate was struck down by a court order. Upon the signing of this federal court order, the CDC removed the mandates for masks on public transportation nationwide. Now the TNCs have followed suit and stopped requiring drivers and passengers to wear masks. They’re also dropping the “no passengers in the front seat” policy at the same time.
You might think this means that no one wears masks in rideshare cars anymore, but that isn’t entirely true. According to the new Uber mask policy, masks are no longer required. However, Uber points out that the CDC recommends wearing a mask if people have certain personal risk factors, or there is a high rate of cases in a given area.
Furthermore, the ruling is under appeal by the US Department of Justice. The legal argument against the mandate is that the CDC does not have the statutory power to impose such a requirement on the public. A higher court might disagree.
That means that it’s possible the mask mandate might be back, if the government wins its appeal. In the meantime, everyone in rideshare vehicles are left to work it out for themselves.
Uber asks drivers and passengers to be respectful of one another’s preferences. What does this mean? If a driver prefers passengers wear masks, and one of them refuses, the driver can cancel the trip. The cancellation fee will be paid in full. The same goes for passengers. They can cancel if they want the driver to wear a mask and the driver refuses.
Lyft uses similar language in its announcement about lifting the mask mandate. The company adds that riders and drivers can cancel any ride they don’t feel safe taking or giving, but “not wearing a mask” will no longer be an available option in the app as a reason for the cancellation.
According to Uber and Lyft, everyone is supposed to consider one another’s needs and follow “community guidelines.” While this all sounds simple, it might not always work out that way, especially for drivers.
Will Uber and Lyft’s “masks optional” policy cause driver vs. passenger conflicts?
Anyone who’s driven for Uber or Lyft since the spring of 2020, or taken a ride for that matter, can tell you the answer to that. It’s an unequivocal yes. Throughout the many months of the pandemic, the onus of enforcing the mask policies in both directions was placed on drivers and passengers.
To put it quite mildly, there was a lot of strain, and even some abuse. Knowing it was possible to get a cancellation fee, passengers would report drivers for not wearing masks, whether or not it was true. Conversely, drivers would cancel rides they might not have wanted to take, and say they did it because the customer wasn’t wearing a mask. That’s equally wrong. What’s more, it probably will continue to happen.
With the recent change in masking policy, coming to mutual agreement with customers isn’t going to be any easier. In fact, the issue could become even more contentious, now that masking is a matter of personal preference. There isn’t an obvious way around this issue, so drivers are going to have to continue to be patient, and very careful.
If you as a driver want to wear a mask, and your passenger doesn’t, you might spend more time arguing over your differences than you would completing the ride. If the passenger insists that you wear a mask, you could put one on, or you could resist and respectfully remind the passenger that masks are optional. While it seems reasonable to argue for your right to act on your own preferences, doing so is likely to open up a can of worms you may not want to deal with.
With the possibility of arguments erupting and no one else in the car to settle them, the games passengers (and drivers) play with the cancellation fees could potentially get worse. It’s worth remembering, though, that while you can get a few dollars’ worth of cancellation fee for refusing a ride, when passengers retaliate, they can exercise certain powers that come with a very high price. If they file a complaint and say things about you that make your company believe you committed a major violation, you could be deactivated.
Nobody wants that. Even if you successfully appeal your case and get reinstated, you could be out of work for a few days, a week, or maybe longer. Read more about deactivation, how to avoid it, and how to protect yourself from the negative impacts of losing your gig in this Gridwise blog post.
Now that the masks are off, some people will be relieved, while others will feel unsafe. How might this affect Lyft and Uber driver pay? If more people decide to ride because they can do so without masks, this could be a good thing for rideshare business. However, if the driver doesn’t feel safe, it can make working a rideshare gig downright difficult. Passengers who don’t feel safe with unmasked drivers would probably avoid rideshare trips.
There are many drivers and passengers who suffer from immune deficiencies or live with high-risk household members. To them, taking a chance by sharing the close quarters of a car with an unmasked companion isn’t an option. It’s easy to see that taking or canceling rides is a dilemma that each driver must solve based on individual needs.
It’s hard to say at this point whether more or fewer people will be driving and riding for Uber and Lyft. The new policy regarding masks is certainly something we will continue to monitor.
By lifting the mask mandate, the companies are avoiding the possible court cases that might come up if they try to enforce a mandate that’s essentially been ruled unconstitutional. It has to be assumed that they’d rather risk incoming flak from people who might get sick as a result of using their services or working with them. Then, of course, the mask order could be reinstated if the appeal is successful.
With or without the mask mandate, the possibility of driver–passenger conflict over masking is real. Discussions about it can get you into the very nastiest kind of socio-political mud puddle. You might start to ask some serious questions about driving for Uber and Lyft under these circumstances.
Is driving for Uber or Lyft worth it?
Just as you would with any job, you have to weigh things such as Lyft or Uber driver requirements against the money you’re likely to make. Check out these Gridwise posts that detail Uber and Lyft earnings for the first quarter of 2022. They’ll tell you that the earnings are pretty solid, and on the upswing.
Still, there are personal considerations that factor into your decision. If you don’t want to wear a mask, and you don’t want to have to put one on to make your passengers happy, you might not want to deal with driving right now.
If you don’t mind wearing masks, or simply feel safer wearing one, the new masking policy may not bother you at all. You’ll be able to benefit from your rideshare gig without making many changes.
Whether you drive with or without a mask, do make sure you make the most money possible, with the very best free mileage tracker app for Uber/Lyft!
Gridwise keeps a record of each mile you drive for every platform you use. That’s not all. Gridwise also tracks your earnings and lets you account for all expenses, so you can get a full view of your business and its success.
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- airport traffic information
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