Tuesday, October 04, 2016

How removing "Pause A Ride" feature can harm drivers

Uber Partners move millions of people around in many cities across the world. In the Bay Area of Northern California, home to top startup companies, Uber represents the primary mode of transportation in this thriving tech region. People rely on Uber so much their independence on this ride platform is rather habitual, rather addicting. Furthermore, university, community college, and high school students use Uber daily. Uber Partners, known by clients as an Uber driver, provide this valuable ride service.

A recent California ruling lawfully gave Uber the right to classify their Uber Partners as independent contractors. Uber paid out this multimillion dollar settlement to clear the road for the future. This means that Uber, in California, is exempt from giving their drivers access to any employee benefits. As a result of this class action settlement, Uber Partners won't enjoy benefits and rights that most full-time employees receive under traditional working establishments.

We understand that drivers are given the freedom to work whenever and wherever they want. This added flexibility may outweigh the risk to work without employee benefits. On the inverse, hiring on drivers as employees would severely impact Uber. Under such conditions, they would clearly struggle to keep a large driver base and offer their clients ride promotions. It makes sense to classify drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. It's a win-win for both sides.

Uber drivers don't understand the business model. If these drivers want to be classified as employees, they will relinquish their freedom to work whenever and wherever. The drawback of a company driver is paying out a much higher share of earnings. Black car and chauffeur companies will take a 60 percentage share of all rides. Do you think it's fair for limo/car companies to take $60,000 out of $100,000 earnings because they supply a car, gas, insurance and car washes? No way!

For the most part, internal business practices can change the dynamics of this employee/independent contractor relationship. It seems that Uber won't get into legal trouble for manipulating their ride app in a way that challenges most drivers to get gas and take periodical restroom breaks. A simple feature,  pausing a ride, can help drivers get offline to take extended breaks, get gas and use the restroom. On the opposing side, removing this feature and/or setting limitations will complicate the driving process.

Suddenly, Uber is now manipulating drivers to meet their extremely high demand. They automatically connect UberPool trips without driver approval, attach acceptance rate requirements to weekly bonus, warn drivers against cancellations using possible deactivation, connect new trips while drivers are on active trips, attach acceptance rate restrictions on UberEats, and set 2 minute limit on UberPool riders. Uber won't give drivers promotional ride credit for destination trips. They only allow 30 UberEat deliveries to count toward trip milestone bonuses. Do drivers really have rights driving with Uber?

What do drivers think the moment after starting a trip? If and when it's busy, drivers struggle to get gas. They struggle to use the restroom. Uber tells their drivers they can only use the pause feature for extended breaks. When this feature is used to pause multiple trips, even to help UberPool riders who make mistakes with wrong number of riders, Uber will block driver access to pause future trips.

Uber warns their drivers against canceling trips. They believe these cancellations influence the user experience. The essential goal is to maintain high standards. However, clients are free to request and cancel trips multiple times without any penalties. If Partners follow this pattern of behavior, Uber may temporarily and/or permanently deactivate their driver accounts.

What problems may arise from removing the "pause a ride" feature?
  • Urinary tract infection (constantly holding bladder)
  • Temporary deactivation (excessive cancellations). UberPool 2-minute time policy cause higher rate of no-shows, clients don't answer text message notifications and phone calls, wrong pin drops influence pickups, rider mistakes with addresses, clients requesting drivers to cancel so no fees, car-related repairs that can cause drivers to miss extended periods of time and result in driver accounts being put on a waiting list, rider accidentally requests a ride and driver must cancel,  
  • Permanent deactivation (cancellations and low driver ratings).
  • Using restroom in public place can result in indecent exposure charge (most restrooms closed during night and late evening hours). Most evening facilities claim restrooms are out of order, refuse access after 7pm, block access for customers only, refuse access altogether to decrease homeless use, and close early in slower cities. During daytime hours, limited parking may delay restroom use. See state laws for using restroom in public. 
  • Possible citations for drivers who don't hold business permits to drive in the city of San Francisco and at San Jose Airport. Drivers have a right to block potentially conflicting trips. An UberPool trip into San Francisco may result in multiple connections. Depending on San Francisco local policies, drivers without a business permit can receive a citation and get penalized. 
  • Run out of gas between rides.
  • UberPool clients (low percentage) fail to include second rider in ride request. They refuse to cancel trip to reorder again. In this instances, automatic pool connections create seating issues.   
  • Driver rating issues from being unable to go offline (restroom, hydration and lack of eating may affect driving performance). A low percentage of riders focus on their personal needs. There is no flexibility to get gas and/or use restroom while en route to client. UberPool and automatic connections complicate this process. 
  • Health issues (poor blood flow in lower extremities, sitting on wallets may partially block common iliac artery, sick riders spreading germs (one sick rider sneezed droplets on driver's face), lack of movement (sitting jobs are hazardous to health), poor eating and limit fluid intake while driving, back problems, eye strain, and other risks). 
  • Concealing destinations from drivers create restroom, break, fatigue, and gas problems. There are no warnings to identify distance of trips - whether these are long or short trips. "Pause a ride" feature can prepare drivers to accept many short and long trips. 
  • Setting limitations on pausing trips and temporarily suspending feature inhibit driving performance. 
  • Safety issues with running out of gas in bad areas. 
The next time Uber decides to set limitations on "pause a ride" to block back-end connections, UberPool connections and conflicting trips, they better think about the additional stress placed on drivers withholding this feature. When clients request the wrong number of UberPool riders, they refuse to cancel since there is a fee and seating issues arise to complicate future connections. These clients may refuse to pay the additional $1 co-rider fee. 

Nevertheless, UberPool and UberX clients are no-shows. They input wrong addresses, make mistakes ordering rides, manipulate system with repeatedly requesting and canceling rides, over seat occupancy, and create other challenging issues. Driving for long periods of time, sitting jobs, may cause drivers to develop future health problems.

If Uber wants to set limitations on the "pause a ride" feature, a possible solution is to offer this feature 2-4 times per 24-hour period. At first, Uber introduced this feature as a way to get gas, take a break and use the restroom. However, Uber is now indicating this feature is only to take an extended break. When drivers are working multiple hours during the week, they can't predict when to use the restroom and/or to get gas. 

Non-stop delivery, UberX and UberPool requests challenge drivers to get offline. UberEats clients keep drivers waiting at destinations, so keeping these delivery trips open will result in another request. If drivers ignore these requests, they can reduce acceptance rate and delivery accounts may be placed on hold. Nevertheless, drivers can use delivery orders to their advantage by asking permission to use restaurant facilities. 

Going offline is much tougher now. Uber introduced back-to-back trips and automatically connected UberPool trips without driver permission. It is assumed these features decrease downtime and increase ride count and boost earnings. Accepting UberPool and UberX before ending UberEats trip can create additional problems because ignoring these requests will continue a vicious cycle of incoming requests. Once drivers cancel trips on their side, they are given warnings via text messages and emails.   

Furthermore, city of San Francisco and San Jose Airport business permit dilemma put drivers in an unfavorable position to receive citations. Excessive fines that go unpaid are sent to DMV. Action is taken these drivers, whose vehicle registration renewals escalate in cost and state intercept requests are submitted to collect future taxes on behalf of this owed entity. No matter how drivers may view this challenge, the impact of fines and citations can/will eventually cause future deactivation. Without an active registration on file, Uber driver account will be placed on hold. Beware of driving in San Francisco and at San Jose airport, as business permits are required to operate in these areas. 

Removing and/or temporarily suspending this ride pause feature influences both drivers and riders. Uber must consider a better option to help drivers get offline, knowing their drivers are not driverless cars and/or machines. These drivers must get offline to use the restroom, take breaks and get gas. Using coercion tactics, such as scaring drivers with warnings and deactivation, are unethical approaches to increase productivity. Showing drivers better respect will ensure they're comfortable transporting clients to destinations. This entire ride-sharing process requires patience and high safety standards. Therefore, it is best for Uber to Give drivers some slack and stop playing games with their safety and health.