Recently, a video has been doing its rounds on the web. It shows how a Uber Eats driver, Sam Lyon, is allegedly working towards earning $100k a year.
The video introduced the Uber Eats driver and explained his progress towards a lucrative income. The man got into the food delivery business after the coronavirus pandemic ended his former job.
With nothing better to do, he decided to start a "Uber Eats Challenge" on TikTok. His goal was to find out how much he could manage to earn in June.
Sam's Uber Eats Challenge
Sam set out to find out the greatest amount of money he could make if he drove as long as possible every day for a month in the challenge. His only limit was Uber's requirement, which demands drivers to work for up to 12 hours a day.
Sam, therefore, committed himself to work 12 hours a day, every day of the week, for an entire month.
Soon enough, the results were in, and it was clear that Sam was doing pretty well for himself. In the month he started the challenge, he made $8,357, which meant that at this "insane pace," he was on track to earn over $100k in a year.
For comparison, a typical five-day workweek brings in around $72,540 a year.
However, Sam's income for the month amounted to about $5,396 after taxes. He also had to spend $599 on gas, $49 on oil change, $5 on a phone holder, and about $2,961 on taxes, among other things.
Is It Reasonable To Work So Many Hours In A Week?
Although the video shows that it is possible to make a lot of money as a Uber Eats driver, it is worth considering how logical it is for anyone to spend 12 hours every day working.
Sam's job means spending an unhealthy amount of time inside his car.
In fact, in most states throughout the country, commercial drivers are not allowed to drive for more than 10 to 11 hours a day for a total of 60 hours a week. Exceeding these limits comes with risks such as fatigue that can easily lead to deadly accidents.
So, driving for 84 hours a week is pretty horrifying.
Studies show that driving for so long can take quite a toll on the driver's health and psychological well-being. Experts have even found a connection between drivers using apps like Uber and Lyft and higher suicide rates.
What makes the situation more complicated is that people like Sam are considered independent contractors, even though they still have an employee-employer relationship with their companies. Although they might seem like they have an opportunity to make a lot of money, they have to get into their own pockets for things like health insurance and leave.
The fact that Uber's paid sick leave program could not even benefit drivers who got infected with COVID-19 is clear proof that these programs are not as good as they seem.
Sam's Actual Income Is Well Below 100k
There's something that makes Sam's video unique. After considering his expenses, it is clear that Sam is struggling to make $40,000 a year despite working for so many hours without a day of rest.
The video fails to make an accurate assessment of Sam's earnings and expenses. He even confesses that $2,988 was given to him as tips, which means that Uber only paid him $5,369.
This story only covers a month of work, so it is not clear how his expenses would change over time.
In that month, he drove a distance of 4,844 miles. According to the IRS, the operating costs of business vehicles are 57.5 cents per mile, which comes to about $2,785 for the distance Sam traveled in that month.
Therefore, that means Sam was paid $2,584 in that month if you don't consider the tips he got. For perspective, that comes to an hourly pay of $7.18 an hour.
With the tips included, his hourly pay would be $15.48 an hour, or a total of $5,572 for the month.
What's worrying is that studies have proven that driving costs are a lot higher for hail-ride drivers, with costs averaging about 72.5 cents a mile. In Sam's case, the 4,844 miles would cost about $3,512 a month, and that would bring his non-tip Uber pay to just $1,857 ($5.16 per hour).
His tax, however, would be paid from his net income, not a gross income, as the video suggests. Therefore, Sam would earn about $3,360 a month working this hard, which would bring his yearly income to $40,320 a year, or about $9.33 an hour.
So, in a real sense, Sam would never make anywhere close to the $100k his projections suggested.
Sam's Video Is Similar To Uber' And Lyft's Controversial PR Campaigns
In many ways, Sam's video is similar to the PR campaign in which Uber, Lyft, and other companies are trying to get exempted from specific labor laws in various states. The companies are trying to avoid any legislation that might be a threat to their business model.
A few weeks ago, Uber made a twist to the #DeleteUber campaign by putting up a billboard that said, "If you tolerate racism, delete Uber." It also added that "Black people have the right to move without fear."
It is known that Uber takes advantage of predominantly Black and brown drivers and pays them wages below the minimum.
Lyft also launched a PR campaign recently through which they tried to claim that the company was devoted to equality and justice. The company also tried to defend itself against the misclassification of its drivers as independent contractors.
According to Lyft, the way its drivers work allows them to be flexible and accessible so they can be "on the frontlines of the pandemic" and also "deliver food and medicine to keep everyone safer."
In another ad, Lyft talked about "Lifting Up Communities of Color." The advert featured the poet laureate, Maya Angelou, reading her poem, On the Pulse of Morning, which she first read during Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993. The ad went on to explain that access to transportation helps drive social and economic mobility.
The ad also claimed that communities of color don't have access to transportation they can afford or rely on, a situation that has been made worse by the pandemic.
The ad also claimed that people were facing elevated unemployment levels as well as health care challenges.
However, as sweet and thoughtful as these words are, the fact is that both Uber and Lyft increase prices for rides to non-white neighborhoods. Essentially, those who need a ride to communities with large African-American populations have to pay more.
However, the reality is that these companies do not provide their drivers with wages they can live on. It is also pretty clear that they do not do much to lift living standards in communities that have many people of color, despite many claims to the contrary.
What's more worrying is that some people buy into this propaganda, which is why Sam thought he was on track to make 100k a year when in reality, he was poised to earn a little over $40k a year for working 84 hours a week.