By Jamari Mohtar & Tam Mei Si,
There is a need for e-hailing companies to offer additional financial support to the e-hailing drivers to assist them in dealing with their reduced incomes, particularly at this period of the on-going Covid-19 pandemic outbreak that has worsened what was already a dire economic situation before.
e-Hailing drivers are seeing the level of their incomes depleting, which leads them to move to big cities in search of higher demand from customers. But taking their business and service to the big cities isn’t a guarantee that incomes will automatically rise. Thus, e-hailing companies should step in to assist their drivers solve their difficulties.
In order to solve the problem of lower income, e-hailing companies should help bear the financial burden or, otherwise, the e-hailing drivers may not be able to cope with rising costs. With lower incomes, e-hailing drivers will have lower purchasing power and problems sustaining their livelihoods.
Therefore, in the first place, instead of government putting a cap on the limits of the fares, e-hailing companies should raise the minimum fare for every ride in order to protect drivers’ incomes. The higher fare is justifiable because e-hailing drivers need to bear the maintenance costs such as regular car maintenance fee.
Furthermore, sometimes the e-hailing drivers need to go through bad traffic days especially during peak hours which will lead to higher fuel consumption – another cost for them.
In some cases, the e-hailing drivers even have to bear the car cleaning fees due to the customer accidentally dumping drink or food, vomiting or having children urinating. So, by raising the minimum fare charged to the customers, e-hailing drivers can enjoy higher incomes to cover their maintenance fees and cleaning fees.
Some customers may request or even force e-hailing drivers to take longer routes without toll due to their refusal to pay for the toll charges. In this case, the e- hailing drivers will then need to cover the extra cost on petrol and mileage due to longer distance, which the higher fare could partially cover.
In other cases, customers may even refuse to pay for the toll charges upon reaching the destination on the ground that the e-hailing application does not show the toll charges, although the application does say charges do not include toll which is to be borne by the customers. As a result, the e-hailing driver need to bear the toll charges by themselves and this results in lower incomes.
However, this idea may be a downside to the customers due to the higher costs which they have to bear when using e-hailing services, which means the increased fare shouldn’t be too excessive.
In addition, e-hailing companies should update their e-hailing applications regularly to improve its efficiency for the convenience of the users namely the drivers when they are on duties.
For instance, e-hailing drivers have complained that their mobile phone sounds would automatically be lowered down to a minimum after opening the app, affecting Waze’s navigation assistance as well as their work efficiency and their safety.
Therefore, e-hailing companies should update the app in an attempt to fix bugs and improve the experience for their drivers, as these features have been largely ignored. Ignorance toward this issue will also cause negative effects on workers’ income opportunities due to technical problems of the applications.
Moreover, e-hailing drivers can be helped with e-hailing companies expanding insurance coverage to ensure that the drivers are adequately protected. Currently, e-hailing companies offer insurance package that covers passengers and drivers against injury in an accident during working hours.
However, this insurance does not cover a range of other unfortunate events that may occur while serving passengers. For example, a driver facing an accident that causes damage to the car, will not be able to claim for the personal accident insurance provided by the e-hailing companies.
In addition, most private car insurance does not cover accidents which occur during commercial activities. This means that if the e-hailing drivers make a living by using their own cars, such as serving passengers, they cannot claim for compensation should an accident occurs during the trip.
In short, e-hailing companies should expand insurance coverage to protect drivers’ safety, which will affect their income level.
Since this issue is current and relatable to drivers’ livelihoods and the cost of living, they need to be addressed so that welfare of the drivers is not taken for granted.
The gig economy should provide extra protection for drivers’ incomes because drivers are unable to find methods to increase their income unless they work long hours, which puts them at higher risk of accidents.
Jamari Mohtar and Tam Mei Si are part of the research team of EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.