Faced with the rise in fuel prices and changes in the way companies charge, drivers who transport by application are already beginning to look for alternative income. When traveling with Uber, for example, it is not uncommon to hear complaints from workers. The National Union of Application Drivers (UNMA), which is headquartered in Curitiba, says that about 30% of the category has already had to stop due to lack of profit in the profession. The situation would be even more serious for drivers who previously rented cars to perform the function.
According to the Municipality of Curitiba, the city currently has 15,563, a number 44% higher than at the beginning of the pandemic. According to UNMA, however, the ‘boom’ caused by unemployment at the beginning of the pandemic ended up greatly reduced with the rise in prices, especially of gasoline.
Alessandro Tanner is president of UNMA and questions the values applied to professionals. “When Uber arrived in Curitiba, gasoline was around R$2.89 and the application’s boarding fee was R$5.25. Today, gasoline costs R$ 5.69 and the boarding fee has dropped to R$ 4.25. Prices are outdated since 2016 and drivers need to choose races above R$ 20 to compensate”, he says.
The possible reduction in the number of drivers has a direct impact on waiting for passengers. Many already report unusual delays, with higher cancellation rates. Companies, however, deny the reduction, since professionals have a lot of freedom in the way they work.
Tanner cites the word “unfeasible” to define the current condition of application drivers. “At peak times, it’s better to stay home than to be stuck in traffic. So the drivers opt for other times, with a greater number of races”, he says.
Faced with the complaints, Band B sought the two companies with the highest number of users in Curitiba and the metropolitan region: Uber and 99.
Uber claims that it operates a dynamic and flexible travel intermediation system. “That is why we always seek to consider, on the one hand, the needs of partner drivers and, on the other, the reality of consumers who use the platform, with a view to preserving the balance between supply and demand that is essential for the platform”, he justifies .
Specifically with regard to fuels, the company says that it has been following the price increases and that it understands the dissatisfaction caused by the impacts on the entire production sector, and that is why the company has intensified efforts to help partner drivers reduce expenses.
“Through the Uber Pro benefits program, the company launched in 2021 several initiatives and promotions to increase earnings on all types of travel, whether short or long distance. Uber has been carrying out special actions in 2021 in which the driver earns up to 20% cashback on fueling his car. And on a permanent basis, paying with the refueling app at Ipiranga service stations, Uber’s partner drivers are entitled to 4% cashback without having to spend their points in the KM de Vantagens program. This means that, in addition to receiving back part of the amount spent on fueling, the partner accumulates more points to use, for example, in car maintenance (oil change, tire, repairs, etc.). Considering who fills up a 1.0 car with gasoline every week, for example, the estimated savings exceed R$ 500 per year”, guarantees the multinational.
Citing Curitiba directly, Uber claims that the gains of those who drive with the application have been the greatest since the beginning of the year. “Partners who drove around 40 hours earned, on average, R$1,100 to R$1,200 per week. In one month, it means that drivers have an average earnings above the average salary of various professions in the country, such as physiotherapists, interpreters, nutritionists or brokers, for example, according to the company’s website Catho, which compiles information on the market for work”, he concludes.
In turn, 99 says it has a long-term commitment to development, income generation and the democratization of mobility in Brazil. “In 2020, in a scenario of economic crisis driven by the pandemic, 99 was responsible for applying R$ 224 million to the GDP of Curitiba, a strategic city for the company, according to a study by Fipe that shows the economic impact of partner drivers’ income 99 in the economy,” he says.
The company guarantees that at this time of reopening the cities, it continues with a growth pace in the races and works constantly to balance supply and demand. To reduce the impact of constant fuel adjustments, 99 launched a package of measures to offer the possibility of better income for partners, which consists of, among other initiatives, the Zero Rate, which is the full transfer of amounts on specific days and times .
The 99 also cites the increase in the number of races across the country, especially the so-called Class C. “Without the privilege of remote work, people with lower income started to use more transport per application. A Datafolha survey found that, among people in Class C, 40% claim to have increased the frequency of using the app in 2020 and 31% started using the mod because of the pandemic”, explains Livia Pozzi, Director of Operations and Products at 99..
For the director, Class C represents the largest share of platform users also due to the affordable prices practiced by the company. “The increase in gasoline impacts all sectors, but transport feels the effects first. Our commitment to society is to continue ensuring the generation of income for our partner drivers, but also to continue promoting access to mobility for people who need the service”.