Friday, September 23, 2016

San Francisco and San Jose Airport Business Permit Dilemma


East Bay and South Bay ridesharing drivers should be excluded from obtaining business permits to drive in San Francisco. These drivers don't rely on San Francisco riders to make a living. All drivers servicing East Bay and South Bay cities have a right to reject trip requests originating from within San Francisco. TNC drivers are not required to work in San Francisco; they have the freedom to drive in this city or avoid giving rides there. Furthermore, San Jose is also trying to milk TNC drivers who make drop-offs and pick-ups at this South Bay airport with requiring business permits. 

Two Bay Area cities are changing the ridesharing landscape; they're making a profit off these drivers who don't make much money after major fare cuts destroyed their earning potential. Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft have given little input on business permit requirements affecting San Francisco and San Jose drivers. These ride platforms refuse to protect their drivers from spending additional money on unnecessary fees, such as costly citations and impound fees, as well as the cost of business permits.      

Because California recently ruled ridesharing drivers as independent contractors, TNC companies can now settle class action suits filed against them and move past these potentially costly claims to expand their business operations. As a result of this ruling, ridesharing drivers can accept and reject ride requests without receiving flack from their ride platforms. Nevertheless, drivers are aware of company policies that require them to accept a fair percentage of rides and avoid canceling active trips.  Most importantly, TNC drivers are independent contractors and not employees of these ridesharing companies. 

Expecting ridesharing drivers who don't transport San Francisco riders to obtain permits without allowing them to opt out is unethical. If drivers must hold a business permit in their possession to make drop-offs and pick-ups in San Francisco, Uber and Lyft should integrate a feature to determine which drivers have a valid business permit. Withholding destinations from drivers put these service providers at a disadvantage.

For example, an East Bay driver completes a trip in the Berkeley Hills during an East Bay promotional period. They receive a ride request from a client located higher up in the hills. It is almost a given this client will need a ride to the city and/or SFO. Once this driver reaches the pickup address, they notice the client has their luggage ready to load. Based on the late time of this trip, there is a 50 percent chance this client is either going to SFO or Oakland Airport. Nonetheless, this driver is unlucky this ride is traveling to SFO. If this driver knew beforehand this trip would be going to SFO, they would have avoided accepting the ride request. Why?

The driver doesn’t hold a permit to drive in San Francisco. Moreover, the driver relied on the current East Bay promo to increase their trip count. They could have earned more money completing trips with a boost rather than travel all the way to SFO in traffic and return back to the East Bay without a ride. Potential loss of trips, loss of money and time is wasted taking an SFO trip that would only net this driver $25 after fees and bridge toll is covered upfront. Depending on San Francisco city policies, this driver could risk receiving a citation and/or getting towed for accepting trips in SF or making a drop-off or picking-up riders at SFO.

All these challenges occur because TNC companies refuse to support their drivers. They withhold rider destinations until drivers start trips. Furthermore, drivers have no idea whether their riders are leaving their zone into conflicting cities such as San Jose and San Francisco. The city of San Jose requires all drivers making drop-offs or pick-ups at San Jose Airport to hold a valid business permit. What if an East Bay driver servicing El Cerrito, Albany, Berkeley and/or Emeryville receives a blind ride request that is going to San Jose Airport? This East Bay driver could be put in a serious situation if there is a spot check for business permits conducted at San Jose Airport.

TNC drivers are warned for canceling trips. Uber recently changed UberPool policy to only allow riders 2 minutes to arrive or be canceled. These no-show riders don’t reply back to text messages, answer phone calls and/or show up to accept rides. Drivers are unable to move on without canceling this trip as a no-show. When drivers are influenced to cancel these trips, Uber sends out a text messages and emails warning drivers that cancellations impact riders and this activity can result in future deactivation.

Are you serious? Please tell us this is a joke. Uber revises their UberPool cancellation policy, so a sample amount of riders who are no-shows happen to put drivers in an unfavorable position to cancel trips. Uber is thus warning drivers, even the most experienced Partners, that canceling trips will affect riders and they will take action to potentially deactivate offenders. Wow! What is a driver supposed to do? They can sit with their two UberPool clients and wait until the third rider decides to claim this ride. They can wait at a pickup location for an extended period of time to hope their rider shows up.

In actuality, these “no-show” riders impact drivers. They also influence other clients from getting rides. Additionally, drivers go without completed trips because they are locked-in on irresponsible riders who lack any decency to cancel their trips ahead of time. Do these riders know that drivers must travel far to make pickups without getting paid to do so? Uber changed from guaranteed hourly promotions to a boost that rewards their drivers. No completed trips during a specific time period means no boost in ride earnings.

The argument here is that ridesharing companies never briefed their drivers about who (in-house employee?) released sensitive information to the San Francisco City Treasurer’s Office. They told their drivers to follow local policies or risk adverse actions taken against them. Ridesharing companies enforce new cancellation policies, but then hold drivers accountable for following this code. These companies haven’t integrated a feature for drivers to share if they have a business permit to accept rides in San Francisco.  If drivers don’t have business permits to drive in San Francisco or make drop-offs or pick-ups at San Jose Airport, they shouldn’t receive ride requests that could result in fines and/or impound fees. No San Francisco and Easy Bay drivers can predict San Jose Airport trips since these ride platforms withhold this information until a trip begins. It is up to drivers to use the restroom and get gas ahead of time, because waiting to perform these actions could result in a long trip request and/or worse – a citation at San Jose Airport for non-business permit holders.

Given the facts, “no-show” riders influence driver earnings and are the source of cancellation warnings sent to drivers. Let’s not even delve into riders submitting false reports to harm drivers and ride platforms refusing to share the validity of such complaints. That’s an entirely different problem that requires in-house attention. Business permits, cancellation policies, and withholding rider destinations upon accepting ride requests are major problems challenging drivers. In retrospect, TNC drivers have limited protection under ride platforms while dealing with conflicting riders, poor cancellation terms and conditions, and flawed local policies.