Saturday, April 23, 2016 7:15 am ·  2 Comments
There continues to be a great deal of discussion about UBER. Recently the Town of Oakville sent out a request for feedback on ride share companies who are providing ground transportation which is part of the Oakville Transportation Network Licensing Review that started in 2015. So the question is UBER a good or bad thing? To help shed light on the topic, I became an Uber driver back in February of 2016.
Driving for UBER is an interesting experience. You get to meet a large number of people, and make a few dollars in the process. Are you going to get rich driving for UBER? No. Will it pay for your gas, the depreciation of your car, and give you a little extra spare change on top? Yes.
I decided I would drive for UBER, went online and provided the information requested. You must have a valid driver’s license, carry $2 million of liability insurance, and be able to legally work in Canada. Your vehicle must be large enough to carry at least 4 passengers. UBER then does a police check, and as long as you do not have a criminal record you are allowed to drive. The process took two weeks.
Once you’ve been processed you are able to download the App onto your smart phone, and you can start accepting rides. There is an option to lease a smart phone from UBER for a monthly fee. Thirty days after you have been accepted, you must provide UBER with a signed and passed Vehicle Safety Inspection. If you don’t, UBER will not allow you to accept further rides.
The UBER app is easy to use. You press the app button to open, and then select “Go Online”. At that point, it locates your position. Then it is a waiting game. You know that you’ve received a potential ride once a circle appears, which has a countdown feature. You have to click on it to accept before the timer runs out. What the driver is provided is the name of the rider and where you need to pick them up. The person who gets in your car is not always the person who ordered the pick up. Account holders will have UBER pick up clients, friends, and family. You do not know where you will be driving the rider until the person is sitting in your vehicle, and you click the “Pick Up Driver”. You are then given the coordinates of your destination.
In most cases the riders need to get picked up and dropped off locally with occasional destinations into Mississauga. The furthest I’ve been asked to drive is out to Scarborough Town Centre. I would like to indicate when I want to head home; however, it isn’t an option. I’ve picked up a slew of different people from a Federal Lobbyist, to a homeless man who was being moved to a shelter. Most of the people are extremely polite and for the most part they are under 40.
The drivers payment is done weekly, via direct deposit. There is never any cash involved in the transaction between rider and driver. Payments are taken off the rider’s credit card that they uploaded to their UBER account. On a rare occasion, a rider might give a tip, but UBER wants drivers to make it clear that tipping is not required. I find this no cash a nice feature for drivers as well as riders, since you know that your fare is paid as well as there isn’t much to steal. From a rider’s perspective, they know exactly how much the ride is going to cost before getting in the vehicle.
The only variable happens when the UBER mapping system suggests using the 407. The system doesn’t tabulate the toll, but rather the driver has to provide the cost to UBER. That toll is then added to the rider’s credit card. Considering how sophisticated UBER’s system is, they’ll likely rectify that issue.
Safety is top of mind for riders and drivers. What is nice is that the rider knows the car that is picking them up, the license plate, and the name of the driver. The driver’s know who they are picking up, including the rating of the rider (most of the time). Yes, drivers rate every passenger between 1 and 5 stars, so riders who are pleasant are usually given 5 stars. Rider’s also rate the drivers. My goal is to have a perfect rating, but I have only managed to get 4.95 stars over 224 trips.
Ratings for drivers are taken seriously by UBER. Drivers loose their right to drive if their rating goes below 4 stars. Riders can provide comments on drivers, both positive and negative. Rider’s can also loose there ability to access UBER, if they receive too many complaints. I only had one issue with one rider who was tardy and rude.
Working with UBER is mainly accomplished online. So issues that arise, you simply go online and ask your question. They do have three offices, Mississauga, Scarborough, and Toronto. I’ve gone to the Mississauga office, which is a room that UBER has rented out, that looks like used classroom. They have three young adults with computers, who work with the drivers.. UBER’s Mississauga office appeared transient. There is no permanent signage.
I did have one fender bender, which was handled professionally by UBER. It was at this time, that I found out that UBER carries an additional $5 million of liability insurance which would kick in if the driver’s insurance didn’t cover the claim. Thankfully, no one was hurt in my case, so there was no need.
Usually, the main question that I get asked while driving is, “Is this your full time job?” To which I answer: “no, I do it part time”. Most people respond that most of the drivers they have spoken with work part time. I enjoyed being able to meet a new people, since my writing puts me in front of a computer most of the day. It is also nice to know that I don’t have to drive a set number of hours. I begin and end according to my schedule.
When it comes to the money, Driving for UBER is a low wage job. UBER takes 25% of the fare. It used to be 20%. Drivers are compensated should a rider cancel a fair, if the driver has arrived or close to the pick up destination and 5 minutes has passed. Payment is a combination time plus kilometres. In general it is safe to say that you’ll receive just about $0.75 per kilometre on long rides, and on short fairs that price will go up to $2.00 and a bit. It appears that you make more money doing short trips, but at least in Oakville, the distance to pick ups can be several kilometres and several minutes. UBER does not publish what a driver is given for distance or time for the consumer, but drivers are given a fee schedule.
Finally, there is Surge pricing. This is an interesting feature, and it appears to be dependent upon the number of drivers versus the number of riders. If there are more riders than drivers then prices can double and then some. However, my experience with surge pricing has left me questioning the benefit to the drivers. Several times I have driven when there has been surge pricing, at 2 times the usual fair. However, each time this happens the fair earned appears to be below the surge multiplier that is on the map.
The idea behind surge was to encourage drivers to drive towards an area with surge pricing. I’ve done this several times, and nothing has come of it. At times there has been no fair at all. Also riders will ask for a price, and will be told that Surge Pricing is effect. So they click for a request, and quickly end the request. This is a wide spread practise among UBER riders. It makes the demand appear extremely high, when in fact riders are trying to pull in more drivers. As more drivers enter the surging area, the prices drop. So I tend to dismiss the Surge factor, and stay where I am.
So is UBER a good thing? That depends on your perspective. If you are looking for a cheaper and quicker alternative to Taxi’s then yes. If you are looking to drive, and make above the minimum wage then that means you should be driving only during surge times, and likely you’ll only be able to achieve this if you are in downtown Toronto. If you are a taxi cab driver or especially a taxi license holder, than no. As an Oakville UBER driver, I’ve enjoyed my experience driving and getting to meet so many great Oakvillians.