More business travelers are hopping rides with ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft — taking more business away from car rental agencies and the taxi industry, according to a new report.
The number of trips taken with the ride share services by corporate trekkers nearly doubled in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2015, according to expense management company Certify, which reviewed more than 9 million receipts and expenses. At the same time, there were 10% fewer trips taken in car rentals than in the first three months of 2015. And the number of taxicab rides fell compared with a year ago. From 37% share for taxis at the start of 2014, it fell to 25% last year and now has hit 14%.
Rides with Uber and Lyft rose to 46% of all trips in the first quarter, up from 42% at the end of 2015.
Most companies now consider ride sharing an acceptable way for their employees to get around when traveling for business, says Bob Neveu, Certify's CEO. And "It's convenience and quality'' that is increasingly driving business travelers to choose such services over cabs.
That convenience also can make an Uber or Lyft ride preferable to renting a car. Many "rental car centers are not at the airport, they’re miles away,'' Neveu says. Besides the extra time spent picking up and returning the vehicle, or hunting for gas to avoid paying a steep price for returning a less-than-full tank, it also can be helpful to not have to worry about navigating unfamiliar roads. "If a business traveler is in a city they’re not familiar with … to let somebody else do the driving while you work in the back seat is a much more efficient use of time.''
Among ride share services, Uber continued to dominate, but Lyft saw growth as well. And Certify believes Lyft's role will grow in the wake of a $1 billion infusion of cash from investors such as General Motors.
Recognizing the potential of the corporate travel market, Uber launched Uber for Business in July 2014, a platform that allows corporate travelers to charge their rides to their businesses. The employers get trip details directly from Uber, removing the need for paper receipts. Lyft for Work’ touts similar convenience.
Harry Campbell, a Lyft and Uber driver who founded the blogTheRideshareGuy.com says that he has noticed the uptick in business travelers.
"This is most definitely a trend I've seen among business travelers, especially now that more employers are allowing for Uber (and) Lyft to be used on expense reports,'' he said. "I've also noticed that a lot of business managers like having electronic records of every ride, whereas in the past, employees on business travel would have to save paper receipts for expense reports.''
The changing ground transportation landscape is not going unnoticed by other players in the space. Uber’s growing market share has been particularly upsetting to cab drivers, from France to New Jersey, who've voiced concerns that Uber doesn’t offer the same passenger protections, or pay the same fees, that are mandatory for cabs.
But Luann Purcell, a USA TODAY Road Warrior who is executive director of an administrators group, prefers Uber for reasons ranging from cost to safety.
"As a woman who often travels alone, I feel safer,'' she says. "I love being able to secure the ride inside a building in a safe location instead of having to hope to find one. … I also love the electronic receipt, and no cash changing hands.''
It beats renting a car as well. "Parking is difficult for the cities I travel in and I don't have to learn my way around,'' she says.
But some, like USA TODAY Road Warrior Doug Houseman, still enjoy taking taxis.
"I guess I am traditionalist,'' says Houseman, a utilities executive in Plymouth, Mich. "It is a bit more money, but I can write the cab number down as I enter the taxi and know that I can find it if I leave something. … And if there is a problem, I know who to complain, too. I also know my liability as a passenger in a taxi. Those laws are not so clear with Uber and Lyft.''