Here at Motoring Weekly we have written reports about ride-sharing for a while now and some of the new, or repurposed, terminology that is being used. The latest is “longhauling”. This is the concept of taking a passenger the long way to try and earn more of the fare and the term probably comes from the taxi industry which if so, shows how close the ride-share and taxi industries really are.
This issue appears to be getting more airplay and it comes down to the fact that many ride-share drivers are earning far less than they did several years ago and this may be down to a simple fact: there are far more ride-share drivers cruising the streets than there were in recent years. This has also lead to deadheading, the art of looking for fares in different areas which costs the driver money with no associated revenues.
Longhauling is a tricky one because it could cost the ride-share company or the passenger extra for a trip. What the drivers are figuring out is that companies like Uber are heavily data driven – you would think that was obvious, but apparently that was news to some drivers who had been caught trying to cheat the system!
The interesting thing is that the routes are analysed by the ride-share companies and the drivers think that a human is doing that, not a computer, so they think that they can get away with longhauling someone who doesn’t know the area. However, the systems being used can work out the optimal route and then factor in traffic, roadworks etc to define the path and therefore cost with or without the surge pricing.
The route pricing is set when the journey is booked so there is a fixed amount of money available to split between the ride-share system and the driver. The driver gets paid a portion based on distance and time – the larger amount is paid on the distance, so if a slightly larger distance is covered then the driver gets a few more dollars.
The other fact to consider, from a driver perspective, is that if the passenger figures out that they have been taken around the houses then they may provide a poor or low rating which in turn affects the relationship between the driver and their ride-share system. Clearly there will be times when a driver makes a genuine mistake in the journey or is forced to go a different route due to unscheduled works, an accident or another blockage and these can be worked out on a case-by-case basis.
If the ride-share system considers that a driver is longhauling too often, then they will terminate that contract. However, the flip side should be called “shorthauling” where the fixed price is for a route that the system defines and the driver has some great local knowledge, so they take a shorter and quicker route. The passenger gets to their destination faster yet pays the same amount for the ride. In effect the driver and the ride-share system earns more per minute/mile consumed.
Humans are great at making things complicated or finding ways to buck the system!