Ubernomics

How a few drivers are turning Uber’s lagging driver training into a cottage industry

Gabriella Penuela/FUSION

Ride-hailing companies are famous for skimping on driver training. For Uber drivers, training amounts to a 13-minute video on how to use the app. Lyft drivers, meanwhile, receive “mentorship” from another driver.

A few enterprising drivers saw the lack of training as a business opportunity, and are now selling tutorials on how to make it driving for Uber and Lyft. The drivers tell Fusion that they’re making far more doling out advice than they made actually driving.

Harry Campbell is probably the Kingpin of the Uber advice market. On his website, TheRideshareGuy.com, Campbell offers up podcasts, blog posts and links to resources like mechanics and car accessories. Since launching a year ago, his site has grown to attract 100,000 unique visitors a month. Four months ago, Campbell, realized that the site was lucrative enough to quit his full-time job as an engineer.

Campbell, who lives in Orange County, started driving for both Uber and Lyft a few hours a week a year ago. His wife was in medical school and he found himself with a lot of free time. Driving around and chatting with strangers sounded like fun.

“When I logged into a local driver Facebook group, I quickly realized a lot of these drivers had a lot of questions,” Campbell told Fusion. “I was pretty surprised.”

Campbell started a website offering his own tips and tricks to other drivers. And the traffic just kept growing.

On the site, Campbell covers basics like how to sign up to drive, and more specific tips for maximizing business, like how to chit-chat with passengers or whether picking up long-distance rides is really worth it.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is you’re actually running your own business as a driver,” he said. “If you want to just get people from point A to point B, you can do that. But there is a whole lot more you can do if you’re up for it.”

“I make this joke that because Uber and Lyft are so bad at customer service, it makes my site do even better.”

Campbell makes most of his money from people who use his referral codes to sign up to be a driver, or to get an Uber or Lyft account. The fees range from $25 to as much as $750. (All Uber and Lyft drivers are given referral codes so that they can get bonuses for every person they recruit for the service.) Campbell posts his codes on the site; by his estimate, 90 percent of the people who use his codes are people with whom he’s never had direct contact.

Campbell also has customer referral deals with some of the products he recommends for drivers, like Your Mechanic, an on-demand mechanic service. A few months ago, he and another rideshare advice guru, Brian Cole, who makes YouTube videos for drivers, created a video instruction course. At $97 a pop, the course has done about $12,000 in revenue since launching in March, according to Cole. Campbell is also working on a rideshare advice book.

All told, Campbell said the site brings in a few thousand dollars in revenue each month — not quite as much as he made as an engineer, but getting close.

“I make this joke that because Uber and Lyft are so bad at customer service, it makes my site do even better,” he said. “They haven’t made it a priority to provide a lot of information for drivers in a clear cut manner.”

Campbell’s competitors include Cole, another YouTuber named UberMan, Rideshare Dashboard and RideSharingDriver.com.

“The information that Uber and Lyft gives its drivers is very scarce.”

Doug Herrera, a 26-year-old Orange County marketer who started RideSharingDriver.com, drove for Uber and Lyft driver in his spare time before starting his own advice site.

The site makes money from driver referrals, ads, affiliate offers and Amazon sales of an advice e-book he wrote and self-published. Herrera said he spends about 10 hours a week on the site and rakes in four times more than he did driving for Uber and Lyft 20 hours a week.

He said that one post he wrote last November explaining the difference between UberX and Uber XL gets between 1,000 and 2,000 page views a day.

“The information that Uber and Lyft gives its drivers is very scarce,” said Cole, whose YouTube channel has nearly 3,000 subscribers. “Drivers are going to places like Google, YouTube, and Facebook groups to try and get answers to their questions. The huge gap of training has led to a wide-open opportunity.”

Uber and Lyft have received hefty amounts of criticism for the amount of training they offer to drivers — especially after it was revealed last year that to make up for it, Uber encourages its drivers to pay $65 for a four-hour training class administered by a San Francisco limo company.

At present, in California, the companies are aggressively fighting a suggestion that training should be modeled on taxi driver requirements, which include a 28-hour course conducted by an “accredited school.”

“There is no evidence that the current driver training rules are deficient, and/or that additional ‘uniform’ training would improve public safety,” Lyft wrote in a California Public Utilities Commission filing last month, calling the suggestion of increased training “arbitrary and burdensome.”

For Campbell and his colleagues in the ride-share-training cottage industry, that just means more business coming their way, paid for by drivers rather than by the companies they’re driving for.