They’re calling the new fee “temporary fuel assistance for drivers,” but whatever the name, starting Wednesday you will be paying anywhere between 35 and 55 cents extra for any Uber ride or Uber Eats order.
Update: Shortly after Uber's announcement, Lyft announced a similar surcharge. Though CNBC reports "The company did not provide further details on how much more riders can expect to pay."
The current historic spike in gas prices is, not surprisingly, cutting into gig workers’ wages so much that the Guardian reports they are not even making minimum wage, or more accurately, even less of less than minimum wage than they were making before. Those high prices are in turn creating other high prices, for people who use Uber and Uber Eats, at least, as KGO reports that Uber will add a fuel fee to all rides and orders starting Wednesday, a fee that could be as high as 55 cents per ride.
Uber describes the new fee on their blog as a “temporary fuel assistance for drivers and couriers,” it will vary by city and trip distance, and it is supposedly only temporary. “Rides customers will pay a surcharge of either $0.45 or $0.55 on each Uber trip, and Eats customers will pay either $0.35 or $0.45 on each Uber Eats order, depending on their location,” according to the official Uber announcement. “The surcharge is temporary for the next 60 days, but we will continue to monitor gas prices and may make additional changes.”
The company does say that “100% of this new surcharge will go directly to [the driver],” so we would hope that’s true. Given the California gas price situation, you should expect the full 55-cent surcharge in the Bay Area on all Uber rides, and the full 45-cent surcharge on all Uber Eats orders.
According to KGO, the new fee “will take effect on Wednesday,” March 16.
This current gas price spike comes at a moment when the traditionally very unprofitable Uber has actually squeezed out two consecutive marginally profitable quarters. Obviously Uber does not pay a thing for gas, that’s a driver cost. But gas prices may make drivers shy away from driving, or turn down more fares, and Uber's current profitability is small enough that it could be disrupted by driver drop-off. This may be the right move for them, though the odds of gas prices falling 60 days from now in mid-May — with Memorial Day and the summer right around the corner — are between zero and you-must-be-fucking-kidding-me.
In other words, the extra gas fee will probably be around for a while. And don’t be surprised if other gig-economy companies add similar surcharges as well. Still, we would question whether gas really does cost more to deliver and supply, when these price increases just happen to coincide with oil and gas companies posting their largest profits in years.
Image: Viktor Bystrov via Unsplash