There are a couple phone apps out there that are advertising how you could make up to $20 per hour by giving rides to people in your personal car.
In theory, this is great! In practice, not so much. The owners of these apps are in it for the short term. They want to bleed the consumers and drivers for a short time and split when things turn sour, and I think that time might already be upon us. There’s a court case currently about how a driver that was logged into an app (but not loaded with a passenger) hit and killed a child. I discussed this with someone on social media about how it was clearly the driver’s fault for hitting the child, but it was the company’s fault for not covering the driver with liability insurance. I personally believe the media coverage of this case prompted the other prominent taxi app to start covering their drivers with liability insurance. The person I was arguing with pointed out that the driver wasn’t working a call at the time, so wasn’t really WORKING… but most of every taxi driver’s shift is spent empty, positioning themselves where they think the next call might pop up. If this driver wasn’t using the app, he would have probably been either at home or at a different job, not logged into his taxi app presenting as “available” for a call while driving a car.
Liability insurance isn’t cheap. My company spends over $100k per year to cover our drivers for up to approximately $1m in damages, which includes accidents like the example above. This prompts us to hire drivers with good driving records (and we get updates regularly to make sure they maintain good records) and train them each in defensive driving. This is responsible to our community. I know it is AWFUL losing a loved one, but imagine having no recourse when it happens. These taxi apps don’t advertise that applicants using their apps should get personal liability insurance because it isn’t cheap and would probably dissuade people from becoming their drivers… because it wouldn’t be worth the cost. The owners of these apps just want to make a quick buck and skip town- they’re not interested in the drivers or the passengers, only their money. Both of these app have terrible business plans and need to be overhauled before they are safe and humane.
In Madison these apps aren’t legal yet, but it isn’t stopping them from advertising specifically to our citizens. They’re testing the waters to see if interest is high enough to try to challenge our city’s regulations. Every transportation provider in Madison needs to go through the city to get fingerprinted, photographed, and background checked to make sure they’re safe for the public. No rapists, no felons. The internet apps don’t provide any safety nets like this, and this is why they’re not legal in Madison, WI.
On the flipside, if you’re interested in driving for one of these apps, all you know is that you’re picking someone up. What makes you think they won’t rob you, that they’re not using their cousin’s phone to hide their identity? A stolen phone maybe? To a lesser degree, how do you know the friend tagging along with them won’t puke in your car? Your PERSONAL car. How do you know that cute girl isn’t going to take something you say and blow it way out of proportion and sue you for sexual harassment? Did you remember to get professional liability insurance? Are you prepared for getting harassed yourself? All you have is your cell phone, you don’t have a dispatch office backing you up, knowing where you are in GPS, and prepared with decades of experience on how to handle things when they go south. If your troublemaker passengers know you don’t have any recourse other than your cell phone, what’s to stop them from going too far?
I personally make more than a living wage, approximately what these apps are advertising their drivers could make. I work nights and weekends, when we’re busiest, when its the most stressful, and when it’s arguably the most “risky”. I feel safe because I have a crew of 4 to 6 people listening for me on the radio in the dispatch office, and other cabs buzzing around me in the city keeping their eyes out for my bright yellow (conspicuous) vehicle. I get health and dental insurance, am covered by liability insurance, have a support network of people in the same boat for de-stressing after a shift. We have a good relationship with the city’s police department. Our employees have some of the most flexible schedules of any workplace I have heard about. The only reason I could see someone WANTING to work for a taxi app is because they have a shitty driving or criminal record. Why not just apply for a company who offers more security to both the drivers and passengers? Why settle for a stranger who you can’t hold accountable if you’re looking for a ride home?
Here is a very good article about Georgia’s struggles with the transportation apps. It touches base a little on how city regulations try to prevent discrimination (you cannot refuse a passenger unless they’re extremely intoxicated or being abusive) and how these apps flaunt the ability to deny rides.
Here is an article about the underhanded way Uber tries to force surge pricing.
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