Winnipeg food delivery driver says he may ditch car for bicycle as gas prices soar

For Mykyta Hlushchenko, an international student by day and food delivery driver by night, every cent matters.

That’s why soaring gas prices have him considering a change to how he works — going back to make deliveries by bicycle instead of in his car.

“I’m losing, for every 100 kilometres, around five … bucks,” at current gas prices, he said.

Hlushchenko, who works for Uber Eats, is among those in the “gig economy,” such as ride-hailing drivers and food delivery workers, who now have to grapple with rapidly climbing prices that make doing their work more expensive.

The average gas price in Winnipeg was 196.1 cents per litre as of Thursday, according to the Canadian Automobile Association — up nearly 10 cents since last week, and well above the average of 125.8 cents per litre last June.

That kind of spike is hard for Hlushchenko, who works as a driver to not only support himself, but also to help family members who have been displaced by the war in Ukraine. 

“Now, I am the only one who can make some money,” he said. 

A photo shows members of Mykyta Hlushchenko’s family, including his mom, aunt, uncle and their children. They’re pictured here in Sweden, after fleeing the war in Ukraine. Hlushchenko took the Uber Eats job in part to help support them. (Submitted by Mykyta Hlushchenko)

Though his mother encouraged him to focus on his studies, he assured her he could both work and go to school.

“I said, ‘I want to help you. I want to help myself as well,'” he said. 

Hlushchenko started working with Uber Eats because it gave him the flexibility to keep going to school — and most important for him at the time, he didn’t even need a car to do it. 

He started out making deliveries by bicycle in early March, during one of the Manitoba’s worst winters in recent memory.

“It was pretty tough because at that time it was –10, –15 degrees when I was doing these deliveries, but I had no choice,” he said. 

He later bought a car, after a man explained to him during one of his deliveries how he could get financing to buy one.

But now, he’s paying for a loan and insurance — and making less money every time the price of gas increases.

Hlushchenko says he fills up every three or four days, depending on how far he drives and how many deliveries he makes. 

“If gas prices are going higher, I might make even less than the minimum wage,” he said. 

‘Matter of time’ before price passes $2/L

Statistics Canada’s database of the monthly average retail prices for gasoline shows regular unleaded gas dropped as low as 67.7 cents per litre in Winnipeg just over two years ago, in April 2020 — near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was still under $1 per litre — at 95.7 cents — as late as December 2020. 

But the price has climbed since then, with sharp increases this year.

Gas experts predict it will only get worse. 

“I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time before we see that $2 a litre mark pop up in Winnipeg,” said Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.com, which tracks fuel prices across Canada.

Prices in Winnipeg could spike to $2.25 a litre or beyond if any major weather events, like a hurricane, impact supply this summer, says Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. (CBC)

The global demand for fuel is “completely outstripping the amount of supply available” due to a number of factors, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and refineries shutting down in North America and globally because of COVID-19, De Haan said.

Prices in Winnipeg could spike to $2.25 a litre or beyond if any major weather events impact supply this summer, he told host Marcy Markusa in a Wednesday interview with CBC’s Information Radio.

“If we see a hurricane or other outage this summer, there’s very little breathing room — in fact no breathing room,” in refining capacity, he said. 

Information Radio – MB6:02What’s behind Canada’s soaring gas prices and what might manitoba motorists be facing this summer?

When will the gas price hikes end? Will they ever end? We’ll speak with Patrick De Haan , Head of Petroleum Analysis, GasBuddy.com.

Uber support for drivers ending

In March, Uber made efforts to help drivers deal with the increased costs. It implemented a surcharge of 50 cents for Uber ride-hailing customers and 35 cents for Uber Eats deliveries, with those extra fees going to drivers. 

Hlushchenko said the surcharge helped, but he’ll only be able to get it for about two more weeks. 

Mykyta Hlushchenko says he has to fill up every three or four days to do his Uber Eats deliveries. Uber is discontinuing a surcharge that went to offset the cost of gas for drivers like him. (Warren Kay/CBC)

In a statement on its website last month, Uber said the surcharge for Uber Eats deliveries will come to an end on June 15. It will continue for ride-hailing customers. 

Hlushchenko says he’s glad to see summer weather coming.

“I might save some cash on the fuel just in doing Uber again on the bicycle,” he said. 

“It’s healthy and it’s money-saving.”