Uber, a popular transportation service, now offers drivers in Hollister.
Trademarked with the phrase, “Everyone’s private driver,” Uber essentially offers customers an alternative to a normal taxi service. Unlike taxis, though, Uber operates through mobile devices; once the app has been downloaded, users can submit a request for a ride, and the nearest unoccupied Uber drive will receive it and come to the location designated by the user for pickup.
What makes Uber so popular, particularly among millennials, is the convenience it grants its users. With just a few swipes on a smartphone, users can not only request cars, but pay for their rides as well. In lieu of a traditional cash payment method, users may connect their debit or credit cards to the app and Uber will automatically bill them once their ride is complete.
Uber is a relatively new service in the San Benito County area. Eric Nicolaysen, a local Uber driver, runs the Facebook page, “Uber in Hollister,” and is beginning to bring new Uber drivers to the area. “I’ve signed up four drivers in the area so far,” Nicolaysen says.
However, for Nicolaysen, being an Uber driver is not a full-time commitment. Much like 85 percent of the drivers for Uber, according to a recent estimate, Nicolaysen has a separate job and supplements his income by driving for Uber. “I have a full-time job and started Uber to make some extra money,” Nicolaysen says.
According to Nicolaysen, business has fared decently so far as more people become aware of the service. “I try to keep myself available from 4 to 9:30 (p.m.) during the week. I average around 30 rides a week.” However, many people in the area still do not understand exactly how the service works. “Lots of people have pinged me for a ride and canceled, and use the taxi services in town instead,” Nicolaysen says.
A common concern among many potential Uber users, though, is whether there is insurance or regulation involving the Uber drivers. Nicolaysen says that there is a thorough process for vetting and regulating potential Uber drivers.
“Before you can become an Uber driver, you have to sign up online, and give Uber your license, registration, and insurance,” Nicolaysen says. “Uber then does a background check. After that, you have to pass a car inspection and get your car serviced, and then you can start driving.”
Additionally, Uber attempts to promote safe and reliable driving through its rating system. With the rating system, users may rank their experience with a driver up to five stars, and future users can view these ratings to ensure that their driver is safe.
Despite these attempts, Uber still faces heat nationwide for its lack of normal regulation. As of 2013, the Public Utilities Committee of California created a category for companies such as Uber and Lyft called "Transportation Network Companies." The PUC mandated that these companies must get licenses to operate in the state, and the company’s drivers must have a criminal background check, have their cars inspected, and there is a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy, a commercial liability insurance policy, and other regulations.
More recently, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office deemed that an Uber driver, Barbara Berwick, should be classified as an employee of Uber, rather than an independent contractor. Most drivers for Uber act as independent contractors, able to serve multiple companies like Uber or Lyft at once. However, with this reclassification, California may now be able to regulate Uber further in the state, and the company would have to treat its drivers like employees, with added benefits. Uber is attempting to appeal this decision in California.
With Uber’s presence becoming more prominent, taxi services face competition from the new service. However, local taxi services say that they do not fear competition from Uber. Modesto Sososa, a taxi driver for Yellow Cab Company, says that, “A payer is a payer. There are already different taxi companies in the area, and customers will choose whatever suits them best.”