Record Gas Prices Obliterate Uber and Lyft Drivers’ Take-Home Pay — And They Are Not Being Compensated

Uber and Lyft window decals on car window
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When you drive for a living, surging gas prices aren’t just an annoyance — they’re margin eaters that cut into your take-home pay and threaten your livelihood. That’s what drivers for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft face as they pay record high prices for fuel without being compensated extra.

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Ride-sharing companies have not yet increased pay to accommodate the recent fuel increases, Colorado’s KKCO reported on March 10. That’s the case even as the average price of regular gasoline in the U.S. soared to $4.318 a gallon, according to AAA — its highest point ever, and up an astounding 53% from a year ago. Over the last month alone, prices at the pump have risen by nearly one-quarter.

Without being subsidized by the ride-sharing companies for the extra expense, Uber and Lyft drivers face margins that have shrunk so low they have to consider whether it’s worth it to even drive at all

“[It] definitely has an effect on my decision on whether or not to drive because it becomes less cost effective the higher the fuel price,” Boyce Gusler, who drives for both Uber and Lyft, told KKCO.

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Phillipe Jean, an Uber driver in Easton, Pennsylvania, has had a similar experience. He told Bloomberg that when he filled up his tank Sunday night, the price was an “unfathomable” $4.19 a gallon. Seven hours later, the price had jumped to $4.45.

When Jean began working for ride-sharing companies four years ago, fuel costs ate up about 10% of his take-home pay on average. Today, that figure has risen to 60%. 

“I’m barely breaking even and I’m driving a Prius,” Jean said.

Meanwhile, business is good for ride-sharing companies. Earlier this week, Uber raised its profit outlook for the current quarter, citing increased demand for rides amid on ongoing easing of COVID-19 restrictions, Bloomberg reported. The pickup in business makes it especially important to ensure drivers want to keep driving.

“Our platform only works if it works for drivers, so we’ll continue to monitor gas prices and listen to drivers over the coming weeks,” an Uber spokesman told Bloomberg.

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One way drivers for both Uber and Lyft can get a little financial relief is through the companies’ partnership with GetUpside, a rewards platform that offers 25 cents cash back for every gallon of gas purchased at participating gas stations. Higher rewards are available for Lyft’s Platinum and Gold drivers.

But many drivers are taking matters into their own hands. A campaign that aims to get ride-sharing companies to help drivers with fuel costs had gathered more than 5,500 signatures on organizing platform Coworker.org as of Mar. 7. The petition calls for Uber and Lyft to take smaller fare commissions and pay drivers the mileage its takes to pick up passengers from the point where the request was accepted to the destination.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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