More and more people are pulled into the gig economy every year, with 44 percent of independent contractors in the US considering freelancing to be their primary source of income. This is not news. What might not be so widely known is how dangerous gig work can be, and how many of those working with ride-hailing and delivery services in particular often have to put earning an income before their own health and safety.
For taxi drivers, security has been a problem much before Uberization of the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study for the period from 1998 to 2007 revealed that taxi drivers are over 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers. Drivers for Amazon, UberEats, Uber, Lyft, and others have been murdered while performing their jobs. The risks for people of color and women are especially high.
Ride-hailing companies eventually moved to increase the safety of their drivers and riders. As crash-related fatalities have soared, proving to be the most common source of workplace injury for gig workers who use their cars, Uber rolled out a feature in 2018 that notifies drivers they need to take a six-hour break after 12 hours of driving for the company. The next year, Lyft introduced a feature to check on drivers and riders when there are unexplained delays and built an option to quickly reach 911 for both drivers and riders.
The COVID-19 pandemic intensified safety concerns of gig drivers and delivery partners, as their increased contact with the public and inability to stop working greatly increasing their exposure to the virus. A large number of reports detail how people driving with Uber and Lyft or working as delivery partners with UberEats, Doordash, Grubhub, and other gig economy services witnessed increased violence against them during the pandemic.
In what seems like an effort to address the issue, Uber has rolled out additional rider verifications measures to protect drivers. This includes strict verification requirements for people who set up accounts with gift cards or other anonymous payment systems. DoorDash, which has offered occupational accident insurance at no cost to their delivery partners in 2019, has recently introduced the safety toolkit SafeDash that offers courtiers an option of safety reassurance call and an inbuilt emergency assistance button.
In addition to these new features aimed to make gig driving safer, efforts to improve gig workers’ experience, both from income and security points of view, are likely to intensify going forward. However, it also means increasing development and implementation costs for companies that have to be balanced with the affordability of services for customers and maintaining sustainable income levels for the drivers.
This has paved the way for a new generation of startups that target gig drivers’ major concerns, like reducing income precarity, maximizing profitability, maintaining schedule flexibility, and ensuring their safety. Thriving on the gig economy’s major principle — to do various jobs while maximizing earnings and managing their own time — these companies leverage technology to help gig drivers earn more by working with multiple aggregators, have better access to financial resources and insurance programs, and even maximize tax efficiency.
7 Apps Helping Gig Workers
Gig Workers, Check Out These 7 Apps
For example, the company I co-founded, Muver, helps drivers earn up to 30 percent more by automating the process of switching between various aggregator apps and selecting the most profitable rideshare or delivery gigs. Muver manages rideshare and delivery app drivers’ statuses when accepting, completing, canceling, or skipping an order according to the parameters set by the driver earlier. The app automates the driver’s smartphone using machine vision technology, accessibility service, and multitasking management, letting the driver keep driving without a need to look at or touch the smartphone's screen. We believe this should help drivers and couriers not just make more money, but reduce risks to their health and also have greater exposure to various jobs, lowering the chances of burnout.
Another bunch of apps are directed towards helping gig workers avail quick and easy access to funds, including loans or cash advances. Unlike salaried customers, rideshare drivers and other gig workers have variable, unpredictable income. But like everyone else, they often need extra cash to cover unexpected expenses like car repairs or medical bills. Such apps use technology to sync persons’ gig accounts, track their history and other parameters, and loan money based on that.
For example, the fintech app Moves helps gig workers track their earnings and get a cash advance of up to $1,000. Once the app is downloaded, it accumulates information from different platforms and calculates how much a person may qualify for if he or she needs a cash advance. Similarly, COVERR provides gig drivers cash advance based on future earnings without interest but charges a minimal one-time service fee. COVERR is also working on features that can help their customers better understand their gig work as a business, finding ways to be more financially efficient.
Companies like Lean went even further and partnered with various ride-hailing, courier, healthcare, and construction platforms to offer gig workers access to various financial products and benefits. The startup aims to help both marketplaces and gig workers. It allows marketplaces to attract and retain valuable workforce while providing independent contractors access to no-cost capital, instant payouts, mortgages, and insurance.
The latter matters a lot, since drivers across various platforms face similar issues with insurance. Most of them are reluctant to buy an expensive annual policy if they are only working a few off hours here and there, while Uber, Lyft, and others’ own insurance policies have significant exceptions that leave ridesharing drivers financially and legally exposed at times. While legacy carriers such as Allstate and American Family Insurance offer rideshare endorsements on general policies, startups like Buckle help a much larger variety of gig workers by using non-traditional data resources available on gig workers and providing affordable coverage based on drivers’ star ratings rather than credits.
MileIQ is a cloud-based mileage tracking software that tracks your mileage automatically and then classifies your trips as personal or business. It’s a great fit for self-employed individuals who want to save money on their taxes as well as company drivers who wish to be properly reimbursed for mileage. Everlance is another tool for independent contractors that not just tracks mileage and income and categorizes them as work and personal, but also automates and identifies ones that might be tax-deductible, helping subscribers get the biggest tax refund possible.
These tools don’t just make independent contractors’ routines easier or help earn more. They provide a real opportunity to build a successful gig economy business, having a clear understanding of what the final take-home pay looks like on a daily, monthly and yearly basis and making it possible to make long-term work and life plans.