Ride-hailing drivers hit by fuel price surge

By Anh Tu, Dat Nguyen   June 20, 2022 | 09:31 pm PT
Ride-hailing drivers hit by fuel price surge
The notice 'All drivers are busy' is seen on a ride-hailing app. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Tu
Tuan Anh has never faced this kind of difficulty in nearly five years as a ride-hailing driver in Hanoi as his income has plunged by a third.

"I used to earn VND600,000 ($25.83) a day after fuel costs are, but now I make only VND400,000," said the GrabCar driver, who blamed it on the skyrocketing gasoline prices.

He and many other drivers no longer cruise around to increase the chance of being matched with a customer but instead pull over and wait as they seek to reduce gasoline use. It also means they get fewer customers if they are not in downtown areas.

Another driver in Hanoi, Dang Hiep, is selling his car to repay loans from a bank and relatives and quitting his ride-hailing job since a decline in income means he is unable to pay them by working.

In end-2020 he had borrowed over VND300 million from the bank to buy a sedan, but now he struggles to take home VND10 million a month after paying the bank VND7 million.

Hiep is set to earn around VND200 million from selling the car and plans to use that money to open a restaurant with some friends.

Tuan Anh and Hiep are among many ride-hailing drivers who are quitting or planning to quit as fuel prices continue to rise.

On Facebook groups set up by ride-hailing drivers, there have been many posts in recent weeks about drivers quitting as they cannot afford the fuel costs.

RON95 gasoline has risen by 39 percent this year.

Customers have been complaining of a shortage of drivers and rising fares.

On Thursday Minh Trang only found a ride-hailing driver in her fifth attempt as the Grab app said no driver could be found and Gojek drivers accepted the trip and canceled it immediately.

The Hanoi resident has also seen the cost of her regular three-kilometer trip rising by a third to VND40,000 in recent months, sometimes even to VND50,000.

Customers in Ho Chi Minh City also complain about fares.

Thanh Le of Thu Duc City said prices double or even triple during peak hours, but she is unable to find car drivers even if she is willing to pay.

Drivers said they have not received much support from their companies following the relentless gasoline price rises of recent months.

Ride-hailing apps increased fares in March this year amid rising prices, but they still take around 30 percent of each trip as commission, and drivers say the gasoline price increase is more than their income growth.

Ngoc Son, who has been a driving a ride-hailing taxi for five years, claimed many drivers have quit over the the high commission and switched to inter-provincial and airport trips, which offer better incomes.

"The recovery in tourism gives them more opportunities."

But Gojek said in a recent statement that while drivers’ costs have risen by 10-15 percent because of the gasoline price rises, in April-May it increased its number of drivers by 20 percent in HCMC and doubled it in Hanoi.

There might be an imbalance in supply and demand during peak hours and bad weather conditions, and it is offering bonuses to the most productive drivers to support them amid the rising costs, it said.

Grab said its customers could have difficulty booking in certain locations and it is trying to increase the number of drivers.

But no company has said it would cut its commission rate.

Transport associations have pleaded for cuts in gasoline taxes and suspension of the value-added tax for six months to help them survive the challenging period.

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