Recently, when Lyft began restricting NYC drivers from logging on and driving, we wondered when Uber would follow suit. While it didn’t happen the week after Lyft changed its rule, eventually Uber decided to copy Lyft. RSG contributor Chonce Maddox Rhea covers what changes Uber made and how these changes will affect drivers.

    About a month ago, Lyft took drastic measures and started restricting when NYC drivers could log onto the app and complete trips.

    It was only a matter of time for Uber to follow closely behind and begin implementing the same restrictions.

    This is in response to new rules implemented by the New York Taxi Limousine Commission (TLC). Back in August, the TLC extended the cap on ‘cruising’, which refers to the time rideshare drivers spend driving without a passenger in the car, whether they just finished up a trip or are moving to a new area in the hopes of getting more rides.

    In an already congested city, the TLC has set up companies like Uber and Lyft to adopt a more supply and demand style of operation instead of allowing drivers to truly work whenever they want and earn money on their own terms.

    Why Is Uber Copying Lyft?

    Let’s face, Uber and Lyft copy each other a lot. Uber may feel pinned up against a wall after the TLC’s decision in New York along with the claim that they truly want to do what’s best for drivers.

    On one end, the TLC claims that 40% of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is spent cruising so drivers aren’t making a ton by driving during low demand times anyway. They are requiring rideshare drivers to reduce that number to 36% by February.

    That said, NYC’s minimum rate pay for rideshare drivers may have something to do with it. If a driver’s earnings fall below $17.22 per hour during the week, rideshare companies are required to make up the difference.

    Lyft must have realized that if they allow drivers to keep going online whenever they want, they would have to pay more to meet the minimum rate pay if people are driving during less busy times.

    Just a month later, Uber quickly followed suit and implemented similar driver restrictions. Steven, an RSG reader from NYC, shared this message he received from Uber.

    It’s interesting that in this message Uber actually admits that it’s flat out copying Lyft’s response, but they don’t seem happy about it.

    Uber revealed that New York is one of 5 metro areas that collectively contribute to just under a quarter of their gross rideshare bookings, which presents plenty of motivation to comply and alter the app in NYC even if it’s not what they really want to do.

    This just goes to show both Uber and Lyft tend to play hardball, whether that means filing lawsuits or trying to convince other drivers to oppose the AB5 bill, only to cave eventually and copy each other in an attempt at survival. They seem to be competing against one another but are still making very similar decisions that don’t set either apart.

    NYC Drivers Are Left With Fewer Options

    When it was only Lyft that added the new restrictions, drivers could still resort to Uber if they wanted a more flexible schedule for completing rides.

    Now that both companies seem on the same page, drivers are left with fewer alternatives. You can still sign up for other rideshare companies, like Via, or pursue more delivery opportunities, but if you just wanted to drive for Uber and Lyft… it’s going to be a lot harder.

    Lyft thinks the new app changes are a good idea because it can help you:

    • Receive more rides when you’re online
    • Be able to earn more per hour (since you’d ideally be driving when it’s busy)
    • Spend less time (and fuel) cruising around

    During low demand times, you would have the option of driving around or heading to a busier area in order to get online.

    Recently, we interviewed Steven, a Brooklyn driver who revealed that his Lyft earnings had decreased substantially since the TLC cracked down on rideshare companies.

    This makes sense because even if you’re guaranteed a minimum rate and can drive during busier times, if you’re driving much less overall, the earnings just may not add up to meet your needs.

    An Uber and Lyft driver interviewed by Buzzfeed said it best stating – “It’s [minimum guaranteed rate] a little better than before but that’s if you get enough jobs. The problem is, it’s not steady.”

    Let’s not forget that a majority of drivers just want to be treated like true independent contractors. This is something that is becoming more and more difficult to achieve after every new regulation and restriction.

    Takeaways For Drivers

    While these changes are currently only happening in NYC, it’s important to realize that this can still affect drivers nationwide in due time.

    Rideshare driving is constantly changing as drivers are being treated less like independent contractors overall. Yet, they are still responsible for their own taxes, expenses, car repairs, and other fees like a contractor.

    These changes in NYC and the passing of AB5 in California could just be the beginning to nationwide changes for Uber and Lyft’s platforms.

    What are your thoughts on the TLC’s new restrictions in NYC? Do they make sense for rideshare drivers and how do you think they’d hurt or help drivers in the long run?

    -Chonce @ RSG

    Chonce Maddox Rhea

    Chonce Maddox Rhea

    Choncé is a freelance writer who’s obsessed with living well on a budget and loves encouraging people to make extra money so they can meet their financial goals. She is happily married to one of the best Uber drivers in the Chicago metro area, who currently has 2,800+ trips under his belt.