Drivers are making more in the wake of Uber Connect’s rollout, a program developed by Uber for same-day delivery of items.
Uber expanded the program in late 2021 to more than 6,000 US cities, including all the major markets, according to a December 2021 report in The Verge, a tech blog.
It was enough to push Uber driver hourly pay to an average of $22.04 an hour in the first quarter of 2022. This was a few cents more than the $21.97 made by Lyft drivers during the same period, according to numbers in “How Much Do Uber Drivers Make: Uber Driver Pay in 2022,” a Gridwise blog post from this past April.
If you’re one of the drivers that prefer to look at earnings per trip as a measure of your success, the Q1 numbers for Uber driver pay per trip were a little higher, too. Uber drivers earned an average of $13.76 per trip in the first quarter, while Lyft drivers brought in $13.03 per trip.
In this blog post, we answer the following questions:
- What is Uber Connect?
- How does Uber package delivery work?
- How does Uber package delivery work for drivers?
- Did Uber Connect make the difference in Uber driver pay?
- What restrictions does Uber Connect place on items it transports?
- What can drivers do to improve their earnings?
What is Uber Connect?
Uber Connect launched as a test program in mid-2020 as rideshare companies scrambled to generate income in the early months of the pandemic.
In May 2021, according to a New York Times article, Uber reported 3.5 million active drivers during the first quarter of that year. That number was down 22%, or close to a million drivers, from the same period a year earlier. The article also reported that Uber experienced an 11% drop in revenues for the same period.
That drop would have likely been worse had Uber not launched Uber Eats. The company quickly followed with a test launch of Uber Connect and other services. The June 2020 Gridwise post, “Uber Connect and Uber Direct: Here’s Everything Drivers Need to Know about Uber’s New Services,” reported that Uber Connect launched the program in more than two dozen markets in the US, Australia, Mexico, and India.
How does Uber package delivery work?
For the shipper, ordering Uber Connect is similar to ordering a ride. When customers open the Uber app on their cell phones, they view a selection of services. Uber ridesharing and Uber Eats appear in two large tiles at the top of the screen. Packages appear below, along with other services.
The app guides the customer through the remaining steps:
- The customer indicates whether they are the sender or recipient.
- The customer enters the destination.
- The customer then selects and confirms the Uber Connect service.
- The customer confirms the pickup location.
- The customer reviews the delivery and drop-off details and the package guidelines, and confirms the information and compliance.
- The app confirms a driver and an estimated cost.
- The customer receives a cost estimate for the delivery and confirms the order. The customer also indicates whether the driver needs to come to the door and pick up the item or whether the sender will meet them on the street.
The recipient receives a PIN via text message when the delivery is near; they receive another text when the driver has arrived. The PIN must be presented to receive the package. There are also instructions available to the driver should the recipient not have the PIN or if the recipient is not at the address.
How does Uber package delivery work for drivers?
For drivers, the program works the same way it does for other levels of driving. Drivers select on the app whether they want to accept Uber Connect deliveries. This is done on the Driver Preferences tab. If they so choose, the app gives them Uber Connect requests in their area according to the algorithm, similar to deliveries. Drivers follow the instructions as far as picking up deliveries and announcing their arrival.
Did Uber Connect make a difference in Uber driver pay?
That’s a tough call. Uber has yet to release numbers related specifically to income from Uber Connect, either in terms of gross earnings made by Uber, or earnings realized by drivers.
Like ridesharing services from Uber, Uber Connect pay is determined by mileage and time; however, the rates are not the same as the Uber rate card for ridesharing. As of this writing, we were unable to confirm any info on driver compensation for Uber Connect.
What restrictions does Uber Connect place on items drivers can transport?
The Uber website has a list of items that are prohibited from being transported on Uber Connect. There are no surprises. The list includes
- firearms, weapons, ammunition, and associated parts
- highly perishable foods or beverages (e.g., raw meat or dairy products)
- pharmaceutical products, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or supplements
- money, including gift cards, lottery tickets, or transferable securities
- recreational drugs, drug paraphernalia, or tobacco products
- dangerous or hazardous items, including explosives, items that are poisonous or flammable (including paints or adhesives containing a flammable liquid)
A complete listing of prohibited items is on the Uber website.
Other restrictions include that the package must be sealed, weigh no more than 30 pounds, and fit easily into the trunk of a car.
Lyft counters with its own package delivery service
Lyft has a similar program, Lyft Delivery, which is described on its website. The service is available in limited markets which had not been announced as of this writing.
According to the Lyft website, however, Lyft Delivery orders would be counted as rides when factored into Lyft ride streaks. It was not clear whether the rides would also be factored into other Lyft promotions. This information was not included on the Uber site.
Are Uber and Lyft trying to create a market that already exists?
Many rideshare drivers relate that prior to the launch of Uber Connect or Lyft Delivery, there were occasions in which they arrived for a passenger and were instead asked to deliver an item. Are the rideshare companies taking a market that already exists and giving it a different name? One Lyft driver who quit at the onset of the pandemic had this to say:
In 5,500 rides, I was asked to deliver items on a handful of instances. I delivered human hair to a beauty salon, a CD with graphic files, and once I picked up car keys from a man at his work and delivered them to his wife at their home. He had accidentally picked up her car keys when he left. Frankly, I liked these rides. Inanimate objects don’t care if you stop for a soda or go to the bathroom, and there was nothing in the Lyft Terms of Service forbidding it.
The driver added that he retired from the marketing industry before becoming an Uber driver. He speculated that perhaps the rideshare companies were looking to expand this part of the business by formalizing it. “Now they can market it,” he added. “Awareness is a big step in growing the demand for that service. I’m sure lots of people never thought about using rideshare to deliver things.”
Even with Uber Connect, drivers still must optimize their earnings
As the public becomes aware of this new service, business will increase for drivers. However, inflation and high fuel prices still require drivers to take advantage of all the tools available to protect their earnings.
You can read about new fuel discounts from Gridwise in “Gridwise Increases Gas Discount To Help Rideshare and Delivery Drivers.” Drivers can now save up to 50 cents a gallon with the GasBuddy card from Gridwise. Gridwise also offers the best mileage tracker for Uber and Lyft drivers. Drivers report that the Gridwise mileage tracker helped them realize thousands of extra miles they could deduct from their taxes.
Drivers can also maximize their earnings on the Gridwise app by checking out Where to Drive and When to Drive. Ensuring they are in the right place at the right time when demand is high means less driving around and less gas needed. The Gridwise app informs drivers of special events and surge times at the airports, and which rideshare services offer better opportunities for earnings.