HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The flexibility of making money to support his family as a rideshare driver was attractive to Paul Price when he began driving more than a decade ago. Now that gas prices, a cost he must cover, are reaching record highs, Price said many drivers are passing on shorter rides where they make less money.
“I could break away and go to my son’s baseball game or take him to the doctor or take him to school if he was sick. I still can do that, but it costs me more money to do that now with gas prices what they are,” Price said.
The average cost of a gallon of gas in Richmond is $4.25 and $4.37 nationally. Price said rideshare drivers were already making less money per ride, and Uber, for example, only provides a 55-cents per ride to help offset gas costs.
“If they lower the fares and give us 55-cents, that won’t cover, what, a tenth of a gallon? That won’t get me half a mile,” Price said. “I can’t afford to take a ride unless it’s going to pay me a minimum of $25 for a ride. I get rides in here outside the airport that are $7 or $6, and I just pass them by. I just ignore them. I can’t afford to take them.”
Uber said in a statement announcing the surcharge that the company is doing its best to assist drivers as gas prices spike.
Across the economy, consumers are feeling the squeeze of high gas prices. The cost for diesel fuel is at record highs too, and experts said the increased cost to transport goods is leading to higher prices at stores.
Coupled with an already violate fuel market, and VCU Supply Chain Management Professor Jeff Smith said increased demand for gas and restrictions on Russian oil means it’s unclear how long gas prices will stay at this level.
“You’ve seen cybersecurity hacks on a pipeline. You’ve seen a shipping tanker turned sideways in the Suez Canal. You’ve seen a freeze in Texas the likes we’ve never seen before,” Smith explained. “You’ve seen a global pandemic. You’ve now seen an uncertain situation in Eastern Europe. All these things coming together normally you hit once, and you wait years. But they’re all happening at the same time,” Smith said.
Price said he feels bad when he passes on taking a ride, but he's thinking about his entire financial picture, which includes business costs.
“My acceptance rating went from 90 percent for the past ten years to almost 30 percent,” he said.
Price said his family is not 100 percent reliant on his income from driving rideshare, which is not the case for other drivers he knows.
“There’s another driver out here, his wife needs medicine that costs hundreds of dollars every time. It makes it hard for them to take care of their family. Luckily, I don’t have that, but if I did, I don’t know how I’d make it work. I really don’t,” he said.
Price said some riders tell him they will help him out through tipping but don’t always follow through. As the gas price surge continues, Price said tipping drivers can really help them out.