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7 min read

    7 min read

    One question we get a lot at The Rideshare Guy is: what type of drivers do Uber and Lyft value more? Do part-time or full-time drivers get better treatment? We had senior RSG contributor John Ince investigate this question and share which group he believes is more valued and why.

    At The Rideshare Guy we really do pay close attention to what you, the readers, are saying and thinking.  In fact, this article is a direct response to a comment from one of our readers that appeared last November on Uber Pro – New Rewards Program Helps Drivers Be More Successful

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    In response to that article, 

    Are the full-time Uber drivers more valuable? Part-time Uber drivers are probably not as concerned about becoming employees and probably don’t get as mad when Uber makes changes that lower their income. (An analysis of this might make a good article.)

    Good question, and good suggestion too.

    We decided to look into this question and do an analysis. But before we get into particulars, let me issue a disclaimer:  This article is based purely on speculation. Even if Uber and Lyft did have a particular preference, it would be extremely unlikely that either company would ever reveal it publicly. Like the parent who will never say which child is their favorite, they simply don’t want the least favorite to be damaged psychologically by telling the truth. That said, let’s all jump onto the speculation wagon.



    Reasons Why Uber/Lyft Prefer Full Time Drivers

    Full time drivers are more professional

    Professionalism comes is all shapes and sizes. To some, professionalism is the ability to sense the presence of a ticking time bomb before it detonates.  To others, professionalism is the ability to keep your mouth shut, rather than putting your foot in your mouth.

    Professionals know when a passenger wants space and they offer it up freely.  Professionals often don’t smile a lot, but they do know how to get passengers safely from point A to point B, avoiding traffic and pitfalls along the way, and in the final analysis, that’s the most important part of this gig.

    Full time drivers know their way around better

    In England, they call it “The Knowledge” and it basically means a detailed understanding of the street patterns of London and other major cities.  It’s not the kind of knowledge you acquire in school or studies.  Pretty much the only way you get it is by doing it, by making a lot of wrong turns before you instinctively know to take the right ones.  After a while, taking the shortest and best route becomes almost subconscious.  This is perhaps the greatest value of full time, experienced drivers.  Part time drivers might get things right, because they know how to use the app, but as we all know in this business, the apps don’t always get things right.

    Full time drivers are better able to immediately spot problem passengers and situations

    There are many tip offs for problem passengers, but they’re often difficult to spot – at first.  Does the passenger have the “smell” – booze or weed? Does the passenger respond quickly to a question? Does the passenger smile? Is the passenger uptight?

    A quick read is gold in this business, because the sixth sense is the sense that just might keep a situation under control before it escalates into the kind of full scale battle that we see all the time these days on YouTube..

    Full time drivers are more reliable

    From the companies’ standpoints, it helps to know how many drivers are going to be out on the road at a particular time.  It helps the companies when they decide how much to offer in bonuses.

    Full time drivers are predictable in their patterns. Most have been doing it for years and they follow the same habits.  Out on the road at 6 a.m., drive for 5 hours, bite to eat, three hour nap and back at it for the evening commute.  These are the people that keep the ridesharing business humming.

    Related: How a Daily Ritual Can Help Drivers Earn More

    Full time drivers make more for the companies on a gross basis

    This one simply stands to reason. If you’re out on the road more hours, you’re going to bring in more money for the companies.

    Reasons Why Uber/Lyft Prefer Part Time Drivers

    Part time drivers are friendlier

    The stats of driver churn are alarming.  Over 2/3 of all new drivers quit within six months.  This means there’s always a steady stream of new drivers coming into the pipeline. Most of them are wide-eyed at first. Wow, this is cool.  I’m actually getting paid to have fun driving cool people around and having great conversations.  Then soon it gets old.

    But those first few months keep the business fresh and give passengers a brisk new experience. That’s what makes ridesharing so unpredictable and fun for many, at first at least.

    Part time drivers don’t care as much about prices

    When you’re doing this part time, there’s a good chance you’re doing it for more than the money.  Many retirees do it because it breaks the routine of their lives. Some even say it makes them less lonely.  If that’s your mindset, then it’s unlikely you really care about how much money you’re making.

    Sure, you like the extra cash, but that’s pretty much all it is.  It’s not the difference between paying the rent and not.  If that were the case, you’d be driving full time.

    Part time drivers are less cynical

    I remember the moment when I started to get cynical about this job. It was the last ride on a Saturday night and I’d been driving for six hours straight. I’d only been on the job for a few weeks and until that passenger got in my car, I’d really been enjoying this gig. But this person was trouble and I knew it right away.

    Back then I was concerned enough about ratings that I didn’t want to give her power over me in the form of a rating, so I ended the ride before it started and asked her to leave my car.  She wouldn’t budge and threatened to report me to Lyft.  Eventually she left, but it took too much energy.

    Related: Stories like this are reason why drivers should have dash cams! Our top recommended dash camera here

    From that moment forward, count me an occasional cynic.  I recognize this job is not ideal.  I know you’re going to get problem cases, and when that happens you simply have to take the bad with the good.  For your peace of mind, you have to ration how much time you spend on the road.  I guess that makes me a part time driver – and a little less cynical, I hope.

    Part time drivers probably make more for the companies on a per ride basis

    It takes a while to get the hang of being an Uber/Lyft driver.  A big part of the learning curve is knowing when to be discriminating and when to simply give in to the incentives the companies dangle. Now, here’s the catch.  The reasons the companies offer particular incentives or bonuses is because they know from their data pool that these incentives will make the company the most money.

    Bottom line:  Part time drivers make the companies more money, per ride, or per hour because they’re not as savvy about bonuses and incentives.  They just haven’t learned the tricks of the trade yet.

    Part time drivers are less likely to publicly badmouth the companies

    Probably the biggest gripe of drivers is over pay. Full time drivers have done the math and included expenses.  They know how much they’re making, and they’re not at all reticent to tell passengers about how the company treats them. Part time drivers don’t pay as close attention to price fluctuations and are less likely to feel the need to complain to passenger about pay. They’re having too much fun to do that.

    Full time drivers are more likely to succumb to fatigue syndrome

    This is an under-reported, but critical part of this job – knowing when to stop driving and take a rest.  But full time drivers have been doing it so long, the boundaries of fatigue become blurred. Reaction time may be affected. Judgement may be impaired.

    All of these factors affect safety.  And when you’ve been doing it for sixty hours a week for 2 years, you can become a real hazard on the road.

    Now it’s your turn.  Which do you think the companies value more: full time or part time drivers?

    -John @ RSG

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    John Ince

    John Ince

    John Ince is a former Fortune reporter and Wall Street banker. He has about 1,000 rides under his belt driving part time for Uber and Lyft.  He’s writing a book about his experiences entitled:  Travels With Vanessa:  A Rideshare Driver Tries To Make Sense of It all - For a sneak peak visit the link above.

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