Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Don't Quit Your Day Job Just Yet

New drivers fall into the rookie trap in believing their first week of earnings, including new driver bonus, will be consistent throughout the year. What these drivers fail to realize is that new driver bonuses can take a veteran driver 20-35 hours of weekly driving - minus fees - to earn. The second week minus bonuses is much more accurate to compare with future weeks, which these new drivers must increase hours by 20-35 hours per week to match their first week pay.

In present time, Uber is doing is a way better job of keeping their drivers happy with featuring driver promotions and incentives. Before featuring driver bonuses beginning in mid- February and around the 2015 holiday season, Uber put their veteran drivers in many unfavorable positions to lose money, time, get citations (Fastrak + bus citations + BART tickets + airport citations), and ruin their credit. These drivers were stuck footing the bill on costly fines/citations they would never get if they never drove on the Uber ride platform. 

Veteran drivers missed time dealing with expensive repairs, paying for maintenance costs, filling up gas when gas prices skyrocketed, and replenishing bank accounts with past toll costs. So many drivers missed valuable time on the road; they were restricted by internal policies that couldn't help them when their vehicles went out of commission. 

In 2014, an Uber client broke a driver's door on their BMW. This driver mentioned this broken door to Uber, but nothing could be done to help him overcome this challenge. A few months of driving with this broken passenger door lowered his driver ratings, restricted his driving to night shifts, and eventually cost him a $1000 to fix. He missed a few weeks after already losing many hours on the road, prior to paying for this expensive repair. What did Uber tell this driver when his car was stuck in a car shop for a few weeks? They reminded this driver he could buy another vehicle. Wow! 

Fast-forward to the next year, and additional challenges would stall this driver out again. Driving a car full of UberPool clients, this driver couldn't avoid hitting several deep potholes between the Mission Street and South Van Ness intersection in San Francisco. The force of this impact blew out his shocks. On a Sunday evening, his shocks completely failed once he completed a trip in the Berkeley Hills. Another $600 spent and another week missed. The following month brought on another setback, as the water pump spool fell off, multiple belts unraveled and the luxury vehicle shutdown to protect its engine. This driver missed a month of driving because multiple parts required replacement. 

Even worse, this driver dealt with a cooling system issue that caused his engine to overheat at the worst times. Luckily, he never got stranded while transporting any clients. He once had to blow 90 degree + heat on his legs during a 90+ degree day that kept the thermostat wide open until he could drop off his client and replenish radiator with water and coolant. This driver went through such a challenge affording expensive coolant, since most of the time the broken cooling system would leak out of multiple pin holes. 

Brake repairs, costly oil changes, fuel pump failure, fuel injection pump rupture, changing tires ever so often, broken axles, inspections, broken windshield from rock debris, windshield wipes, daily car washes and interior vacuuming, cell bill bills with data and text messaging plans, weekly fee for Uber phone without any features, and the worst of all - Fastrak violations on his perfect account that would eventually block his registration on this vehicle. To this very day, this Uber driver can't drive his luxury vehicle. It sits in his garage collecting dust, something that never happened to this driver ever before. He didn't have money to drive clients into San Francisco 10-25 times per week. Sometimes, this driver would travel back and forth 12 times in a night. Uber would require drivers to pay toll costs upfront, later reimbursing this cost by charging clients. However, all the issues mentioned above influenced this driver from affording to fund upfront toll costs. He was influenced to drive across with his Fastrak transponder and risk waiting 90 days to cover the cost of these tolls.  

According to Bay Area Fastrak, any motorists with a valid Fastrak account in good standing has up to 90 days to cover the cost of toll before it is sent out to DMV with incurred violation costs assessed. The trap went into full effect, where this driver would replenish his Fastrak account to cover these past tolls and then another new trip into the city conflicted with this arrangement. New tolls got paid, but past tolls were sent out to DMV to block his registration. Fastrak has no dashboard to review aged tolls reaching that 90-day limit. Most people have no clue if past violations will be submitted to their ensuing state. Now, all state tax returns will be taken to cover thousands in cost for violations this driver should have never received if Uber and Fastrak had a better system in place to help drivers avoid this fate. 

Over $4000+ in toll bridge fines and toll charges continue to block this registration. Therefore, the driver is unable to drive this vehicle. Luckily, this Uber driver was smart enough to use his good status with Uber to lease a vehicle through their leasing program. If he didn't make this move to stay with Uber, he would have been deactivated. Uber temporarily deactivated the luxury vehicle once the registration lapsed. Because so many drivers are on a waiting list, this driver must complete at least one trip per month or risk deactivation. 

These setbacks are a fraction of the risks a driver may endure weekly. There are tough clients who refuse to follow the laws. They sneak alcohol into Uber rides. They light up joints without the driver knowing this until it is too late. They leave behind bottles of whiskey and draft beers in full plastic cups. Clients have such dirty mouths that a year supply of Orbit couldn't keep them clean. Drivers must exercise caution to avoid cursing and talking about controversial topics. These clients may smile, but then report drivers to Uber as making them feel uncomfortable on a sensitive issue. They file false reports, almost to an extent in which they're trying to hurt these drivers. So many issues, so many challenges could cause drivers to get deactivated from Uber. 

Most importantly, the star rating system and feedback matter most. Never ever get into an argument with a client because Uber favors their clients over drivers. Uber won't share any details with drivers, only vague and ambiguous emails about something that happened and that's it. The recent state of California ruling that Uber drivers are not employees, instead they are independent contractors, resonates with all Partners.

What rights do you have if Uber will go the distance to protect the privacy of clients? Uber Partners have limited rights. Unfortunately, Uber has no answers how the San Francisco City Treasurer's Office gained access to thousand of drivers' names to request backpay, penalties, and future business permit fees to operate in the city. First response of this news from Uber was to comply. Later on, they apologized and shared they would investigate this breach. As time went on, they never discussed this issue again. They told all Partners who drive in San Francisco 7 days or more a year to file for business permits. This double standard reveals all Partners must watch out and be professional. If clients break the rules, this doesn't mean drivers can, too. 

With back-to-back rides, automatic UberPool connections, and high demand for UberEats, drivers may find it nearly impossible to get offline in time to use the restroom and get gas. These drivers must do their best to fill-up on gas at the beginning of driving shifts. As you may know, there are no shifts on the Uber platform. This work format is a major trap. Poor time management skills could result in low earnings. Don't get too comfortable with having freedom to work when you want. If you hold your bladder often, watch out because you may develop UTIs and may possibly succumb to kidney disease later in life. The health effects of driving and sitting can be detrimental to your future. As an independent contractor, there is no job security since you can get deactivated at any time.  

Don't quit your day job just yet. Drive with Uber part-time until you can develop a good plan to succeed: time management, reliable vehicles, showing good professionalism, avoiding common traps and pitfalls, and understanding the entire Uber platform where you can run their operations. The worst action you can take is to quit your day job and get unfairly deactivated during the holiday season. It's happened to many Lyft drivers during the holidays based on a flawed rating system, so this is something to be concerned about as we approach the holidays. If you survive on the Uber platform, you become your own boss and this can open doors to multiple business opportunities. 

Be smart and don't quit your day job. Just know that you must refine your character traits while driving people. To keep active on Uber, don't get into conflict. Allow Uber to handle these poor clients. Just keep in mind that you won't have to deal with this client after the ride is completed. Be extra careful with drunk riders; they can be aggressive, belligerent, hostile, and can vomit in your vehicle. If you believe driving with Uber is worth leaving your day job, go ahead and make that move at your own risk. Our best advice is to wait until you can determine whether you enjoy driving the rest of your life and if your earnings are enough make driving a primary job. Good luck!