‘Their Loads Are Garbage’: Drivers Say Uber’s Trucking Business Is Making a Tough Job Worse
In the summer of 2019, Richard Hernandez, an Arkansas truck driver, took what seemed like a straightforward job: Move 40,000 pounds of peanuts from the Planters factory in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the Sam’s Club Distribution Center in Searcy, Arkansas, for $680. He found the job through Uber, which since 2017 has been in the trucking business. There was just one problem: When he arrived at Planters, he learned that the load weighed 45,000 pounds, not 40,000. The extra 5,000 pounds would impact his profit — independent truckers’ “freight rate,” or how much they’re paid per mile, typically increases with heavier loads because the extra weight affects their gas mileage. His trailer was already loaded, but Hernandez decided he would refuse to drive anywhere until Uber increased his pay.
“I’ll tell them to take that shit right back off the truck,” he says of disputes like these. “I’m not going to haul your extra freight for nothing.”
Arguing with Uber’s support line requires patience. Hernandez was prepared. After a three hour standoff in the Planters lot, and about a dozen calls to the Uber hotline, he says he finally got through to someone who agreed to add an extra $300 to his tab. As a truck driver with 25 years of experience, Hernandez felt that Uber’s mistake was typical of the “shady” behavior of other freight brokers he’s worked with over the years. When Uber launched its platform for truck drivers, Uber Freight, in May 2017, the idea was to upend the trucking industry, similar to what it did with taxis. On Uber Freight, truck operators are akin to other Uber drivers, while the shipper is the customer. Truck companies or truck drivers who work as independent owners/operators select from a list of open jobs with up-front pricing.
Uber has famously never been profitable, and the pandemic didn’t help. Uber Eats did better than ever but still managed to lose $232 million in the first quarter of 2020, signaling that food delivery may not be an easy…