How Rideshare Drivers Can Protect Themselves and Their Riders Right Now
Rideshare drivers across the United States are slowly opening their apps again after the pandemic put rideshares on pause for a couple months.
But now these gig workers are facing a major problem: How do you make riders feel safe in your car in the middle of a public health crisis?
Here are five steps every driver on hiatus should follow as they get back to the grind.
1. Educate Yourself on the New Policies
Uber and Lyft both made significant changes to their policies in June, so before you even think about picking someone up, make sure you’re aware of the new rules.
Lyft’s new Health Safety Program has four important aspects:
1. Face masks for drivers and riders: You can’t drive for Lyft if you’re not wearing a face covering, nor can anyone get in your car if they’re not wearing one.
2. Personal health certifications for drivers and riders: This takes the form of a digital agreement that appears on the app for every driver and rider. Both driver and rider have to promise they don’t have COVID-19 or any symptoms; they’ll wear face masks or coverings for the entire ride; they’ll keep the rideshare vehicle clean and sanitize hands often; they’ll leave windows open when possible to help circulate the air; that passengers aren’t allowed to ride in to ride in the front seat.
Drivers who don’t accept these terms will not be allowed to pick up passengers, and riders will not be able to request a ride.
3. Health safety education: Using the Centers for Disease Control’s rideshare guidelines, Lyft is putting together resources for drivers and riders. Drivers currently have access to resources in their apps, and more resources will be made available soon.
4. Cleaning supplies and masks: Lyft says these materials will be distributed to drivers, who can pick them up at certain locations.
Uber rolled out its new policies in May. Several of them are similar to Lyft’s, but with a key difference.
The company has added a Go Online Checklist to the app for all drivers. Before starting a session, drivers have to confirm they’re wearing a mask by taking a selfie. If a driver is not wearing a mask or face covering, they will not be allowed to go online to accept rides.
Riders have to follow similar guidelines — including agreeing to wear a mask, sanitizing their hands, sitting in the back seat and opening their windows when possible — before they’ll be allowed to request rides.
It’s also important to know that both Lyft and Uber drivers can currently cancel trips without penalty if their rider isn’t wearing a face cover. The same goes for riders if their driver isn’t wearing a face covering.
2. Get Your Cleaning Supplies and Masks
Both Lyft and Uber have allocated millions of dollars to buy cleaning supplies and masks for drivers, but each company is distributing the supplies and masks in a different way.
Lyft drivers can pick up masks and sanitizing spray at contact-free areas outside of certain Hubs, Driver Centers and Express Drive locations. Specific information is available on Lyft’s website.
Uber shipped packages of masks, disinfectant sprays, wipes, hand sanitizer and gloves directly to the homes of many drivers located in certain areas. In countries where shipping is more difficult, reimbursements are being offered for cleaning supplies and protective equipment. Supplies are also being handed out at some of the company’s Greenlight Hub locations.
If you haven’t received supplies from Lyft or Uber, Casetify will quickly ship cloth masks that come with filters. Plus, for every $15 purchase of a reusable cotton mask, the company will donate a surgical mask to a healthcare worker through the nonprofit Direct Relief.
If you’re still having a hard time finding antibacterial soap, both the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the CDC say washing your hands for 20 seconds in plain soap and water will do a good job of preventing the spread of infectious disease. (That means you can just grab a bar of soap in the cosmetic aisle, and you’ll be good to go.)
3. Clean Frequently-Touched Surfaces
Grab a disinfectant of your choice and wipe down all door handles, seat belts and buckles, window control buttons, air vents, and anything else that a rider might be tempted to touch. (Don’t forget the exterior door handles!)
Don’t worry about the seat cushions — instead, think about where hands would go. That includes areas that are only touched occasionally, such as cup holders, armrests, and seat or headrest adjustment buttons.)
How often you clean these areas is up to you, but Ryan Hazy, of Las Vegas, who has been driving for rideshare services for five years, recommends cleaning as much as possible. He also recommends having extra sanitizers on hand.
“I provide my passengers with movies, trivia, candy, waters, gum, but I also make sure I have hand sanitizer in the car, and I sanitize my car after every ride,” he said.
4. Consider Added Levels of Protection
Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy and author of The Rideshare Guide, said the updated Lyft and Uber guidelines are an important first step, but drivers can take additional steps to ensure maximum safety for themselves and their passengers.
“We recommend N95 masks since they protect your passengers and yourself,” Campbell said. “You can find them in stock on Amazon and other retailers these days now that supply has increased.”
He also recommends drivers — particularly those driving full time — consider purchasing and installing a plastic barrier to place between them and their passengers. He’s familiarized himself with Reef Technology’s barrier and says the company’s website is a good starting point for anyone looking to install a plastic barrier in their car.
5. Be Prepared for All Scenarios
Keep in mind that these policies are still new to everybody, so when you get back on the road, some of your customers may not be inclined to follow health safety protocols.
“The biggest challenge I have noticed is forcing people to wear masks that don’t want to,” Hazy said. “It’s difficult to force people to do things they don’t want to. But when it comes down to it, I run a business. No mask, no ride. If you don’t want to wear a mask in public then stay at home.”
Campbell said if a customer refuses to wear a mask, it’s important to defuse the situation as calmly and quickly as possible.
“Drivers should let passengers know that it’s a company policy and there’s not much they can do about it, and that they could even lose their ability to drive if they gave a ride to a passenger that wasn’t wearing a mask,” Campbell said.
Campbell said that usually does the trick, and adds that situations like that are why it’s a good idea to have a few spare masks on hand.
Remember: both platforms have given you the right to refuse a ride — both as a driver and as a rider — if you feel unsafe, and you won’t incur a penalty for doing so.
“Don’t be afraid to refuse service for any reason,” Hazy added. “It is your right to protect yourself and your car. Your car is your office and anyone who disrespects your office should not be there.”
Niki Kottmann is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.