One of our recent articles highlighted the perks of being a full-time rideshare driver, and this article elicited some very strong reactions from readers. Many readers wanted us to focus on the negative aspects of full-time driving, so we asked our resident full-time driver to share his thoughts with us. Today, RSG contributor Jay Cradeur shares some of the biggest challenges facing full-time Uber and Lyft drivers.
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Being a full time driver has many rewards. Good money, freedom, flexibility and job satisfaction top the list. However, there are a few significant challenges or drawbacks that each full time driver must address. If a full time driver does not properly handle these challenges, they will most likely quit just as they are getting to the point where they can enjoy the benefits.
I have been a full time rideshare driver for nearly 2 years and done over 14,000 trips and I have created work-arounds for all these issues. Today, I will lay out for you what I feel are the major challenges of being a full time driver and how I have adjusted to stay on the road towards a bright future.
Full-Time Driver Challenge #1: Wear and Tear on Your Body
I am 6’ 4” and I share that tidbit of information so you understand that I have a long back, a back that is not meant to be sitting in a prone position for 10 hours per day, 6 days per week. I drive a Toyota Prius that has plenty of headroom so I can fit in the car with no problem, and I will go so far as to say that the seats are quite comfortable. But over time, I have come to experience occasional lower back pain.
This can be a challenge for a couple of reasons. First, it hurts. No matter how I rearrange myself in the seat, the pain continues. Second, the pain is a distraction. While I am driving in heavy city traffic or flying at 70 MPH down the freeway, I need to be completely focused on driving and not cringing nor wincing at the pain in my back.
Solution: Advil in the short term. In the long term, my solution to this challenge is to take many mini breaks. I stop, get out of the car, walk a little bit and stretch out my back.
I find that if I bend forward with my legs just slightly bent, and then touch my toes and allow my arms to sway from side to side for a while, this brings me tremendous relief. I also recommend a 1-hour massage once a week; it is the best $50 that I spend. Take breaks, stretch, and get massages.
Full-Time Driver Challenge 2: Boredom
There are some days I do not want to get up in the morning and get back in my car. Some days, the idea of cheerfully greeting another passenger is the last thing I want to do. This sense of boredom, the idea of doing the same thing over and over again can be extremely debilitating if it is not addressed.
Driving for Lyft and Uber is not brain surgery. We do the exact same thing over and over again, some days as many as 40 times. We are not building anything. We are not doing creative writing. We are not writing code for the next big app. We are drivers. Driving can be boring, but it does not have to be.
Solution: I find that when I am bored, I need to shift my perspective. I must remind myself that every job, even those that I mentioned, has boredom baked in.
Everybody, in every job, has many repetitive tasks that can get boring. As I shift my perspective and then jump in my car and begin driving, I realize every person who gets in my car has their own unique story. Each drive exposes me to different streets, with different people, and different weather and new experiences.
Just yesterday, I asked a woman what she did for a living. It turned out, she was an embalmer at a funeral home. Say what?! Needless to say, we had a fascinating chat.
Boredom comes and goes. Be okay with it, and drive. Even Mark Zuckerberg gets bored, I guarantee it.
Full-Time Driver Challenge 3: Nagging Recurring Expenses
This is a real pet peeve with me. In most major cities, there is a team of people who run around and give you tickets when your meter has expired, take pictures of your car in bus or taxi zones and mail you a ticket, or pull you over to give you a moving violation ticket. I despise them all! They are this driver’s enemy.
Just last month, I paid a whopping $300 because I was in a bus zone for 10 seconds waiting for a slow-moving passenger to ease into my car. Arghhh. Given that we are driving so often, we full timers are much more likely to get tickets, which can be ridiculously expensive and insidiously irritating.
Solution: Be very careful when you pull over and to wait for a passenger, especially in a downtown area. Immediately look and see if you are anywhere near a bus or taxi zone. If you are, and someone hasn’t already taken your picture, get out of there. The passenger can wait while you call him or her to arrange a safe pick up.
The second thing you can do is contest each citation. I have sent a typed letter explaining why a ticket is bogus and have a 60% success rate. You must be sure to do this shortly after receiving a ticket, as there is usually a time limit. Once your time limit has expired, there is nothing you can do. I know, because I tried and failed.
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Full-Time Driver Challenge 4: Decreasing Revenue Streams
This challenge is very frustrating and it comes in a few different flavors. First, Uber and Lyft keep lowering their rates. From what I hear, if I worked my 60-hour schedule 4 years ago, I’d be making over $200,000 per year. The rates were much higher and there weren’t as many drivers.
Now the rates are lower and could get even lower in the future. Second, the bonuses are also shrinking. Last year I could make an easy extra $500 per week by doing just 120 rides with Uber. Or I could earn an extra $400 a week in bonus money from Lyft. Now Uber has a 2 bonus per week offering with about $200 at play. Lyft was offering a $415 bonus last month, and then it was cut down to $315.
Solution: There is no solution here. Facts are facts. We can’t make as much money now as we did last year or the year before. This leads into the next major challenge.
Full-Time Driver Challenge 5: Uncertain Future
How long will this rideshare gig be good for drivers? While both Uber and Lyft say drivers are their number one concern, they don’t put their money where their mouths are. App improvements do not make me any more money, and neither does 24/7 phone support. If we look at current trends, rates will continue to fall and bonuses will continue to dwindle.
On top of lower pay, we keep hearing about self-driving cars. Self-driving cars means cars that don’t need drivers, and I see them all over San Francisco. How secure is our future when Uber is hell bent on using self-driving cars to do our work? This may not happen for another 5 or 10 years, and it may not happen at all. Still, it leaves me feeling a bit unsettled. Certainly with these trends I would feel irresponsible to plan my future work life around rideshare driving. The future is simply too uncertain.
Solution: I have a Plan B. I have figured out every way to get the most money out of this rideshare driver gig, but it may not last. Therefore, I have a Plan B. By a Plan B, I mean you can create an opportunity for yourself other than rideshare driving so you are ready to move on when you are ready to move on. Don’t get forced out and don’t let market influences impact your financial future.
For example, I am studying to be an independent Salesforce Consultant in the Asia Pacific market. I have to pass a few exams to get certified, and then I can get to work building a new business. If all goes to plan, I will quit rideshare driving next summer to pursue my Plan B full time in SE Asia.
With a Plan B in the works, I do not stress about the future of rideshare driving. It is good now, and it will be good until I am ready to move on. I believe all rideshare drivers have an entrepreneurial spirit. Rideshare driving affords us a flexible schedule to work on something else while also earning a good living.
Get to work on your Plan B.
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Takeaways for Full-Time or Want-to-be Full-Time Drivers
Rideshare driving is not a money-making free-for-all. I appreciate it and enjoy doing it. It has afforded me the opportunity to make good money, travel the world, and get started on a brand new business, for which I am very excited.
Still, there are some significant challenges for the full time driver. I hope my blunt discussion of the challenges of our chosen profession does not discourage you, but rather empowers you to make some changes while you are out there putting in the long hours on the road. The future is very bright for all of us if we take proper and prudent steps now.
Readers, are you a full-time driver or considering being a full-time driver? What other questions or concerns do you have about full-time driving? Do you agree/disagree with these challenges?
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-Jay @ RSG