Britt Miller

Britt Miller

  • Wonolo

Driver shortage is something no delivery service can survive, especially if all the drivers are working for a competitor. But when you’re up against powerful rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft who use their vast resources to recruit all eligible workers to their pool – spending hundred of millions on operational and marketing expenses – how do you make sure you have enough drivers who are willing to join your own fleet?

The good news is that contract drivers often aren’t loyal to one company over another. According to a national survey by SherpaShare, 65% of users reported working for 2 or more on-demand platforms at the same time. This means as long as what you offer is just as good or better in some ways than Uber or Lyft’s offering, you have an opportunity to recruit them to your service.

But first, let’s examine exactly how these ridesharing mammoths recruit their drivers.

How Uber & Lyft Successfully Recruit Drivers

Apart from engaging in controversial tactics to snatch drivers away from their competitors, there are certain basic tactics ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have in common. These come in the form of bonuses and eliminating barriers to entry for first-time drivers.


Some of the biggest draws that lead potential drivers to sign up are the various incentives, including:

  • Sign-up bonuses
  • Referral bonuses
  • Surge bonuses

Sign-up bonuses

The reason companies invest sign-up bonuses for first-time drivers is because it’s undoubtedly a great, quick way to recruit new drivers to their pool. Since any service that depends on drivers requires a fleet that’s available at all times to accommodate customer demand, it’s vital to keep the supply flowing so that even when some drivers leave, this won’t cause a dent in the supply.

Referral & surge bonuses

By contrast, the referral bonus keeps existing drivers signed onto the service by offering them a way to earn extra money. The same thing applies to surge bonuses, paying a higher rate for drivers working during peak hours; for the same amount of work, the driver can earn more money while the company ensures that increased customer demands are met by an equally increased supply of drivers.

Vehicle rentals

By far the biggest barrier to entry for drivers is the lack of a vehicle that suits the needs of the job. What Uber offers is to effectively eliminate this limitation by offering a car rental program, so that anyone can sign up to drive for the company.

This is the ultimate way to recruit drivers who might not otherwise qualify for the service, and expands the driving pool against competitors who don’t offer a similar program. Since up-to-date and functioning vehicles is the most vital part of the operation, Uber acknowledges this need and offers ways to help the driver out, making the platform more attractive.

Filling in the gaps

Any company can offer the same incentives and programs as above, but doing so may be more difficult for companies who lack the large amount of resources to compete with bigger corporations. Fortunately, there are ways to fill in the gaps that Uber and Lyft overlook.

Emphasize your differences

One thing delivery drivers benefit from is not having to deal with passengers who may be intoxicated late at night, which can turn some drivers away from the gig. Additionally, delivery vehicles don’t have requirements that are as strict as vehicles used to transport passengers, meaning more drivers are eligible for the job.

Use these differentiating factors to your advantage by highlighting them as part of your recruitment strategy. If your delivery service can be conducted through motorcycles, bicycles or 2-door vehicles, seize the opportunity to attract these drivers who don’t meet the vehicle criteria for certain other services. Appeal to drivers who may feel unsafe or uneasy about potentially picking up drunk passengers and turn them onto food delivery where that won’t be a problem.

Treat drivers fairly

Sometimes in the rush to meet overwhelming demands, companies will launch new initiatives without clear communication, turning off drivers who feel they have been treated unfairly. When Uber decided to switch from a sign-up bonus to a sign-up guarantee, drivers were left in the dark as to what that change really meant and ended up confusing them at best and angering them at worst.

If drivers expect certain things from your service, failing to meet them will create bad feelings and mistrust. This kind of miscommunication can turn away drivers in favor of competitors that they feel treat contractors more fairly.

Consistency is key

A recent survey found that while 75% of Lyft drivers were satisfied with the platform, less than half of Uber drivers were happy with the company. Though it also found that Lyft drivers made more on average, aided by tips from passengers which Uber only started allowing recently, the growing dissatisfaction of Uber drivers reveals that there’s more to the story than wages.

In an attempt to beat its competitors, Uber has increasingly slashed fares for passengers without lowering the percentage they take from drivers. As a result, drivers earn less than they used to, creating bad faith and in worst-case scenarios for the company, defectors that switch to other companies.

When drivers feel that their situation has changed for the worse, they will start looking elsewhere for more consistency.

Favor long-term thinking over short-term success

Big bonuses and stunts can recruit drivers successfully over a short period of time, but if there’s no consistency in what you can offer, there’s no guarantee that drivers will continue to work for your company. The last thing your fleet needs is for drivers to feel let down and start leaving in droves. By thinking of long-term goals and treating drivers fairly, you will be able to successfully recruit drivers who will remain loyal and satisfied with your platform.