Should you Drive for Uber, Lyft or Sidecar during a Blizzard?
So there is a major storm heading to the North East tomorrow and will last until Tuesday night. It is expected to drop over a foot of snow between New York and Boston. So the question is, should you drive during the storm?
First and foremost, if you have not driven in the snow or don’t feel comfortable driving in the snow, don’t do it. This storm is a major storm and may present challenges to drivers who are accustomed to the snow. This is not the day to learn how to drive in the snow. It’s expected to drop an inch or more an hour. Also, if your local government is asking residents to stay home, do so. More cars on the road can prevent snow plows and emergency vehicles to travel during the storm. If you do crash or end up getting stuck, this will cause even more problems as now other people will need to come and rescue you or help you move your vehicle.
Tips for Preparing Your Car for a Major Storm
- Get a full tank of gas before a snowstorm! You don’t want to be one of those people stuck in the middle of the road without gas!
- Clear all snow off of all windows, rear window, and side mirrors. If you intend to drive on the highway, remove all snow from the roof of your car as the wind swept snow can cover your rear windshield. It only takes an extra minute for a sedan, or two minutes for a large SUV.
- Clear snow/ice off of headlights/tail-lights and front grill of the car.
- You can deflate your tires a little bit down to 15-20 psi to get extra traction in the snow. This is only for local roads and not meant for highway speeds. I have had a tire almost explode on me as it was under-inflated, even in the dead of winter and in a snow storm. (It wasn’t my intention to under-inflate the tire, just happened to be under-inflated)
- If possible, drive with some extra weight in the trunk to give your tires a bit more traction in the snow. I used to leave an extra car wheel or two in the trunk for added grip. It helps most with rear-wheel drive cars but can help front wheel drive cars from skidding out the back wheels, which is pretty rare.
Tips for Driving in the Snow
If you do decide to drive, here are a few good tips on driving in the snow
- You have probably have heard this a million times, but drive slowly! Go 5-10MPH BELOW speed limit. Seriously its slow, but better safe than sorry. If you get a tailgater, brake check him and see how fast he can stop.
- Make sure to scan ahead for obstacles and pedestrians so you don’t have to brake suddenly.
- Make sure to speed up and brake very gradually. Don’t suddenly stop, even for pedestrians in a crosswalk. You can cause an accident if you decide to brake hard and end up skidding and causing other cars to brake hard and hit you or other cars.
- When braking or slowing down for left and right turns, make sure to brake with the wheels completely straight. Your car and tires are much better able to slow down (and speed up) when the tires are pointing straight. (You can use this trick to get in and out of parking spaces with snow in it, make sure to point the wheels straight if you have trouble getting in/out of spaces)
- Use those rear defroster and heated side mirrors if you have that feature (I sorely miss this feature on my new car as it doesn’t have heated side mirrors)
- Use your headlights as there will be limited visibility. Make sure to turn them on so that even your tail lights are on. It will also help drivers behind you or in front of you see your car.
Warning about All Wheel Drive
All wheel drive is amazing but it can only do so much. AWD doesn’t mean god mode during a snow storm. You can’t fight physics, no matter how hard you try. The most important thing is your tires. Do you have sufficient tread on your tires? How well does your tires perform in the snow? Are they all season tires (bare minimum to be driving in the snow, highly not recommended to be in summer tires in the snow) or snow or studless ice tires? If your tires are worn out and old, they won’t do well in the snow, no matter how good your AWD drive system is. I will be going more in depth about tire selection in another post.
Four wheel drive (4WD) is actually preferred in deep snow where your tires don’t touch the bare pavement and is only recommended to be used at low speeds. Refer to this article for more details on the difference between AWD and 4WD in winter driving: http://blog.motorists.org/winter-driving-rwd-fwd-awd-4wd/
AWD is not a substitute for good driving habits. Both go hand in hand and good driving habits will be greatly enhanced by AWD.
Uber Demand During a Storm
So generally demand during a storm would be higher than normal. But there are some situations where there won’t be any demand because everyone is home. Here are some situations where demand will be higher than normal and Uber and Lyft are likely to surge:
- Storm after the workday – Many people will be at work and now they need to get home and they rather not brave the storm so they request a ride.
- Storm before the workday – Only if city offices and schools are not closed, this can be a busy time for rideshare.
Here are some situations where demand will be much lower than normal:
- Major storm during the weekend – If the storm is bad enough, many people will elect to stay home
- Major storm that shuts down the city – If the storm is really bad, you will be hearing about school closings and office closings the night before the storm. On the weekend, you’ll hear about church closings. (Seriously, the news will announce church closings.)
- Watch out for driving bans. If the storm is bad enough, cities can impose driving bans within the city, and the state can impose driving bans on or closures of highways (I-40 in Arizona comes to mind: They can get a foot or more of snow within a few hours so they close that highway at least once a year.)
During a major storm, some states may declare a state of emergency, like NJ and NY during Hurricane Sandy, or during blizzards in the North East. Uber noted that they would limit surge in a specific way during these storms when the state declares a state of emergency. You can read more about it here in Uber’s Blog post: UberARC. During these times, it may not be profitable to drive as Uber will be limiting surge. Uber has not limited surge yet because of a state of emergency so this may be the first storm that this will happen.
There have been major storms after Uber had announced their storm policy. The biggest one was the major rainstorm that hit the San Francisco Bay Area. There was surge pricing during the storm as high as 5x, which isn’t nearly as high was it was during Halloween when it hit a record 9.8x. You can read more about the SF Bay storm and Uber’s response to surge during the storm: Uber Responds to Surge Pricing During the SF Bay Area Storm
My recommendation for Winter Storm Juno:
- NYC and Boston – Snow will start Monday evening. I would expect demand to be higher than normal as people are getting home or doing some last minute errands or plans before getting snowed in Tuesday. I will be driving Monday night.
- [Update: Seems like offices are closing early in NYC today (Monday) so expect an earlier weeknight commute.]
- [Driving ban in place for NY, CT and MA as of late Monday Night]
- [Driving ban in NY was lifted as of 7:30am Tuesday]
- Boston – Travel ban still in place so Uber and Lyft are not available until the travel ban is Lyfted.
- [Update 10am] NYC – Currently offices are closed Tuesday but there is still sporadic demand in the city with surge levels in Manhatan around 2x. Expect trips to take much longer than expected. Remember the low earnings per minute? I would expect many trips will be longer in duration (slow speeds) and possibly shorter in distance so even with surge, your trips may not be as profitable.
Look at the Passenger App!
The most important thing to do is to watch the surge maps! I’ll have a video loaded later this week on my Youtube Channel on how to read the Uber passenger app for surge pricing and what to look for. If its surging, turn on the app if you happen to live in a surge zone. If there is surge all over the city, I would either keep watching the surge to see if it will last a while or go out and try to drive. Just don’t go chasing the surge pricing, especially in a blizzard. During a blizzard or snow storm, surge can go away very quickly because of the situations I mentioned above so keep in mind that it may be a real short day for you if you only drive during surge.
I drove last year during a snow storm when government offices were shut down, along with the rest of the city. There was some minor surge pricing around 8-9am but quickly disappeared and it was a very quiet day overall because no one else was going to work. It wasn’t bad enough to declare a state of emergency but enough to shut down offices in the city. I would expect it to be the same situation on Tuesday especially with the whiteout conditions Tuesday morning.
Are you thinking about driving in the snow? If you are driving, how will you be driving in the snow? Are you prepared for it with All Wheel Drive?Have more questions about Uber or Lyft? Head on over to our Rideshare Driver Training Course! Driver Promotions