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The Almighty Buck Transportation

Leaked Docs Provide An Unprecedented Look At Income Of Uber Drivers ( 323

In 2013, Uber told the Wall Street Journal that a typical Uber driver takes in more than $100,000 in annual gross fares. The ride-hail platform, which has shared similar estimates many times since, says that the company's efforts toward its drivers is a pathway to a modest, more attainable American dream. Turns out, the it has been exaggerating. According to BuzzFeed News, which obtained leaked documents, drivers in some markets don't take home much more than service workers at major chains like Walmart when it comes to net pay. According to the publication, drivers in three major U.S. markets -- Denver, Detroit, and Houston -- earned less than an average of $13.25 an hour after expenses. From the report:Based on these calculations, it's possible to estimate that Uber drivers in late 2015 earned approximately $13.17 per hour after expenses in the Denver market (which includes all of Colorado), $10.75 per hour after expenses in the Houston area, and $8.77 per hour after expenses in the Detroit market, less than any earnings figure previously released by the company.
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Leaked Docs Provide An Unprecedented Look At Income Of Uber Drivers

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  • by inode_buddha ( 576844 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:10AM (#52373511) Journal

    Of course the exaggerated. I've been watching companies do this my whole life, it seems par for the course.

    The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away. Because of this, I would never work for a franchise outfit like Uber; instead I would file a 1099 and use my own SSN for the business number (sole proprietorship) and actually work for myself.

    • However with a Franchise you have a marketing engine behind you. If you go in it for yourself you will need to do all your marketing yourself. Without the economy of scale thus you may be working in the red for many years.

      Long term if you can tolerate it, you will make out. However short term it will just suck.

    • It probably isn't exaggerated at all, you just have to understand the terms involved. Right there in the first sentence it clearly states "gross fares". Of course this number is going to be higher, and probably a lot higher, than "net pay". Basic finance fail for anyone who thought someone bragging about workers' gross contribution to company balance sheet was going to vaguely resemble employees' personal income.

  • Bad reporting. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:10AM (#52373513) Homepage

    If you start out talking about "100k in Gross Fares" then reveal that number was wrong, you need to tell us what the actual GROSS FARE was. Switching to take hour earnings, after expenses is the mark of an incompetent statistician, and a poor journalist. At the very least.

    For those of you that did not read the article, they claimed that expenses were 25-33%, so at 100k, that would be somewhere between 66 and 75k, assuming 60 hour week that would have been $22 an hour, far more than the current claims of $13.25 (which sound exaggerated to me.)

    • Because BuzzFeed news is a super credible news source in the first place. It's like a idiot version of YouTube, which already has its fair share of idiots. Yet they are suddenly an investigative news agency? Bulllllllshit
      • I know... I think of Buzzfeed as the crappy clickbait list people... definitely NOT the news people...

    • Re:Bad reporting. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:41AM (#52373721)

      The point is that Uber deliberately chose that number to make it seem like it was giving its drivers a fair deal. When most people see that, they think that the driver is making $100k pre-tax, so that their income is that number minus taxes.

      This new number shows to what extent Uber has externalized its operating costs onto its drivers. That a company worth a staggering $62BN should do this is reprehensible. It is truly a business model built on finding ways around all rule of law (labor law, insurance law...). I'm guessing they attract investment because investors think Uber will do this successfully.

      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        Sounds the same as any other ad for an MLM scheme or work at home scheme or real estate scheme. "Working with us you can make thousands of dollars a day! *"

        *: [3 pt font]The president makes thousands of dollars a day. Median income 38 cents.

      • Re:Bad reporting. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @09:31PM (#52377893) Journal

        That a company worth a staggering $62BN should do this is reprehensible.

        You have things backwards. The company is worth $62B because it has externalized its costs.

    • Re:Bad reporting. (Score:4, Informative)

      by NoNeeeed ( 157503 ) <slash AT paulleader DOT co DOT uk> on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:43AM (#52373743)

      The $13.25 is a calculation by Uber, not by the journalist. The journalists re-ran some of the calculations and got slightly lower figure.

      "Internal Uber calculations, provided to BuzzFeed News by Uber, based on data spanning more than a million rides and covering thousands of drivers in three major U.S. markets — Denver, Detroit, and Houston — suggest that drivers in each of the three markets overall earned less than an average of $13.25 an hour after expenses."

      Assuming Uber are not lying about the $13.25, that would still mean that if you worked 40 hours a week, every week of the year, you'd make $27,560 a year.

      Whether this is a good or bad depends on how much ordinary taxi drivers make for a similar amount of work.

      Uber has frequently talked about how much a driver's gross income will be as a way of encouraging people to join up, which is a nice bit of marketing, and standard practice for companies like Uber.

    • you have a point, but perhaps the word you are looking for is CORRUPT statistician. there are a number of ways to make statistics lie. There is even a book titled "How to lie with Statistics". Many high school teachers (at least good ones) talk about this. []
    • Re:Bad reporting. (Score:5, Informative)

      by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @11:34AM (#52374123)

      If you start out talking about "100k in Gross Fares" then reveal that number was wrong,

      One problem is that this 100k figure was quoted in 2013 (and I assume it only covered year 2012 for a Uber driver, to make the company look as good as possible).

      We're now in 2016, and the article compares the 2013 (2012 year) to a calculation done for the 2015 year. The problem is that Uber has lowered its base rate since that quote in 2013, flooded the market with new drivers since then, added UberPool in some regions with an even lower base rate (and increased risks for drivers who don't get the per person safety fee that Uber collects despite the fact that drivers make that many more stops when pooling), and in addition to that, Uber has increased the commission percentage it took from drivers. In other words, Uber drivers that used to drive around that 2012 period used to make a lot more and are super upset at the company (and for good reasons).

      That being said, I have no reason to believe that Uber lied to the Wall Street Journal in 2013, and to imply that Uber did, is just lazy click-bait journalism. And I really do mean lazy. It's not like there is a shortage of Uber drivers that you can interview (all Uber drivers know this stuff, even the new ones). And that so-called Buzzfeed reporter could have just called an Uber driver to get a reaction on that story, or just plainly have done a google search on ridesharing bulletin boards, where all of this is talked about in thousands of bulletin threads. But that writer did no such thing, neither did her Buzzfeed News Data Editor listed next to her byline, which brings me to another point.

      Buzzfeed staff are probably paid very little to nothing at all (one would surmise). If paid something, they're probably paid on the amount of controversy and clicks they can generate, not on the amount of time the spent researching the topic. There is obviously little to no quality control done on each article and no double-checking of any kind. And Buzzfeed readers are actually dumber for having read Buzzfeed than not having read it.

  • great deal considering a lot of service workers pay for their car out of pocket. Same goes for a smartphone and the service which is another write off for uber drivers
    • Are you including the higher insurance costs related to using your vehicle for business purposes?

      As to smartphone use, it would be similar to a home office. The space designated as a home office would have to be the primary use of that space to get a tax deduction. Not your den where you occasionally work.

      In this case the primary use of the smartphone would have to be for Uber. Not your personal phone which happens to have an app for Uber. This means you would have to have two phones and the cost of the se

      • 8 hours a day using the uber app? yeah that will will work. and you can deduct the insurance as well. every penny you spend in bringing in that revenue is deductible. i know, my wife used to use a car we had long ago for per diem work. it was amazing having an almost free car. a lot of people we know who do similar work drive a Lexus or another luxury car because they can write it off
    • Tell me what part of the US a roughly $26k annual salary is a "great deal"?


      • that's left over after you pay the car and other bills. and that's averaged across all of colorado incuding areas where uber is old and retired people doing part time work so they don't go crazy and to pay their property taxes. full time drivers make more than that it's more like $40,000 or more with no car or smartphone payment because that's a tax write off. at least that's what i hear from the full time drivers i know
  • Taxis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Major Blud ( 789630 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:13AM (#52373527) Homepage

    Looks like they make less than they do driving a taxi full-time in Denver....

    "The median annual Taxi Driver salary in Denver, CO is $33,803, as of May 31, 2016, with a range usually between $28,077-$41,255 not including bonus and benefit information" []

    At $13.17 an hour, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, an Uber drive in Denver would pull in $27,394 at that rate, and that's WITHOUT benefits and bonuses.

    There's a lot that I' assuming here, like a person working strictly full time as an Uber driver.....but if you were going to work strictly as a driver, you'd probably be better off driving a taxi.

    • does that include leasing the taxi? in NYC most medallions are owned by a few millionaires who lease them to garages who put them on cars and then lease the cars to sharecropper drivers who pay so much money that they don't have much left after a shift. and worse off the rush hour is when shift change happens so a lot of taxi drivers miss out on a lot of income since they have to bring back their cars back to the garages
      • No clue. Obviously I'm leaving out a lot of info here, and I don't know how much licensing and such cost for a taxi driver that Uber drivers don't seem to have to worry about (for the time being anyway).

        • NYC most cabs need a medallion which costs around $500,000 or more at current prices. for uber you take a 6 week TL&C class and get your special plates for your own car. if you don't have the money to buy a medallion or no one will lend you the money for one then you have to lease a car with a medallion which is close to $100 per shift
  • Similar to DoorDash (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rgbscan ( 321794 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:15AM (#52373539) Homepage

    I used to track all my DoorDash deliveries to a T. That gig earns $11.21 an hour in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul market on average. I'd be happy to share my data spreadsheet with anyone interested.

  • ...typical Uber driver takes in more than $100,000 in annual gross fares.

    Are they saying that the typical driver brings in $100,000 to Uber? If you take an Uber or taxi, the fare is brought in by the driver, then his pay is deducted from that.

    • I get the feeling that this is exactly where that number came from.

      Take all revenue earned by drivers and divide by number of drivers. See? every driver earns, on average, $100k/year (for us)...

  • What?!?? You mean those signs by the side of the road or emails I get saying I can make $80K a year in my spare time doing this or that are not telling me the whole truth??? I am shocked.
  • Obviously.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by laxguy ( 1179231 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:30AM (#52373649)
    Did anyone really think that being an Uber driving was the new American Dream??
    • Re:Obviously.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:55AM (#52373831)

      I am not even sure what the American Dream is. I see one person making a calculation on a 60 hour week and another a working year of 52 weeks.

      As a European that sounds more like a nightmare. I rather have my 38 hours per week and 45 weeks per year. That way I can actually live my life and not just dream about it.

      But then if the American Dream is to work as much as possible, more power to you. Just do not be surprised if people are less jealous of your dream.

      • This comment is such a revealing one it is incredible. The "American Dream" only works for a select few (lucky or not) leaving the rest in despair or just well enough to get by oblivious to what conditions are elsewhere, like in Europe.
        • by TheSync ( 5291 )

          The "American Dream" only works for a select few...oblivious to what conditions are elsewhere, like in Europe.

          The upper middle class in the US has expanded [] from about 12% of the population in 1979 to a new record of nearly 30% as of 2014.

          Also the US has an unemployment rate half that of most European countries (Germany is the only exception with equivalent unemployment rates to the US due to labor law reform there in the early 2000's).

          • Yes but the upper middle class works much harder than the equivalent in Europe, that is what I was alluding at.
      • Not all Americans are like that but it does seem that far too many of my fellow citizens are. I have things other than work I like to do and do take time to do them. I have made it very clear that while I will work extra if needed, needed means it is a once in a very long while. Also I have made it clear that when I go on vacation don't bother trying to contact me as I will be out of range of any method you would use. The last time I had a manager who insisted that he be able to contact me I told him where
      • Re:Obviously.. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @02:00PM (#52375247)
        I always thought that the American Dream meant that it didn't matter if you were poor or came from nothing in the United States because you were afforded the freedom to pursue your own ambitions and that your hard work could give you a better life. It doesn't mean that you'll be successful in your endeavor only that you can try and if it works you'll be able to keep the fruits of your labors. There are still a lot of people who immigrate to America and do improve things for themselves and their family, but they probably do need to put in 60+ hours in order to achieve that.

        I don't think it's really something that's unique to America either. Plenty of people immigrate to Canada or European countries for much the same reasons and similarly build better lives for themselves, but the name dates back to an earlier time in America's history when a large number of people (typically Europeans) were immigrating to the U.S. for a variety of reasons so the name has stuck.
    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      It may not be a dream come true, but it can be a way to make a second paycheck working entirely on your own schedule. There aren't a lot of easy ways to turn a few otherwise idle hours into an income.

      Plus it provides a helpful service to people and leads to less drunk driving.

      What were the arguments against it supposed to be? We owe the taxi monopoly and their political friends a favor?

      • by TheSync ( 5291 )

        it can be a way to make a second paycheck working entirely on your own schedule. There aren't a lot of easy ways to turn a few otherwise idle hours into an income.

        Especially if you now fall under the higher income limit for overtime non-exemption, where you would have to be paid time-and-a-half for an hour on your primary job, as opposed to just being paid normal pay for your secondary job.

  • I will take a job that let's me make my own schedules based on my socioeconomic needs: I'm having a bad time financially, I can work longer hours for decent overtime (do they even pay overtime in the US?). I want a rested month, be it 1, 2 or 3 per year, I do part-time. The number of companies offering these two benefits at once. Not to mention some people really enjoy driving in urban traffic. I highly doubt people at Walmart enjoy their jobs half as much as the average. And they admit it's a modest Americ
  • by friedmud ( 512466 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:42AM (#52373725)

    This completely invalidates the analysis. Colorado is huge and I'm sure there are several small cities way outside of Denver that skew the statistics.

    I've used Uber in some small towns (like Idaho Falls, ID) where it was basically just one dude with his old Prius. He just sits at home and waits for Uber to ding and jumps in his car. How much money he's making "per hour" isn't really a relevant metric...

    • Eh, maybe not the most rigorous analysis but I wouldn't go "completely invalid" either. 70% of Colorado's population lives in the greater Denver area (including Boulder and CO springs). The next biggest population center is Ft Collins, 90 min up the road at ~300k and most of the rest is small or spread out enough that there probably aren't any Uber drivers (Idaho Falls has 50K residents? Thats huge!).

      Using Denver to represent the state is a fair ballpark.

      • i'm going to fort collins next month and just looked up the rates. it's the same or cheaper for me to take an uber with my kids than to take that bus or van they have
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:49AM (#52373783)

    Driving people around is a marginally skilled luxury service that in theory a teenager with 1-3 years of personal driving experience could do. Heck, a 20 year old born and raised in an area can probably do it more competently than an older "more experienced" driver who hasn't lived in the area that long.

    This is like the outrage that McDonalds workers, people who make $2 hamburgers, are the lowest men and women on the food industry totem poll in terms of wages. Forget automation; if your job is something that a 19 year old high school dropout who fits the stereotypes can do as competently as a "20 year veteran," you aren't going to make much money because the barrier to entry and value of experience is minimal.

    It's like going back 100 years and complaining that "senior ditch digger" doesn't pay substantially more than "junior ditch digger."

    • I like how people who make that argument totally fail to address the decline of well paying jobs, and what people are supposed to do who get forced out of those jobs as they become less available. The only thing there is left are jobs that someone inexperienced could do.
    • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @12:01PM (#52374357) Journal

      Driving people around is a marginally skilled luxury service that in theory a teenager with 1-3 years of personal driving experience could do.

      Thanks to automation (GPS/Waze/Google Maps), now you don't event need to know anything about directions to drive a cab/rideshare. 30 years ago, you needed deep geographic and traffic knowledge. Thus it has become a less-skilled job.

  • I learned that there are often two sets of books in businesses: one for the public/Auditors, and one for the top executives/owners. You can guess the numbers reflected in the public books. It's funny how the 2 books never seem to match. Of course with vulnerabilities, people's lack of tech security matters, plus private/government installed backdoors (added to or as part of software products/OS), documents like this will be leaked with increasing frequency. And the revelation will be shocking to those who b
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:58AM (#52373849)

    The job market is exactly that - a market that sets wages.

    Rare, highly sought skills command high salaries. Driving a car is not one of those skills.

    No one should expect a person driving people around in a car to make $100k a year. That's crazy.

    If people willingly want to work for Uber at those wages - what's the issue?

  • So this is meant to be an anti-Uber argument. To some extent it is because it suggests that Uber overstates what drivers can earn per hour.

    On the other hand, it indicates that in most markets Uber drivers can earn a living wage and even in the most competitive markets they can cover expenses and beat the minimum wage.

    I suggest this is a valid choice for Uber drivers. It doesn't suggest that you would leave a good manufacturing job with benefits to drive people around, but is that realistic in any case?

    • Living wage? You know there are still a lot of costs that need to come out of that 'wage' right? In fact, if Uber drivers are in fact contractors, that isn't considered a wage at all, that's considered income for their company as a private driver. Then out of that their company pays vehicle costs, insurance, and health coverage. Their wage can be what is left over. There can't be much left.
    • I actually had a lower estimate on what could be made doing this, and would have bet that many drivers don't earn enough to cover the wear and tear on their vehicles. Clearly this isn't the case.

      Don't be so quick to sell yourself short. Your lower estimate may be correct.

      The IRS rate for vehicle depreciation is around $0.50 per mile. Uber is calculating $0.06 a mile in value depreciation and 0.07 per mile in fuel costs and adding in $3000.00 a year in "other" costs. In my opinion, that kind of calculation is clearly designed to muddy the waters in regards to what the actual costs of their drivers are over the long term. If they just used the $0.50 number, which for the entire fleet, is probably clo

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