Professional Drivers: Automobile Debt and Financial Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Research Team: Jacob Wasserman (lead), Fariba Siddiq, Samuel Speroni, and Evelyn Blumenberg

UC Campus(es): UCLA

Problem Statement: While a majority of Californians drive towork, a smaller share drive forwork. This diverse group includes both those who drive passengers and those who transport freight and both those who drive smaller, personal vehicles and those who drive larger busesand trucks. Taxi drivers and gig economy drivers for app-based ride-hail and delivery firms move passengers, food, and groceries, sometimes as part-time jobs. Chauffeurs, truckers, and shuttle and bus drivers also ply California’s roads as integral parts of the state’s personal and goods surface transportation system. Across these driving occupations, drivers have varied but often precarious livelihoods, especially those who take on debt to obtain the very vehicle they use for work.

Project Description: This report synthesizes three primary data sources—credit data, unemployment claims data, and small business loan and grant data—to explore the financial conditions of those who drive for a living before and during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Specifically, the researchers look at automobile debt among working drivers and at financial support for working drivers since March 2020. In other words, does the particular occupation of driving lead workers to take on debt for their vehicles and how did those workers fare during a period of reduced demand for driving and drivers?

Status: Completed

Budget: $10,000