How Rideshare Companies Are Adjusting to the New Social Normal

In this week’s roundup, senior RSG contributor John Ince covers how Uber, Lyft and Dallas-based Alto are handling the coronavirus and our ‘new social’ normal. Plus, DoorDash looks to help drivers save money at the pump and is Instacart being too stingy? Those stories and more below.

Unlike Lyft and Uber, Dallas-based Alto was built for a global pandemic [Dallas Morning News]

Sum and Substance:  Alto temperature checks all its drivers and put plexiglass barriers in all its cars — something Uber and Lyft could never do.

Jorge Pineda runs through a new COVID-19-related pre-drive safety checklist at Alto headquarters in Dallas. With about 130 employee drivers, Alto was easily able to provide them with masks, gloves and sanitation training.

Think about how many high-touch surfaces are in a car: the door handle, steering wheel, seat belt, buckle, window switches and headrest.

That’s why ridesharing is on the list of luxuries many Americans gave up in mid-March to help stop the spread of COVID-19 — even though drivers kept working.

My Take:  This is a company that might see some opportunity here. Uber and Lyft were unprepared and they’ve stepped into the void. We’ll see where their growth figures go.

Read Harry’s interview with the CEO and Founder of Alto, Will Coleman, here.

Gig driver or Uber/Lyft employee? It affects unemployment benefits  [SF Chronicle]

Sum and Substance:  Whether gig drivers are classified as Uber or Lyft employees affects their unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

Oakland resident Cherri Murphy, 53, has spent three years driving full time for Lyft in addition to her volunteer work as a social justice minister. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, “I was forced to make a decision: Do something that could kill me, or pay my bills?”

My Take:  This is a very thorough summary of the two approaches: independent contractor and employee. But remember, you’re dealing with bureaucrats here, and the whole process requires a lot of patience..

How Uber And Its Riders Are Adapting To The New ‘Social’  [NPR]

Sum and Substance:  Uber is seeing signs of recovery as cities, states and countries lift lockdown restrictions and businesses reopen, according to one of the ride-hailing company’s top executives. …

“People are still adapting to what ‘social’ means,” Macdonald said. In Australia, “instead of [on] Saturday night, going to a bar or restaurant, we’re seeing a lot more people using it to go to a friend’s house for dinner or for drinks.”…

But there is no denying that the wide-scale shutdowns of Uber’s biggest markets have taken a steep toll on the company this year. At the worst point in April, demand for Uber rides was down 80% from a year ago, while rival Lyft reported a 75% drop.

My Take:  Sign of the times. Uber was losing money big time before the virus.  Now, they’re losing more, though their overhead is less. Tough times…

California PUC rules that Uber, Lyft drivers are employees  (Sacramento Business Journal)

Sum and Substance:  The California Public Utilities Commission in an order announced this week ruled that ride-hailing drivers with Uber and Lyft are employees under last year’s Assembly Bill 5, which categorized many independent contractors in California as employees.

This is the latest development, but far from the last word, on whether companies should classify workers as employees or independent contractors.

In its ruling, announced Wednesday, the commission said that drivers for “Transportation Network Companies,” or TNCs as it calls them, are employees.

My Take:  The process moves forward and this is the latest ruling on the matter. Come Fall, with the ballot initiative, we’ll get another and more final determination.

Read more updates on AB5 and what this most recent ruling could mean for drivers nationwide here.

Did Washington Get in Uber’s Way? [NY Times]

Sum and Substance: The food fight is over

Grubhub has announced that it will sell itself to a rival for $7.3 billion — and it isn’t Uber, with which it had been in negotiations for months. Instead, the buyer is Just Eat Takeaway, a European rival intent on scrambling the world of food delivery.

Just Eat swooped as talks between Grubhub and Uber stalled, Michael has learned.

My Take:  Well this is kind of anti-climactic.  When rumored this was a huge deal and the stock of both entities rose dramatically. Little by little the deal fell apart and with it went stock appreciation.

Shell, The Fuel Rewards Program Partner With DoorDash [CStore Decisions]

Sum and substance: The Fuel Rewards program and Shell have joined forces to provide DoorDash’s drivers, known as Dashers, with a limited-time offer of saving 10 cents per gallon every time they fill up as part of their Fuel Rewards membership.

Editor’s Note: Another way for drivers to save money on gas, and this time it’s delivery drivers (DoorDash specifically). Now that food delivery is so popular (and popularity does not seem to be dwindling, especially if more states revert to shutting down again), it’s great to see companies like Shell and DoorDash partner to alleviate any pain at the pump.

Instacart May Stop Service If Seattle OKs Hazard Pay Fee []

Sum and substance: Seattle’s City Council is debating a bill to force eCommerce ordering and transportation platforms like Instacart and Uber to give drivers at least $5 “premium pay” for each trip made during the pandemic and until as long as 2023. Now, Instacart is threatening to halt operations there rather than pay up.

Editor’s Note: Instacart is complaining about adding an extra $5 per delivery when they just raised $225 million at $13.7 billion valuation? Is $5 per delivery (for delivery drivers who are risking their lives and health!) really going to break Instacart’s bank?

It’s moves like this that give gig companies (like Instacart, but others as well) a very bad name. Good job to Instacart for (somewhat) reducing tip-baiting, but there’s so much more they could do to improve good will – with such a little cost.

Readers, what do you think of this week’s roundup?

-John @ RSG