As the pandemic safety measures become more lax in the United States (even though the infection rate with COVID-19 is still soaring), apps such as Uber and Lyft run the risk of deactivation as they make their own mask-wearing rules.
As part of the pandemic safety measures, these ride-on-demand apps had a button that allowed drivers in the U.S. to cancel rides, or even report passengers if they weren’t wearing masks, in order to protect themselves from the dangers of riding with someone who could potentially infect them with COVID-19. However, sometime in May, Lyft and Uber removed those in-app buttons, making it so each driver can set their own rules when it comes to mask-wearing.
In April, a federal judge in Florida knocked down a countrywide mask regulation that applied to a variety of modes of public transportation, including trains, aircraft, buses, and ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. Subsequently, both companies lifted their mask rules the next day.
Some drivers have expressed concern by sharing that this adds layers of complication to their jobs. It seems that the issue is mostly in relation to another pandemic-era rule that also changed: Banning passengers from sitting in the front seat of a car next to the driver. Most drivers don’t want passengers sitting unmasked right next to them, especially during inclement weather—when windows have to be closed and airflow is restricted.
This contributed to most Uber and Lyft drivers feeling less in control of their workplace, which is their car. As a result, a driver’s advocacy group, Gig Workers Rising, which has been around for 2 years, is gaining more popularity.
In the United States, app-based drivers are classified as independent contractors, which means they are legally responsible for their own “businesses.” The apps, in theory, are only a middleman between drivers and riders. But when passengers see that the apps have removed the mask mandate, it feels riskier for drivers to ask passengers to wear masks.
Drivers have to comply with the platforms’ rules in order to maintain their jobs. Therefore, drivers are worried about getting penalized if they cancel someone’s ride because they’re not wearing a mask. Apparently, drivers who cancel often can face potential “deactivation.”
Both Uber and Lyft shared that drivers will not be penalized if their cancellations are mask-related, but that doesn’t change the fact that these shifting policies will have a domino effect on the jobs and livelihood of many drivers who more often than not lack proper representation and hazard pay.
Throw in increasing gas prices and a shortage of drivers and that’s why you see an increase in prices across all ride-sharing apps.
In case you missed it, Uber can now adjust your flight reservations.