Rideshare companies Uber, Lyft offering incentives to curb driver shortage

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Have you tried to hail a ride using an app lately? Many riders reporting higher prices and longer wait times on Uber and Lyft. 

Companies have reported driver shortages on rideshare platforms. This has prompted companies to start offering incentives hoping to attract former and new drivers. 

Steve Kolb has been driving for Uber and Lyft on and off for three years. He said COVID-19 changed the industry in 2020. 

“It was a struggle for a period of time,” Kolb said. “I was fortunate that I had a sales career to fall back on and did not have to rely on gig work.” 

Seeing some of the lowest ridership numbers, many drivers changed course, moving to food delivery or filing for unemployment. 

“A lot of people were making as much money, or more, not driving. Since that’s been extended, there’s no incentive to get back behind the wheel,” Kolb said. “You’re putting the miles on your car, spending the gas, all the wear and tear. Why not just keep collecting the check every week?” 

As people get vaccinated, more restrictions have been lifted, and more people want to get back outside. Rideshare companies are reporting record rider numbers, but drivers aren’t coming back as fast. That’s causing many people to wait longer for their ride and pay more, too. 

In a statement, a spokesperson from Lyft wrote: “We’re seeing big increases in demand for rides, as vaccines roll out and people get ready to start moving again. We’re working to meet demand, including providing incentives to drivers, who are busier and earning more than they were even before the pandemic.” 

Uber did not respond to FOX4’s requests for comment but the company announced it would be rolling out a $250 million stimulus package to offer higher wages for drivers. Lyft is also offering bonuses for referring former drivers. 

Considering the incentives coupled with the demand, Kolb expects things will return close to normal soon. 

“I think as passengers come back, more drivers will come back,” Kolb said. “I think the expectation that passengers are going to have is it’s not going to be like it was a year ago, where there’s always going to be a car five minutes away.” 

Kolb said he expects some drivers will continue to focus on food delivery because the tips are higher there. 

In the meantime, if you need a ride on one of the apps, you can consider the schedule ride feature. 

“What happens is the system will start sending that request out early so if you say I need to be picked up at 5:30, it may start pinging the driver at like 5:00, and trying to get somebody to be there on time,” Kolb said.

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