In late 2017, Uber drivers in the 15 cities nationwide that offered UberPOOL received an email announcing that Uber had heard us and were giving us a “completely new way to earn” on UberPOOL trips.
UberPOOL is the carpool version of UberX. Passengers who are going in the same direction may be combined into what amounts to a single trip for the driver. A driver will be instructed by the driver app to pick up as many as three additional passengers along a route in addition to their regular pick up and drop off schedule.
For the driver, this usually means longer trips, more time spent in driving mode and, as a result of that, a little more money. But, this remains the most-hated aspect of driving for Uber and Lyft among drivers. It has caused more consternation among drivers than any other thing. It is without a doubt the most anxiety-producing part of driving for a ridesharing service. No wonder Uber felt they had to address it during their 180 Days of Change campaign.
Even though drivers make a little bit more because of the extra time they have with passengers in the car, most drivers feel it is not at all worth the hassle. It’s mentally stressful, it’s distracting, and it’s dangerous.
A Typical UberPOOL Trip
Here’s how a typical UberPOOL ride goes:
Driver gets a ping from a passenger and heads to the pickup spot. Once the passenger is in the car, the driver starts driving toward their final destination.
His GPS tells him to turn left at the next light, so he gets into the left-turn lane. Just as he eases into the left lane, the Uber app suddenly beeps and his GPS screen goes blank. The driver has just had a new passenger added to his Uber ride.
What does he do? Is he going to be told to continue with his left turn, or will he be told to go straight or turn right? The GPS screen stays blank for several infuriating seconds because the GPS is calculating the new route to the second passenger.
In what most often happens, the new route instructs him to make a right turn at the intersection where he has just entered the left lane. This causes an enormous degree of anxiety while driving. And it is hugely distracting. It has surely been the cause of numerous traffic accidents across the country.
The driver, now suddenly being told to turn right, after already entering the left lane, decides to go ahead and make the left…what else can he do at this point? So, as he turns left, Uber’s algorithm then re-calculates the route yet again and tells him to make another left at the next intersection. (And keep in mind that every time the GPS re-calculates, the driver sits there for several anxiety-ridden moments, hoping it will finish its calculation before he misses another turn.)
He follows the new instructions on the screen and when he is about three quarters of the way to the pickup location for the second passenger, the passenger cancels because it’s taking him too long to get there!
All that extra time has been added and the driver has not covered any new distance to speak of so he has only made the per-minute rate, which let’s say in his case is an additional $0.08 a minute. Yes, in some markets drivers are paid just 8 cents per minute (which comes to $4.80 an hour). So, all this time is wasted for a measly $0.32. That’s one big reason drivers despise UberPOOL and Lyft Line trips — the way the pricing works isn’t exactly fair to drivers.
Another reason is that very often two passengers who are total strangers to each other just aren’t compatible. One of them does something their co-rider, and both of them end up mad at the driver. This has resulted in bad ratings on POOL trips, ratings much lower than for regular trips. This is another big reason drivers hate POOL trips.
But, perhaps the biggest reason POOL trips are so disliked by drivers is that they know Uber is making a lot more on the trip than the driver is being paid.
Look at these examples. The screenshot below shows a comparison between the UberPOOL price and the UberX price for a trip in New Jersey.
First of all, I have no idea why the price difference is only $1.54 on a $30 trip, but that’s what it is.
The pickup location is 1002 Willow Avenue (in Hoboken, NJ). Let’s say after the driver picks up the first passenger, he gets a call from a second passenger who will be picked up from 1010 Willow Avenue – just a few doors up. And suppose the second passenger is being dropped off at 403 Bloomfield Ave – just a few doors down from the first passenger.
In other words, both passengers are taking exactly the same trip. And both passengers will pay Uber $29.28. If Uber was fair about it, they would pay the driver the 75% they promised on the total fare of $58.56. The driver would make a decent $44 on this trip.
But, Uber will only pay the driver the exact same Uber fare they would have paid him for giving a regular UberX ride. He’ll only get $22 for this trip. So, for all the added hassle, he makes no additional money. And in the end, the trip is no longer than it would have been with a single passenger, which is typically the case with POOL trips. This is how UberPOOL pricing hurts drivers.
Uber came in with 180 Days of Change and announced they would be paying a flat pickup fee for additional passengers on POOL trips. That sounded great when I read the email! Maybe $2 extra or maybe $5 extra, I dreamed!
That could start to make these trips worth it. But when I found out how much the pickup fee was, instead of elated, I felt insulted — as I’m sure most drivers around the country did. In New York, they’re paying just $0.75 extra! It’s really hard to believe. They ask you to go to all that trouble for a measly extra 75 cents. Pool pickup rates around the country range between $0.50 and $1.00, whether you’re in Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or any number of other cities.
Another effect POOL trips have on drivers is each additional POOL trip is a trip another driver could have had, but lost. So instead of two passengers keeping two drivers busy, they’re only keeping one driver busy. The second driver just sits and waits longer for his next trip, losing money every minute he waits.
This is one reason why Uber and Lyft have pushed POOL trips so hard, because it not only effectively doubles the number of drivers they have on the road, but it also cuts in half the amount they have to pay drivers.
Why UberPOOL Is a Ripoff for Drivers
Think about it.
When two passengers use UberPOOL, they are paying Uber almost double during the time they’re both in the car together, but Uber is paying the driver the normal rate.
If these two passengers use two separate Ubers, Uber would have to pay two drivers the full rate for the two trips. With POOL, they only have to pay one driver. This represents an enormous savings to Uber and if they could get every passenger to use it, they would double their net profit (or cut their loss in half)!
No wonder they push passengers so hard to use POOL. But in the end, drivers hate it, and Uber users apparently don’t care much for it either, as most trips continue to be on regular UberX. We don’t really blame them, especially considering UberPOOL can create uncertainties about a passenger’s arrival time and total trip time.
My advice to Uber would be to either pay drivers a decent premium on POOL trips or stop doing them altogether.
If they’re not going to fairly compensate drivers for the additional hassle and headaches, they shouldn’t ask drivers to do it. Especially when they’re making such a premium off of POOL trips. But, whether they pay drivers more for POOL trips or stop them altogether, they really need to focus on retaining the drivers they already have.
They’re only going to do that by treating drivers well. To Uber, this must seem a costly option. But, to a farsighted business person, it’s the obvious best solution to all their problems. Basically, they’ve tried the treating-drivers-poorly method and it hasn’t led to profits. They’re operating at a loss.
A far-sighted business person would know that veteran drivers provide a better customer experience. A more seasoned driver will always provide a better customer experience than a rookie. They know their area better and they know the job better.
Uber probably figures they have to keep recruiting new drivers because all they can see is that experienced drivers keep dropping off. What they don’t seem to realize is if they undertook the difficult task of putting a temporary ban on recruiting and raising rates so they could pay drivers more, drivers would stop bailing on them.
Better-paid drivers would become more vested in doing a good job and providing a great customer experience if they made enough to feel the job was valuable to them and worth keeping. People tend to treat their job the way their job treats them. They take pride in their work when their work respects them and compensates them sufficiently and fairly.
When it doesn’t, people treat the job with as much disrespect as they feel they’re being given by the company. Uber could solve a lot of their problems by limiting the number of new drivers, increasing the pay of all drivers and treating them respectfully and fairly. And I’m sorry, but $0.75 for POOL pickups is neither respectful nor fair.
What do you think of UberPOOL? Is it fair to drivers, or is it really a revolutionary new way to earn more income? Let us know by dropping us a line below!