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Why I left Uber, former driver speaks out

Uber is an American worldwide online transportation network company founded in March 2009 with headquarters in San Francisco, California, USA. It has spread to other countries, including Nigeria.
But its drivers have raised several complaints on its operations. One of them, 40 year-old Ugwu Frank Ikechukwu, who has already left the company, speaks to Daily Trust on Saturday.

What is your experience as an Uber driver?

When I heard of Uber, my intention was to use my own vehicle but I changed my mind and decided to go as a driver. If you want to be their driver, you apply online and take the test and if you pass, you get engaged. The partners are the owners of the vehicles, which must be 2006 model or upwards.

They create an opportunity for the driver and partner to select each other according to compatibility and negotiations. But the driver has to meet Uber’s expectations.

After two weeks, I realized that I would not be able to continue. The first vehicle I used was a 2008 Toyota Camry (muscle). One day, I fueled it at N9,200. I was online with Uber from 7am to midnight and couldn’t go home because I live far from the city centre.

So I spent the night at Bolingo Hotel. The following day, I drove for about an hour or two before the fuel ran out. I called the owner of the vehicle and told him and he asked me to fuel the car again with N5,000 which I used till around 5pm.

When I got home, I met the owner who asked me how much I made, even though he had the records since  partners monitor all trips on the app. I told him regardless, that I made about N25,000 and Uber had already taken their share which left me with approximately N18,000. Uber collects 25% of every charge on each ride.

The remaining earnings are split between the driver, the owner of the vehicle and vehicle maintenance. So when I went to the man, he said we should reason. We bought fuel of approximately N14,000. We removed the money and were left with N4,000.

How were we supposed to split N4,000? People do not reason before starting a business, which is very important. Anyway, we did the calculations and realized that there was no profit in it. If I had a flat tyre, I would have to fix it and I only collect 20%.

I only joined Uber to try it and I understood that they only care about themselves, and not about the welfare of the drivers. The charges are not very expensive, which is why customers hardly complain about Uber. Normal taxis charge N5,000 for a trip to the Abuja airport from the city centre for instance, but Uber charges N3,000.

What were your main difficulties while there?

The challenges include network problems with the app. The network constantly fails and causes losses. When you go for job as an Uber driver, you get the feeling that you have landed a good one, but by the time you start, you are thrown into doubts. The company is only there for it’s own gains. Another thing is poor communication between drivers and the company.

There is nobody to talk to. All the issues we encounter, no matter how serious, are sent via email without immediate response. Even if you go to their office at Aso Drive in Asokoro, they don’t communicate directly with drivers. Yet another problem is the ratings customers give the drivers. At times, if your rating is below 4.5 over 5, you will not get the benefits sent for the week. The fact is that you cannot satisfy every passenger.

You are told to buy water, refreshments and sweets from your own pocket to attract passengers. So, I feel it is unrealistic and perhaps the bar should be lowered to meet the rating requirements.

How much on the average did you make in a day?

At weekends, I made between N7,000 and N10,000. Uber took 25%. I bought fuel of around N3,000 and would be left with, say, N4,000. That is what I and the owner of the vehicle would split, with maintenance of the car.

Do you think Uber will survive in Nigeria?

Other countries are also having problems with Uber operations. Uber drivers in London are also complaining. In a nutshell, I do not think Uber will be able to survive in Nigeria. Why it is still functioning is the high unemployment rate and people are rushing for jobs no matter how little they make.

But if the economic situation of the country improves and job opportunities are available, Uber will go under if they do not consider the problems the drivers and car owners are facing.

In what ways do you think Uber can make things better?

First, Uber collects no more than 10% of earnings in America. One of my passengers told me this. So, Uber should reduce the percentage in Nigeria to 10% too. 25% is too high. It is affecting the system entirely and we are at a huge loss.

Also, drivers need  immediate feedback from the company when they reach out to them. If it means creating a specific number with a representative they should work on it. They need quick action.

Another thing is putting car trackers so that owners can know where their cars are at all times even when the driver is offline. There isn’t a written agreement between the driver and the car owner in order to prevent misunderstandings and bitter confrontations between the parties.

Finally, proper and authentic means of identification like thumbprints and not driver’s licenses should be devised. Drivers’ licenses can easily be forged and criminals can drive for Uber without anyone knowing that.

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