How to Build a Strong Team of Ride Hailing Drivers

Drivers are the front line of a ride hail startup, and selecting and retaining excellent drivers is crucial to your success. This blog post shares tips on how to find, onboard, and retain a thriving base of drivers.


Niklas MeyWednesday, August 11, 2021

Thanks to their convenience and reliability, ride hailing services have become a transportation staple. As of 2019, a third of Americans have used ride hailing services, and spoiler alert: the number hasn’t gone down in the years since. Along with convenience and reliability, ride hailing services can play a role in alleviating first mile/last mile challenges.

What has also increased in recent years is the demand that ride hail drivers receive adequate pay and worker rights. Drivers are the front line of a ride hail startup, and selecting and retaining excellent drivers is crucial to great customer service and overall company success.

If you’re in the process of developing or scaling your own ride hailing service, you’re in the right place! Read on for tips on how to find, onboard, and retain a thriving base of drivers.

How to find ride hailing drivers

Let’s get started with a few avenues for building your team of drivers.

  • Local advertisements. Think beyond print ads in your local paper and post locally targeted ads about job openings on social media. In addition, and especially if you offer a localized service, try reaching out to local news outlets to see if they might want to feature you as an independent business in the community.
  • Branding. Brand awareness isn’t just about marketing your services to customers! It’s also a great way to attract potential drivers. Create an active, engaged community via social media, and when you have a strong enough brand, enjoy the perks of organic traffic to your job postings.
  • Referrals. Encourage existing drivers to share opportunities with their own community by providing referral bonuses.
  • Vehicle-related incentives. If drivers have access to company-owned fleets, promote this! If drivers need to supply their own vehicles, make any vehicle-related incentives clear, such as support with insurance or maintenance.

How to onboard drivers

Establish working hours

The first thing to consider is whether you’ll be hiring drivers to work for set time periods, such as 9 AM-5 PM, or if you’ll allow drivers to set their own hours based on their availability.

Whichever option you go with ultimately depends on what type of service you’re offering. For instance, will your service operate during set hours or around the clock? In addition, working hours will depend on how many drivers you intend to partner with; if you’ll have a large pool of drivers, you may have adequate coverage with drivers setting their own hours, whereas it may be more beneficial to establish set hours for a smaller fleet.

If you choose to operate with set hours, involve your drivers in the process of splitting up and assigning shifts in order to accommodate their preferred work schedule.

Determine pay structure

Keep in mind the following when configuring the pay structure of riders:

  • How do you intend to calculate driver income? Will they get paid on an hourly basis, a per trip or kilometer basis, or a combination of all of the above?
  • How often do you intend to pay drivers? For instance, daily, weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly? Some ride hailing companies, such as Lyft, offer ‘Express Pay,’ which allows drivers to cash-out earnings instantly.
  • Will you instate a minimum fare? Some ride hailing companies establish a minimum amount a driver will earn on a ride, even if the time or distance of the trip is very small.

As with any job, providing fair wages is a crucial part of maintaining a stable, satisfied employee base, which brings us to our next point.

How to retain drivers

Your drivers are the front line of your ride hail service, so having excellent drivers is crucial to great customer service and return business.

To keep overturn low and driver satisfaction (and therefore rider satisfaction) high, consider the following retention guidelines.

1. Pay a living wage

This is a hot-button issue in recent years as the gig economy has continued to boom, bringing to light the fact that gig workers often face low pay, insecure work, and have few to no employee rights to rely on. As the leading employers in the gig economy, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft have especially been called upon to provide their drivers with living wages, as well as employee benefits and rights.

Keep this in mind and provide your drivers with fair wages and a decent level of security. Remember, you get what you give: low wages and poor treatment of drivers yields higher turnover and unhappy drivers and riders. Fair treatment of drivers will turn into long-term success.

2. Provide drivers with the tools they need to succeed

A ride hailing service without a great driver app is like a car without wheels: it won’t go very far. An effective driver app should include functionalities such as:

  • Accept/Decline Options for Trip Requests. This is as basic as it gets! Give drivers the ability to choose which trips they want to take on.
  • Integrated Navigation. Built-in GPS navigation should provide drivers with turn-by-turn directions that take into account real-time traffic changes, such as congestion or road accidents.
  • Reminders. A driver’s number one priority should be getting their riders to their destinations safely. They shouldn’t have to keep track of a million other things while in the middle of a trip. Reminders can help drivers stay focused by automatically keeping them on top of trip details, such as giving them a nudge if their driver forgets to log a completed pickup or dropoff in the app.
  • Accessibility. Keep in mind the varying hardware of your drivers: some may use tablets, others may use phones, and the app should work just as well on either. In addition, use an app that takes into account:
    • Ease of use — drivers should be able to accept a trip with one quick tap
    • Terminology — stay away from apps with highly technical jargon
    • Readability — drivers should never have to struggle to view the app while driving

We’d be remiss to not mention Spare Driver, an app which just so happens to include all of the above! Spare Driver is the result of lots of user feedback, and we’re proud to have an app that gets riders from Point A to Point B across four continents, designed with both drivers and customers in mind.

A key goal of Spare Driver is that it’s customizable to the needs of various companies. Canadian ride hailing startup, Whistle!, for instance, has been able to explore a variety of revenue opportunities by providing its customers with mix-and-match options using a single fleet, such as pre-bookings, long-distance trips, and different pricing mechanisms. Meanwhile, Spare has also enabled Nashville ride hailing enterprise Earth Ride to deliver premium service entirely through electric vehicles, all the while providing them with proprietary data and insights regarding their specific business model and how it could potentially expand to other parts of Texas.

3. Give drivers resources that allow them to develop their skills

In addition to an onboarding process that includes an overview of the basics of working as a ride hailing driver, a big part of retaining drivers is providing ongoing resources that set them up for success and allow them to continue developing their skills.

These resources may include:

  • General guide to being a driver. What can they expect from working for your company? What is required of them? Include any information drivers should know before they start, as well as driving basics, safety basics (especially during the pandemic), information about earnings, and answers to any other questions you anticipate drivers may have.
  • Guide to using the driver app. It’s a good idea to provide both a video tutorial for visual learners (check out the Spare Driver tutorial for an example), as well as a written guide drivers can refer back to if they want a quick refresher on a certain topic.
  • Driver learnings. You should develop an idea of what factors contribute to rider satisfaction that you can pass on to your drivers. Learnings may relate to driver-rider interaction, ride atmosphere (such as music or cleanliness), or local tips or recommendations regarding the community.
  • One-on-one meetings with drivers. The best way to ensure rider satisfaction is to support your drivers. Depending on the size of your driver base, a clear way to show support may be through one-on-one meetings where you convey any feedback you’ve collected through service review monitoring, including constructive criticism and encouragement regarding positive reviews.

4. Provide driver incentives

Allowing riders the opportunity to tip their drivers is considered standard for ride hailing services, and the entirety of the tip should always go directly to the drivers. Tipping also provides an added incentive for drivers to provide their riders with a top notch customer experience.

The best way to encourage tipping is to provide customers with an in-app option—such as the Spare Rider app, which allows passengers to add a percentage-based or custom tip during the review process of their journey.

To incentivise drivers to take on less desirable shifts, such as overnight or holidays, provide increased wages during those hours.

In addition, you may consider limiting the number of active drivers at any given time in order to avoid saturation, and to ensure that drivers are able to consistently book rides while they’re on the road.

Finally, you can take a leaf out of a company like Earth Rides’ book and consider creating a sense of community amongst your drivers. For instance, Earth Rides provides their drivers with hubs where they can “recharge” while recharging their electric vehicles. Earth Rides also strives to create connection between drivers and the outer community by putting time into promotion and education regarding the benefits of electric vehicles.

With these core elements of finding, onboarding, and retaining in mind, you’re ready to build a strong team of ride hailing drivers. The more you involve your drivers in your business and invest in their success, the more they will invest in your customers and the experience of riders in turn.

For more information about the Spare Driver or Spare Rider app, or to find out how Spare powers ride hailing companies of all sizes, check out our Ride Hailing page or drop us a line at [email protected].