Nov 4, 2021 - News

Des Moines' driving shortage costs customers and businesses

An illustration of a driver

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Multiple transit officials around the metro are warning that a shortage of drivers is causing big headaches for businesses and governments.

Why it matters: If you haven't experienced it already, expect to see longer waits and/or higher costs for things like delivery and ride-sharing services.

The big picture: The U.S. is experiencing a historic shortfall of 80,000 drivers, the American Trucking Associations said in a statement last week. The national crunch is due in part to a broader labor shortage during the pandemic.

  • Uber and Lyft drivers were roughly 40% below capacity in July, CNBC reported. Meanwhile, the cost of catching a ride on the apps have risen drastically this year.

Zoom in: Trans Iowa — one of the metro's oldest cab companies — is down about 100 drivers, and demand for its Capitol Cab and YellowCabCo services has intensified due to fewer ride-share options, company president Randy Sackett said.

  • They recently set a $10 minimum on any trip, Sackett told Axios.
  • The company has also had to turn away new contracts with businesses like hotels in recent weeks because they aren't able to accommodate requests, he explained.

State of play: It's not just taxis. Metro governments are feeling the pain as well.

  • DART and some school districts are short dozens of drivers, offering thousands of dollars in sign-on bonuses and incentives to new employees.
  • Des Moines Airport is working directly with Trans Iowa to have more taxis on site and to reduce wait times, spokesperson Kayla Kovarna said.

What they're saying: Uber spokesperson Bobby Kellman suggested that ride-shares are rebounding, saying the company now has more drivers in the U.S. than at any other point during the pandemic.

  • Pricing and reliability have improved but there's still more work to do in some areas, he told Axios.

The bottom line: Plan ahead, including for holiday shopping.

  • The driver shortage just might be this year's biggest grinch.

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