Confessions of a Durango Uber driver

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

We’re finally blazing brave new territory in Durango’s transportation market. Uber arrived in February, to the delight of drunken residents who now (thankfully) have an increasing variety of ride-home options to choose from. We chatted with part-time Uber driver and owner of Durango Rivertrippers and Adventure Tours, David Moler, about the payment, perks and qualifications of this driving job.

Before getting involved with Uber, what did you like about their service?You can track where your vehicle is, see when your driver is three to five minutes away. You can order different kinds of cars, like if you want an extra-large car. And it’s your personal driver, you’re not sharing it with anybody else. It’s much easier than trying to call or hail a taxi. If you go from city to city, you just download the app, and it stays with you.

What’s the process of getting qualified to be a driver?Your vehicle needs to have four doors and be a 2001 or newer. Not every car qualifies. There’s an inspection of your vehicle, medical/physical check to make sure there’s nothing wrong with you and a background check. All of mine cleared quickly because I had all those on file for the transportation side of my business. A few days later, I was active as a driver. It’s pretty painless.

Can passengers request specific drivers? People that aren’t familiar with Uber think that’s an option! It’s not. I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls like, ‘Hey, my family is coming into town and they need an airport shuttle, is that something you can do?’ But the way that Uber works, you just get to see drivers, little cars on a map. You don’t know who they are. So download the app, don’t call me directly.

How many Uber drivers are in Durango now? There’s not really a way for us to determine that. It can change. But when I was driving in February and March, we were up to about 15. Friday and Saturday nights are the nights you’ll see the most.

Anything weird you’ve experienced? No, it’s been pretty smooth. But driving for Uber, I can drive in any city in Colorado unless there’s a municipality with a rule against that type of ride-sharing. So I spent three days visiting in Denver and drove, just to see what it was like in big cities. The negative side of what we hear about ride-sharing is so not the norm. The craziest thing that happened was having somebody who was doing the right thing by not driving drunk. No one screaming or getting sick. The rider also gets a rating by the driver, and the driver gets a rating by the passenger. So I think that system circumvents a lot of the potential issues. I get to see a passenger’s rating before I even pick them up. And the platform kicks riders off if they drop below a certain city’s average rating. If they rank poorly multiple times, that user will no longer have access to Uber.

Couldn’t they just open a new account? It links to the person’s individual name, phone number, credit card. It’s not just an email address or something. They’d have to get another name and credit card. And I would imagine a different phone number, too.

What’s the pay like? Tips are always nice, but not required. We don’t refuse it, because we’ve earned it. Of the $12 ride, about $7.50 goes to the driver. That’s not including tax, we’re 1099 independent contractors, and we pay for our own fuel and wear and tear. So by the time you factor that in, you might be getting $4 or $5 per ride, three or four times an hour. You’re averaging maybe $20 an hour. All payment is done through the app, so you’re not paying David Moler, you’re paying Uber. Riders have already preset their profile to include a payment option before I pick them up. But they pay when the ride is over, automatically.

Any tips for passengers for keeping the ride price down?If there’s a “surge” going on, there’s a lot of people requesting Uber and not as many drivers, so there’s surge pricing, which is 1.5 or 2.5 times normal fare. But a rider can wait out a surge. Like if a concert gets out and everybody wants an Uber, you’re going to pay more for it. You’ll see that on your phone; when you request the Uber, you’ll have to acknowledge the fare is beyond the normal fare. It will say “Surge pricing: do you wish to continue?” or something to that effect.

What’s the best thing about the job? The flexibility. If you live in Durango city limits and can have your phone on you, and can broadcast when you’re available, you can walk around the house, get the laundry and dishes done, and then get a call and get in your car. If you live out of city limits, it’s not as convenient, since it won’t be as busy, like with one ride request after another, after another.

The worst thing?Wear and tear on your own personal vehicle. That’s it. If you don’t like the job, if you’re like ‘This kind of sucks,’ you just log off. Don’t turn your app on, and you’re not a driver anymore.

So you can quit with no strings attached?Exactly.

Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

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