Record demand for Uber outstrips supply of drivers

Uber said on Monday that total bookings for March including food delivery and passenger services reached an all-time high

Last week, Uber announced $250m in sign-up bonuses and other perks to lure more drivers [File: Damian Dovarganes/AP]
Last week, Uber announced $250m in sign-up bonuses and other perks to lure more drivers [File: Damian Dovarganes/AP]

Uber is offering sign-up bonuses and other incentives for drivers as it faces record demand for rides and meal delivery.

The ride-hailing company, based in San Francisco in the United States, said Monday that total monthly bookings, including food delivery and passenger service, reached an all-time high in March.

In a government filing, the company said demand for ride-hailing, which plunged during coronavirus lockdowns last year, has recovered more quickly than expected as daily COVID-19 vaccinations exceed three million per day in the US.

Some people are still avoiding public transportation out of infection fears, potentially boosting demand for services like Uber and Lyft further.

Passenger bookings last month reached the highest level since last March, when spiking infection rates began to shut the country down. Bookings last month hit an annual run rate of $30bn. Last year, Uber’s passenger business recorded $26.4bn in gross bookings.

Food delivery has surged over the past year, and in March Uber Eats deliveries hit an all-time high [File: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg]
Food delivery has surged over the past year, and in March Uber Eats deliveries hit an all-time high. With more regions opening restaurants to at least partial capacity, that could be a positive sign for Uber as it could signal that some habits acquired during the pandemic may stick.

Food delivery jumped 150 percent from last March to an annualised run rate of $52bn, the company said.

Last week, Uber announced $250m in sign-up bonuses and other perks to lure more drivers. Many drivers stopped working for the company last year when demand dried up, the company said. But demand now exceeds the supply of Uber drivers on call, the company said.

In another perk, Uber has partnered with Walgreens to make it easier for drivers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Driving professionally, however, may still be considered too risky by some. Last month, a woman was arrested on suspicion of pepper-spraying a San Francisco Uber driver who was coughed at and insulted after he demanded that a passenger wear a mask.

Drivers may still be holding out to see if Uber will sweeten pay and benefits. Last month, Uber was forced to classify its drivers in the United Kingdom as employees – not contract workers – after a Supreme Court ruling there. The company said Monday that it has begun a historical claims settlement for its UK drivers.

Shares of Uber Technologies Inc rose nearly five percent to $60.40 Monday.

Source: AP

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