LOS ANGELES — As the state continues to reopen, more and more people are returning to rideshares, but where are the drivers? Consumers are complaining about higher prices and longer wait times because there is a driver shortage.
One former driver Chris Low is enjoying his extra free time, saying driving was taxing.
"Just the time away from home, the time in the car, the time not out exercising and being physical. The traffic. It really grinds you down," Low said.
He started driving five years ago, sometimes working more than 60 hours a week. He enjoyed meeting people and thought it was fun at first. But Low stopped during the pandemic when he didn't feel safe, and the demand went down as people stayed at home, switching to food delivery like many others did.
"I'm not willing to have people in my car," he said.
But now that California is opening up and many are requesting rides again, there aren't enough drivers to keep up. Consumers are reporting longer wait times and higher prices. Rakuten Intelligence said prices went up 40%. Low opened the app and tried to look for rides from Santa Monica, saying these prices and wait times are not what he is used to seeing.
Low thinks many aren't returning because they found other jobs, or like him, don't think it's worth it to work for these companies anymore, especially in Los Angeles where rules keep changing, according to Low.
"Uber and Lyft both are notoriously taking upwards of 50% to 60% on every ride every day and we are out there in the streets grinding dealing with the public, dealing with traffic, destroying our cars, and destroying our bodies with the hours. I'm trying to work and not play games. If I wanted to play games, I would turn on my Xbox," Low said.
Chris Gerace has been driving since 2016 and is a contributor for The Rideshare Guy, a website covering the latest news and thoughts regarding the gig economy. He speaks to a lot of drivers and reports on the latest. He agrees with Chris Low saying Uber and Lyft are experiencing a driver shortage because former gig workers are making more on unemployment. They don't feel completely safe yet and aren't happy with the companies.
"They are giving you all this stuff and then taking it away because they can. That's part of the strain. Then the issue with pay rates. They are historically going down and down, so, unfortunately, it's more expensive for us to drive as drivers, but getting paid the same or even lower, it's putting a huge strain on the relationship," Gerace said.
He said it will eventually even out over time as the companies scramble to try to bring drivers back or attract new ones. Uber has announced a $250 million driver stimulus to boost drivers' earnings, but Gerace said this is only a temporary incentive and will go away.
So, he said the only way to fix the problem is to raise rates and keep the business consistent. Chris Low agrees. He said there is a way to make customers happy, make a profit and treat drivers fairly.
"If they can find a formula and stick with it, they can keep a consistent group of drivers, but for the majority of drivers, it's not worth it," Low said.
If not, the demand for rides will keep growing while the supply of drivers continues to decrease.