Winter Survival Guide for Uber Drivers
No matter if you’re in London, New York or Edinburgh, winter can be a tough time for professional drivers. Too much darkness, cold, rain and snow. Even during the festive season, the realities of the bitterest time of year can make the job a total drag. Never mind the toll it takes on your vehicle, you have clogged roads, impatient riders and event diversions to negotiate. Running off to operate a beach bar in the tropics must be a really tempting thought.
But don’t pack your bags just yet. We’ve looked at the major issues winter throws up for Uber drivers and we’ve created this survival guide. Just follow the tips below to breeze through Winter and head happily into Spring.
Taking care of your car
Your vehicle is your breadwinner. If it’s out of action, it’s costing you money. Keeping it in tip-top shape in Winter isn’t just a question of standard cleaning and servicing. Added care is called for.
Steam cleaning: Salt and grit can quickly corrode the bodywork and mechanicals of your car. Steam clean the underside and wheel arches once a month and the bodywork and engine once a season to preserve the value and performance of your most important asset.
Packed ice and snow: Frozen slush, grit and icy debris rapidly grows around a vehicle’s wheels in bad weather. This can have dangerous effect on steering. Use a brush or plastic scraper to remove clumps of ice every day, or every few hours if conditions are very poor.
Lights: A crust of dirty ice can build-up and reduce the brightness of your external lights by up to 75% according to the UK’s motoring organisation, the AA. This makes it harder for you to see and for others to see you. Not only is this dangerous, it could also cost you a fine of up to £1000 in the UK. Spray all your lights with de-icer and scrape the melting crust away daily or even hourly.
Windshield and wipers: Pouring boiling water on an iced-up windshield can cause the glass to fracture. Use a chemical de-icer. Also, pulling the wiper blades away when they’re frozen hard to the glass just rips the cutting-edge of the rubber and makes the blades leave ugly smears. Use a de-icer to melt the ice first. Wait a few minutes before gently easing the blades free.
Carpets: Winter riders will track in water, mud, ice and snow. If you don’t have rubber mats yet, put them in to protect your carpets. At the end of your shift, take the mats out, clean them and let them dry. If you park in a safe garage, leave your windows open overnight to let interior moisture escape.
Umbrellas: They may keep riders dry, but they can bring in a lot of water. If the rider doesn’t shake their umbrella before entering, offer to do it for them. If you get a bit damp, no big deal. But if your seats get wet, it could be expensive.
Towels and tarp: Keep a couple of old towels handy to dry off seats and upholstery in between riders. Keeping a spare tarp in the car can be a lifesaver if you pick-up someone with a wet dog. (And yeah, you must pick up service dogs by law). Use the tarp to protect your precious seats.
The extras to keep in the car
Shovel: Keep one in the trunk throughout the winter.
Ice-melt and sand: They could save you the cost of a tow in ice and snow.
Snow chains: If you must work when it’s very snowy, chains are a must.
De-icer: Always have a large, full can of this – and a plastic glass scraper.
Blanket: Have one of these handy for yourself. You never know if you’re going to get stuck.
Extra fuel: Keep a small, emergency amount in the trunk. Only use a purpose-made, steel container.
Taking care of yourself
You are the vital element of your business. Keeping yourself 100% fit is more important than anything else.
Chilling out: Stress can be a killer – it’s a leading cause of heart failure and other potentially fatal illnesses. Unfortunately, winter driving, especially during the holiday periods, can be extremely stressful. Find a few minutes every day to chill out, take a break and get your pulse rate back to normal. Don’t rely on medication, tobacco or caffeine for support. Keep photos of your loved ones in the car. They’re the ones you’re working for. (See How to Beat Professional Driver Stress for great tips on how to keep on top of this important but often overlooked issue).
Don’t get too absorbed: It’s easy to chase rides all day during the busy holiday season. However, working huge hours every week is bad for your physical and mental health and it isolates you from family and friends. If you can afford to, take a few days off from time to time. Reconnect with yourself and those around you. There are always more riders, you only get one life.
Vitamin D: During the dark months, our daily dosage of necessary vitamin D from sunlight dwindles to almost zero. This can affect bones and teeth. Take a dietary supplement or eat food rich in vitamin D to make up the difference. (See our food chart).
Weight: We tend to eat more and be less active in Winter. This means we gain weight. Keep an eye on what you eat and how much you eat. Weigh yourself regularly. Keep a lid on foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar. If you see your weight increasing, take active steps – yes, a diet – to bring it back down. (Check your body mass index to see if you fall in the normal weight range).
Eyesight: Driving at night is harder on the eyes – and therefore the brain. Fatigue levels rise. If possible, reduce the number of hours you work at night to compensate. If you feel fatigued, stop driving.
Layered clothes: You may be in the car all day, but what if you must get out for a long time? Have some extra clothing handy. Multiple layers give you flexibility to handle heat and cold.
Boots: Digging your car out of snow in ordinary shoes is not good. Wear water-proof boots, (but not so heavy they interfere with your driving), or just keep a spare pair of heavies in the trunk.
The holidays and cold weather usually bring an uptick in business and extra income.
Put some cash aside: You know that no feast lasts forever, there will be leaner times ahead. If you can, set some money aside – preferably in an interest generating account – to give you some protection against the inevitable rainy day. Just putting aside 10% of your weekly income for 10 weeks, gives you a whole week’s income sitting in the bank.
Tax season is looming: Once the holiday season is past, tax season begins. Allocating some of your winter harvest towards your tax bill can be a good idea. Put it in an interest generating account until it’s time to pay. Make a little extra money for you from the money you set aside for them.
Taking Care of Business
Impatient riders: Maybe it’s the season, maybe it’s the shopping, or maybe it’s just too much cold, dark and dampness, but some riders can be more impatient in the Winter. Allow for this. Don’t let their intolerance cause you to react. Avoid arguments, or rider demands for more haste. Just keep calm and drive on. Getting into an altercation with a rider could badly ding your star rating. Refer to our points on stress for tips to help you handle these issues.
The wet kind: Bad weather means wet riders. Be prepared with towels and rubber mats to keep seats, upholstery and carpets dry.
Heavy packages: The holiday season brings a surge in shoppers with heavy packages. Offer to help them into your vehicle. This reflects well on you and it stops them damaging your interior through careless loading of their purchases.
Look after your body: The vehicle’s body, not yours. If you pick up a rider with a package too big to go inside the car, put it in the trunk for them. Don’t let them scrape or dent your paintwork.
Beating The Competition
The holiday season is the busiest time of year for everyone. That brings in extra income, but it also adds more cars to the roads and makes the usual rider hotspots more congested.
Think guerrilla: Don’t do what everyone expects you to do, look elsewhere for places where riders will be abundant, but the competition will be thin. Avoid areas with a high concentration of public transport options, or other Uber drivers. Check entertainment listings like Time Out to see where the best events are. Find the rider hotspots that other drivers do not see.
Break your day: Lastly, many drivers simply work their shift in one go. However, during the winter, it may be more effective to break your shift in two. For example, depending on where you live and operate, it might be better to avoid the main rush hours, when traffic is slow and the miles are low. Instead, working from 10.00am through the lunch hour and then stopping until 8.00pm to work the dinner shift may be a better way to go. Operate when the traffic is flowing and riders are less focused on getting to work or home than they are on enjoying themselves. Easy for you, easy for them, what’s not to like?
- Winter can be tough on professional drivers
- Take extra steps to sail through this difficult season
- Look after your car exterior with a regular steam clean
- Protect the inside from water, mud and snow
- Keep vital tools and supplies in the car for use in an emergency
- Reduce your stress levels with simple tricks
- Monitor your physical health – especially weight, fatigue and vitamin D deficiency
- Put some of your extra income away for a rainy day
- Save more money to help pay your tax bill
- Don’t let impatient riders get you down
- Don’t let their heavy shopping damage your vehicle
- Look for business in unusual places
- Consider breaking your shift into two phases instead of only one
Sources and Links
Iced-up Windshield: https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2009/12/07/daily38.html
Dirty Headlights law: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/cars/1052605/car-headlight-fine-snow-ice-dirt
Winter weight gain : https://www.shape.com/weight-loss/management/why-you-gain-weight-winter
Body Mass Index calculator: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm
Time Out: https://www.timeout.com/london