This time last year, Uber and Lyft saw demand drop for their flagship rides as fear of the coronavirus kept most people at home. In May 2020, Uber ride bookings were down 80 percent from a year earlier.
But now that people are getting vaccinated and some states are relaxing public health restrictions, the demand for rides is skyrocketing. And Uber and Lyft are struggling to recruit enough drivers to meet their needs.
“It takes forever to get an Uber now,” a man outside Fenway Park in Boston told local television station NBC 10. Another man who had just taken an Uber trip to Fenway said he had waited 16 minutes for it to arrive. his driver arrived.
Uber is ramping up recruitment
Unsurprisingly, there would be a shortage of drivers. The risks of contracting COVID haven’t gone away, so people are still at health risk when driving passengers. At the same time, the economy is recovering, supported by last year’s high savings rate and excessive stimulus spending. Many people who worked as Uber or Lyft drivers in early 2020 have moved on to other jobs.
More fundamentally, driver recruitment takes time and effort. Uber and Lyft have spent billions of dollars building their driver pool in the first place.
Uber says that due to a driver shortage, drivers can now make a lot more money than before the pandemic. One of the top paying cities is Philadelphia, where Uber says drivers make an average of $ 31 an hour. Other high-paying cities are Chicago (nearly $ 29 / hour), Miami, and Phoenix (both about $ 26 / hour).
These numbers include the time drivers wait between trips, but they don’t include expenses, which average about $ 4 per hour, according to Uber.
On Wednesday, Uber announced plans to sweeten the pot further by offering drivers incentives worth $ 250 million.
Some regions face specific challenges
While ride-hailing businesses across the country are facing shortages, some regions have been hit particularly hard. Boston is one of them. Uber says riders in the Boston area have particularly long wait times because Governor Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency that effectively prohibits Uber from using inflated prices. Fluctuation prices help balance supply and demand, not only by paying drivers more, but also by encouraging riders to wait or take alternative modes of transportation.
Meanwhile, Uber in California says it is rethinking features that allow drivers in the Golden State to see ride destinations and set their own prices. The changes were made early last year as part of Uber’s attempt to convince the courts that the drivers were independent contractors rather than employees. But Uber recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that the system was not working properly – that drivers would pick the most lucrative rides and decline the rest. That exacerbates the already poor user experience caused by the driver shortage, as it means that customers with less lucrative rides may struggle to match with a driver.