Around this time last year, Uber and Lyft saw a drop in demand for their flagship hail services as coronavirus fears kept most people at home. By May 2020, Uber's ride bookings had dropped 80 percent from their level a year earlier.
But now that people are being vaccinated and some states are easing public health restrictions, the demand for amusement rides is increasing. And Uber and Lyft are working hard to recruit enough drivers to meet their needs.
"It takes forever to get an Uber," one man outside Fenway Park in Boston told local NBC 10 television station. Another man who had just completed an Uber trip to Fenway said he had 16 minutes on waited for the arrival of his driver.
Uber is increasing its recruitment
It's not surprising that drivers are running out. The risk of catching COVID has not gone away, so people are still taking a health risk driving passengers. At the same time, the economy is recovering, supported by the high savings rates of last year and the lavish economic spending. Many people who worked as Uber or Lyft drivers in early 2020 have moved on to other jobs.
Basically, recruiting drivers takes time and effort. Uber and Lyft spent billions of dollars building their driver pool.
Uber says drivers can now make much more money than they did before the pandemic due to driver shortages. One of the best-paying cities is Philadelphia, where Uber says drivers make an average of $ 31 an hour. Other high-paying cities are Chicago (nearly $ 29 / hour), Miami, and Phoenix (both around $ 26 / hour).
These numbers include the time drivers wait between trips, but they don't include spending, which Uber says averages $ 4 an hour.
On Wednesday, Uber announced plans to further sweeten the pot by offering $ 250 million worth of incentives to drivers.
Some regions face special challenges
While hail shipping companies across the country are facing bottlenecks, some regions are particularly hard hit. Boston is one of them. Uber says drivers in the Boston area have particularly long waits because Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency, which effectively prohibits Uber from using price hikes. Surge pricing helps balance supply and demand by not only paying drivers more, but also encouraging drivers to wait or choose alternative modes of transport.
In California, Uber states that it has features that allow drivers in the Golden State to see destinations and set their own prices. The changes were passed early last year to convince the courts that their drivers were independent contractors rather than employees. But Uber recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that the system wasn't working well – that drivers picked the most lucrative trips and declined the rest. This exacerbates the already poor user experience created by the driver shortage, as customers with less lucrative trips may struggle to keep up with a driver.