Sep 25, 2020 - Economy

Uber says full-time drivers handle only a quarter of California rides

Uber route map with hazard signs placed on a twisty route

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

As it fights for an upcoming ballot measure to exempt it from a California law that could force it to classify drivers as employees, Uber argues that not only are "full-time" drivers a small minority of its total drivers, but also that they are responsible for just a quarter of all trips in the state.

Why it matters: If that ballot measure, known as Proposition 22, fails in November, ride-hailing and delivery companies will be forced to reclassify their drivers as employees.

What they're saying: "In the fourth quarter of 2019... the 9% of 'full-time' California drivers who averaged at least 40 hours online on Uber completed just 25% of trips.... the 74% of drivers who are online an average of 25 hours or less are responsible for a far higher amount of work using the app, doing 42% of trips.," Uber senior economist Libby Mishkin writes in a blog post.

  • Uber also claims that this trend is even more pronounced outside of major cities.
  • In San Francisco and Los Angeles, 11% of drivers work at least 40 hours per week on average, completing 27% of all trips. In Sacramento, only 3% of drivers work full-time, and they account for only 11% of trips.

Yes, but: Uber's data is based on all hours spent with the app turned on, including while a driver is waiting idle to get a new ride request, and while driving to and from a ride.

  • However, drivers are only paid while they're giving a ride, so they often spend more time online than they do earning money.

Uber's data also shows that roughly 58% of rides are by drivers who are online at least 25 hours a week (including those driving over 40 hours).

  • A spokesman tells Axios that "25 hours would be the equivalent to part time work which under our current employment system does not generally translate to the benefits of full time employees." However, some of these drivers might be working for other gig economy services for additional earnings.

The bottom line: This fight is coming down to the wire for Uber and its peers, who recently contributed an additional $70 million to their ballot campaign. The campaign donated $2 million to California's GOP.

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