Uber, Lyft, and how the COVID-19 Pandemic will affect the ridesharing economy

Author photoBy Jonnie Cohen

Although rideshare is a type of service that can have a massive impact on the spread of the COVID-19, hardly anyone is talking about it. Lyft and Uber both made statements about precautions they are taking to help their drivers, but is it really enough? In the statements released, both of the major rideshare companies included a paid 14-day sick leave for drivers who tested positive for the COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The problem here is that there is a substantial lack of testing available to the general population so it’s unlikely that a COVID-19 reporting to Uber/Lyft would occur. While the testing is limited in the US, expert speculations around how quickly this virus is spreading is alarming.

In this article, we want to talk about the following:

  1. Predictions for how the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) will affect the Rideshare economy
  2. Preventative measures we can take as a community to slow the spread 
  3. Staying safe as a rideshare driver during the COVID-19 pandemic

Predictions For How The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Affect the Rideshare Economy

After sending out a survey to a portion of our Rideshare Mechanic community geographically impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, we received some interesting insights into drivers’ experience with COVID-19. The majority of drivers reported that they saw a significant decrease in ride requests – but not all. Here’s how it broke down:

As can be seen from the data, more than 72% of the drivers who responded to our survey said that they are noticing a decrease in ride requests, and 50% of those reported that they noticed a significant decrease in ride requests.

At RideShare Mechanic, we see this going potentially two different ways: 

1. Ridesharing begins to slow for a period of time because of the social separation recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

2. The Rideshare Industry could start to become relatively more popular among individuals who typically relied on public transportation and are now seeking a safer mode of transportation that minimizes contact with others, or because public transit is shut down.

Fox Business produced an article on March 6, 2020, including this insight from another rideshare insider :

“Lyft reported their highest week of rides/revenue ever, I’ve talked to drivers and haven’t noticed a huge boom in business but they have definitely heard from passengers who are opting for Uber and Lyft over higher-density modes like public transit.” Campbell proceeded to say in the same article that Instacart and other grocery delivery apps are facing a “big boom” right now in what is likely a correlation with people who are “in the prepping phase and stocking up on supplies in case things take a turn.”

Harry Campbell The RideShare Guy

This growth in food/grocery delivery app activity is expected to continue as we navigate this crisis. Sign up for DoorDash to be prepared for the spike in delivery activity by clicking here.

What Do Rideshare Drivers Predict? 

We sent out another survey with an open ended question to our community: “How do you think this situation will impact the rideshare market?” 494 drivers responded and the majority of the responses were similar in nature. Most drivers believe that ridesharing will decrease in popularity for a period of time and ramp back up when the crisis begins to avert and the rate of new COVID-19 cases begins to drop. The belief among many of the drivers is that people will not go out as often, so the demand for rides will greatly diminish. This has made many rideshare drivers concerned about their income. Our recommendation to these drivers is to diversify their income with other Gig services that don’t require people to leave their homes, such as food and grocery delivery. 

Preventative measures we can take as a community to slow the spread 

In the same survey just mentioned, there were a number of drivers stating fear/uncertainty surrounding their (the driver’s) own health safety in the midst of this pandemic, so we wanted to give our take on some things drivers can do to prevent exposure to the virus and protect the driver, riders, and community.

When in crisis, it is very important for us all to work together in looking out for what’s best for everyone (especially those who are most vulnerable such as the elderly and people with pre-existing health concerns or compromised immunity). Ridesharing actually provides a safer alternative to public transit in a pandemic like COVID-19, but we need to operate from a place of defense right now to support those who are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 outbreak. The WHO (World Health organization) summarizes our responsibilities as a society using four pillars:

  1. Prepare and be ready.
  2. Detect, protect and treat.
  3. Reduce transmission.
  4. Innovate and learn. 

Let’s try to apply some of these concepts recommended by the WHO to use as best practices for Rideshare drivers.

*Disclaimer* we are NOT health-care professionals, We have done research on reputable sources which you can find in the In-text citations, and are providing our summarized recommendations based on that research. RideShare Mechanic strongly recommends doing your own research on the issue before making decisions that could impact you, your loved ones, and your passengers.

6 Tips to Stay Safe During COVID-19 as a Rideshare Driver

1. When driving, keep ALL your windows rolled down. You may have heard about Coronavirus-Cruise-ship catastrophes where everyone gets infected on the entire ship? This is almost entirely because of air ventilation issues that cruise ships have notoriously had for the span of their existence. According to the CDC, the Coronavirus is incredibly contagious because it is spread person-to-person primarily airborne. Any extra airflow will help with prevention, however only turn on the AC if all the windows are down as well.

2. Have single passengers sit in the seat furthest away from you as possible, and remind all passengers to cover their mouths when they cough/sneeze. What the CDC knows is that COVID-19 spreads by close contact (people within 6 feet of one and other) through respiratory droplets that an infected person produces when they sneeze or cough. What they don’t know is if it spreads through an infected person breathing in and out, but it’s likely. Create as much distance between you and your passengers and encourage your passengers to do the same. If your car has a third row, encourage your passengers to sit in the third row to maximize the distance between you and them.

3. Have Hand Sanitizer in your car. This comes in wipes, gels, and other random mediums. Whatever the delivery method is, the contents of what is inside the product is what’s important. Please be sure to only offer/use hand sanitizers with at least 70% alcohol or check out the EPA’s list of proven disinfectants here.

4. Opt-out of UberPool/Lyft Line!: The more people in a contained area, the higher risk of the virus spreading. While shared-ride options can fill your day with more rides, it’s not worth the risk. In a third survey we sent out we found out some insights into what’s going on with Uber Pool right now; have a look.

Update: As of March 17, 2020, Uber and Lyft have halted all shared/pool rides in the US and Canada. So thankfully, it seems that you don’t have to worry about this one anymore!

5. Create a sign to put in your car explaining precautions: Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to a COVID-19. The more our communities know about how to decrease the spread of the virus the better. Put things on the sign such as “Please make sure to keep all windows down to increase airflow for COVID-19 prevention” and “Please use hand sanitizer and cover your mouth when you cough/sneeze

6. Don’t service riders who are showing symptoms: Communicate with passengers to let you know if they are sick: Put a sign on the outside of your car communicating that if they are sick in any way, they can not come in your vehicle. In these dark times, riders will completely understand. In the rare case that it causes some issue for you as a rideshare driver (such as a low rating, complaint etc) Uber/Lyft should understand so communicate the situation with them through their proper support channels.

Balance is a force of nature. Once the COVID-19 health crisis is over, riders will be eager to get out of their homes. There will be a boom in rideshare demand and you need to be prepared to ride the wave! RideShare Mechanic is the only service that can get drivers approved and on the road completely remotely. We use video technology to allow our users to complete their vehicle inspection from wherever they are. We are the only non-contact, COVID-19 proof inspection service! To be prepared for this wave of rider demand, we can also help you get on a number of other rideshare platforms (all remotely of course). Click here to sign up for an inspection or just to chat with someone from the RideShare Mechanic team!