Should drivers return to rideshare? Here’s everything you need to know before getting back on the road.

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Drivers everywhere are thinking about getting back to rideshare. What about you?

Companies like Uber and Lyft are certainly coming on strong. Like that mistaken match you met on your dating app who won’t stop sending you kissy-face stickers and “good morning hugs” texts at heinous a.m. hours, the companies are wooing drivers.

Incentives are big right now. This Gridwise article explains how much Uber and Lyft are doling out for rideshare drivers, and this one gives you a glimpse at how food delivery companies are trying to reel in delivery drivers. All this is great … if you’re ready to go back to driving after the pandemic.

In this article, we’ll examine what drivers need to think about before going back to rideshare by covering these topics:

  • Why drivers may not be ready to go back to rideshare
  • What exactly are the companies doing to woo drivers back?
  • What it will take to get drivers back to rideshare
  • How can drivers make the most money?

Why drivers may not be ready to go back to rideshare

No matter how many times we hear words like “unprecedented,” “unbelievable,” “tragic,” “frightening,” and “troubling,” none of those words can aptly describe the times we’ve been living in. COVID-19 ravaged the rideshare driving landscape, and it’s hard to say when the pandemic will stop affecting all our lives.

Here are some reasons we’ve heard for why drivers don’t feel ready to return to their rideshare gigs:

  1. It’s still scary to sit in a car with strangers who may be contagious.
  2. It’s too much trouble to sanitize the car and enforce masking rules.
  3. Drivers may have shifted to other gigs (such as delivery) or taken other jobs.
  4. Drivers collecting unemployment or benefitting from PPP loans may not want to risk losing their current compensation by earning over their limits.

No matter how much it’s bouncing back, no one can deny that rideshare hasn’t returned to normal yet – and the reality is, it may never be exactly the way it was. Yes, it can be scary to drive with people in your car if you suspect they might be contagious, although with widespread vaccinations and other precautions it is getting safer.

As for sanitizing, the CDC recently revised its recommendations based on evidence that COVID is highly unlikely to be transmitted through surface contact. Still, Uber and Lyft want drivers to continue sanitizing their vehicles before and after every ride, which helps customers and drivers feel safe. Plus, it never hurts to be extra-clean.

The financial side of the argument against going back to gig driving is complex. When it was impossible to work, drivers who couldn’t collect unemployment might have switched to other kinds of work, such as delivery. Others might have taken work-from-home jobs or found other ways of making money that were created during (and possibly because of) the pandemic.

Drivers who collected unemployment or got a PPP loan might not be ready to return to driving for various reasons, including fear of getting infected or passing COVID on to a loved one who’s at risk. They could also be caught in the trap of earning just enough money to cause problems with compensation but not enough to live on. 

After thinking about these reasons for not going back to rideshare driving, it’s easy to see why the companies are coming on so strong.

What exactly are the companies doing to woo drivers back?

It’s true there are more passengers today than there were at the height of the pandemic, and there’s an increased demand for rideshare. Even potential passengers who would ordinarily take public transportation look to rideshare because it’s safer and more convenient. 

This would be good for Uber and Lyft – except there aren’t enough drivers to meet passenger demand. Passengers are waiting for long periods of time to get rides, and they’re also paying more for their rides. Get more details on the shortage of rideshare drivers by downloading this special Gridwise report.

As mentioned earlier, the companies are offering drivers bonuses, quests, surges, streaks, and referral fees that are way higher than usual. Find out more about this through your app or on the Uber and Lyft websites.

Uber recently poured $250 million into the pot for driver incentives, and Lyft has its own effort underway, such as offering bonuses for referring former drivers. In their 2020 annual reports, both companies stated they would be offering incentives in the second quarter of 2021, and they seem to be on track. As an example, Uber is repeating its offer to give drivers in select cities $100 simply for completing three rides

That kind of offer, along with several push notifications, texts, and in-app messages, has been coming at drivers for the last few weeks. There is no doubt Uber and Lyft are making good on their offers to dole out incentives, but is that alone enough to get drivers back on the road?

What it will take to get drivers back to rideshare

No one would question that the monetary incentives companies are offering to drivers are a good way to entice them back on the road. Yet there is no guarantee that these alone will be an effective lure. One issue is that the incentives are likely temporary. Once the companies get more drivers working, they will almost certainly cut back on driver incentives. 

Drivers know that, so they will want some other assurances before they come back to work on a regular basis. These include:

  • Safety
  • Sick pay and/or disability coverage
  • Consistent passenger ride requests
  • Better money than delivery driving
  • Consistent income

Safety measures have been in place by the companies for months. Mandatory mask policies remain in effect, and both drivers and passengers are invited to report when someone is not complying with those policies. 

With growing numbers of people getting vaccinated (including drivers), a sense of safety will likely become more prevalent. For now, though, drivers must still be aware of the risks of being infected and take precautions accordingly.

In terms of sick pay and/or disability coverage, the companies could probably do more. There are still programs in effect that will subsidize drivers for income lost due to being affected by COVID-19, but they are not comprehensive.

It would be wise to pick up some extra coverage in the event you find yourself in the hospital or at home but too sick to work. Gridwise Protection is an economical and sound way to make sure you have money to cover the extra expenses that inevitably accompany severe illness.

Consistent passenger ride requests are the core of the rideshare driver’s income. Even if a good, long, and lucrative ride comes in, it won’t provide a solid paycheck on its own. Business must be bouncing back in a consistent way, and the companies need to point drivers toward the areas where more ride requests would come in.

Better money than delivery driving. This is probably the only financially based element that will get rideshare drivers who’ve defected to delivery back to serving passengers. One of the fastest upward-moving trends in 2020 was delivery driver earnings, and they remain consistently high in 2021.

Gridwise data show current delivery driver earnings are averaging around $18 per hour.

Again based on Gridwise data, at closer to $20–$25 per hour, rideshare earnings are do trend somewhat higher than delivery.

Much of this is due to driver incentives. This Gridwise article on driver incentives will fill you in on the details – and reveal that these numbers may not last for long.

The fact that incentives are likely to fade away after second-quarter 2021 could mean that consistent income will not be assured for the entire year. There is hope, though, that as economies continue to open, and more passengers come out to work, play, travel, and go to large events, rideshare could continue to be a more reliable source of income for drivers.

In the meantime, if you do want to drive, you’ll probably need to make some adjustments.

How can drivers make the most money?

First, if you go back to driving right now, you’ll want to pay attention to the incentives offered by your company. Given the state of the job market, you probably have friends who would like to become drivers. Consider collecting a referral fee by sending them your code and getting them to use it to sign up. This is the “sit back and collect” kind of money we all love.

Other incentives include quests, streaks, and special offers from your company. Read the criteria carefully and be sure to cash in on these offers because they might not be out there for long. If you’re ready to drive, don’t wait around much longer.

Next, implement a new driving strategy to meet with the changing times. The busy times of day when you used to earn big money might be dead now. There are a few ways to look at what’s happening around you and where you can get the most passengers.

  • Look at your app’s map. Study it at all different times of the day. Are there surges, streaks, or consecutive driving quests at school time, or perhaps when hospitals and factories are changing shifts?
  • Look at the passenger side of your app. This is going to give you an idea of where drivers already are, and where passenger requests are more likely to be directed to you. It’s always a good idea to be familiar with the other side of the app just in case you get new pax who don’t know the ropes – or how to leave you a tip.
  • Look at traffic patterns at different times of the day. When you go to the grocery store or to run other errands, take some time to look and see if and where there are concentrations of activity.
  • Follow local news and information apps such as Gridwise to learn about traffic volumes at airports and around major events.

Get more from Gridwise

And that’s not all Gridwise can do! This mighty app is called the ultimate rideshare and delivery assistant because it’s designed specifically for drivers like you. Track your earnings seamlessly by putting your driving apps in sync with Gridwise and you’ll get a full summary of your earnings and the expenses you enter on slick graphs like these.

Go to the Perks tabs for driver discounts and deals, easy access to our blog, and news from the Gridwise YouTube Channel. Join Gridwise on Facebook to get in on great giveaways, and join a community of drivers who, just like you, want to stay safe, be efficient, and make more money! 

If you haven’t done it yet, don’t you think it’s time to download the app? We thought so.

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