Uber and Lyft asked Congress to bail out their drivers. Now they can't get enough drivers to come back to work.


Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Lyft CEO Logan Green

Uber and Lyft are seeing surging demand in the US as parts of the country begin reopening. But new safety nets and gig options – including from the apps’ own delivery services – are making it hard to lure drivers back on the road. Uber and Lyft were big supporters of including gig workers in the initial stimulus package. See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber and Lyft have some good news ahead: Riders in the United States are expected to flock back to the ride-hailing apps soon as COVID-19 cases wane due to increased vaccinations. The bad news is there doesn’t seem to be enough drivers yet to pick them up.

In recent weeks, the app companies have been scrambling to rebuild their gig-economy workforce to meet an expected windfall of returning customers. But as Uber and Lyft pull out the stops to appeal to drivers, they’re encountering a very different labor market than before.

Drivers dropped off the apps’ ridehail services in the last year for many reasons. Many told Insider they were worried about their health, some found freelance work in different industries or for the apps’ own delivery networks, others gave up their cars altogether. The chief concern, though, seems to be reliability of income. And with some drivers benefiting from a stronger social safety net because of federal stimulus packages, the app companies need to overcome skepticism that there’s more money in driving than not. Uber’s and Lyft’s once-assured worker pipeline is no longer as reliable.

Spokespeople for Uber and Lyft declined to comment on their pipelines but highlighted investments they’ve made throughout the pandemic to support drivers, including a recent driver stimulus, and pointed to data claiming drivers earned more now in many regions than before the pandemic.

Investors seem unconcerned; share prices for Uber, and to a lesser extent Lyft, are riding high in recent months on the expectation they’ll be pandemic winners. The