Uber and Lyft to assist with vaccine rollout: What does this mean for drivers?

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The rideshare industry, as it has grown through the expansion of Uber and Lyft, is a powerful resource. 

Not only has it supplemented (and in some cases, supplanted) other forms of transportation, but the industry has the potential to provide services to the community in ways that simply weren’t possible in the past.

Realizing the enormous potential of their rideshare networks, Uber and Lyft have been in negotiations with both the private and public sectors to give rideshare a role in the coronavirus vaccine rollout. Each company is taking a different approach, from providing free rides to disseminating information through its app. 

In this post, we examine what the companies are doing, and more importantly, how their involvement in the vaccine rollout could affect drivers.

To be discussed:

  • The roles Uber and Lyft hope to play in the rollout
  • What’s in it for Uber and Lyft?
  • What does all this mean for drivers?
  • Will this effort improve business for rideshare drivers?
  • What about delivery drivers?

The roles Uber and Lyft hope to play in the rollout

In December 2020, Lyft was openly negotiating with Joe Biden’s transition team to allocate federal funds so the company could provide rides to those in need. Lyft presented data showing how many at-risk patients (those who most needed the vaccine) would need rides to a facility where they could be vaccinated.

Lyft partnered with healthcare organizations Anthem and Epic in a campaign to provide 60 million rides for low-income, uninsured, and at-risk communities to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available to them. JP Morgan Chase will also participate in the program.

On January 12, 2021, Uber announced that it would also get involved through a partnership with vaccine producer Moderna. The two companies will work together to inform the public (via the Uber app) about the benefits of the vaccine. They also hope to integrate the app with appointment software that will send reminders to passengers, and help them secure rides to and from the vaccination sites.

In a January 12, 2021 Forbes article, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spoke about the partnership and the companies’ goals: “Together with Moderna, we hope to do our part to help increase vaccination awareness and adoption, and we look forward to exploring ways we can help ensure everyone, especially in the hardest-hit communities of color, has access to a vaccine.”

It’s admirable that Uber and Lyft want to make contributions to the community by being involved in the vaccine rollout effort. But we drivers also know they’re in a struggle to become profitable, so there must be something in this that benefits them too.

What’s in it for Uber and Lyft?

While the two companies are working separately, their motives are similar. In the long term, they hope to see the economy get back to normal, or close to it. Like many others, they believe that the coronavirus vaccine will help to achieve that normalcy.

In the shorter term, the companies hope to serve the community, and perhaps gain enough favor to ensure their drivers are given priority in receiving the vaccine. By going out in their cars to ferry passengers who are first responders and healthcare workers, rideshare drivers are exposed to an increased risk of catching the virus.

Keeping drivers safe will allow them to remain on the road, continuing to generate income for the rideshare companies, and it will also make passengers feel safer to get into vehicles with them. All this would boost the rideshare business’s efforts toward a quicker recovery from its worst 2020 struggles.

Finally, Uber and Lyft benefit from integrating medical appointment software with their apps. By keeping this interface for the long term, and continuing to automatically set up rides for people who need all kinds of medical services, this is bound to improve business for Uber and Lyft.

By participating in the front line of the vaccine rollout effort, Uber and Lyft will do a lot of good for the community. They will also gain favor with the government and other institutions that may be more inclined to grant their wish to expedite vaccine distribution to drivers. And, all of this will help the economy upon which the rideshare business depends to get its own shot in the arm, and speed up its own recovery.

What does all this mean for drivers?

This development will likely result in drivers getting more passengers who need rides to and from vaccine sites—which will probably be a good thing. Drivers will still get paid for the rides, whether the companies pay for them or receive money from the government to do so. 

As with any new endeavor, this one will likely bring some challenges for drivers. For instance, customers may start asking questions about messages they receive in the app, or how they can get a free ride to get a vaccine. Or, you might be worried that a passenger could have an adverse reaction to the vaccine, based on the stories you’ve heard. 

Keep in mind that these reactions are very rare; also, healthcare workers typically stay with the person being vaccinated until they determine whether he or she is likely to react.

Although it’s important for you, as a driver, to know how to call 911 through the app to get help for someone who isn’t feeling well, it is not your responsibility to administer direct care to a passenger. Unless you’re a licensed medical professional, the very best way you can help is to get medical assistance for the person.

Here’s a list of things for drivers to remember:

  • Continue to follow all your COVID-19 sanitization protocols. You’ll be safe, and you’ll boost your passengers’ comfort levels.
  • Be calm and courteous, always. Know that even if a ride is free to the passenger, you’ll still get paid.
  • Refer any questions passengers have back to Uber, Lyft, the appropriate medical company, or another authority. 
  • Remain neutral on any issues your passengers bring up about your company’s efforts to facilitate the vaccine rollout. Always refer them back to the company website.

Will this effort improve business for rideshare drivers?

It is impossible to know whether the coronavirus vaccine will eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic, or at least make it easier for us to get back to normal. There is certainly a lot of hope that it will. If that happens, restaurants, bars, and offices will open again, and rideshare will continue to recover and get back to where it was before the pandemic hit.

For now, the companies’ efforts to get more people vaccinated, and to offer rideshare trips to passengers who need help, could add to demand, generate more trips … and make you more money. And, if Uber and Lyft do things that help the community, that’s a big win. From where we sit, things are looking up. 

What about delivery drivers?

Delivery drivers have much to gain from the companies’ involvement in the vaccine rollout. If Uber and Lyft succeed in getting drivers closer to the front of the vaccine line, the risk of getting the virus while going about your delivery duties will be significantly lessened.

Even if things do get back to normal, and people resume eat-in dining, all indications are that delivery will continue to boom. Far too many people have become accustomed to getting their meals brought to their doors; they’re not likely to stop just because they can again enjoy a meal inside a restaurant. Also, many people will continue to work from home, and will still want groceries and other items delivered.

The bottom line is, vaccines could bring relief from much of the pressure that’s been on our economy and society—including rideshare and delivery drivers, who have been hit especially hard. For that reason, we support the efforts of Uber and Lyft to push the process along a little faster.

Through it all, rely on Gridwise 

Rideshare and delivery drivers can use Gridwise to keep track of earnings, and set up apps to send the numbers to Gridwise automatically. The app tabulates the earnings from every app you link, and comes out with useful and slick graphs like these.

What’s more, Gridwise will soon be releasing an enhancement that lets you enter all your driving-related expenses. Our app already logs your mileage, but with the new feature, you’ll be able to account for everything from fuel to engine maintenance to car cleaning to a set of new tires. Download the Gridwise app now so you can benefit from these and other amazing features.

For instance, Gridwise offers information drivers need on a daily basis. Airport arrivals and departures, traffic and weather reports, and information about events are all at the tip of your finger. Tap on the Perks tab and gain access to deals and discounts for drivers.

Also, you’ll want to know when our informative blog comes out with news and info, and keep tabs on our entertaining YouTube channel. And be sure to join us on Facebook to become part of our expanding community of drivers, as we grow together through the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

Whatever you do, be safe out there. And as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. 

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