The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

California Bus Crash:
A Disaster Long in the Making

Oct 31, 2016

A bus crash near Palm Springs, California, killed 13 people, including the bus driver, in the early morning hours of Sunday, October 23. Thirty-one other passengers were injured.

The bus was returning to Los Angeles from a visit to a casino when it rear-ended a tractor-trailer that had slowed down in traffic. The bus driver, 59-year-old Teodulo Vidas, was also the owner of the 20-year-old bus. He charged $20 for the 320-mile round trip from Los Angeles to the casino. In other words, Vidas was running one of the thousands of low-cost bus services across the country that specialize in carrying customers to casinos for a night’s visit.

To cut costs, big companies hire drivers as “independent contractors.” So the drivers not only do not qualify for a set wage and benefits, but now “own” their bus also – that is, they are responsible for all the expenses of the bus. Big trucking companies do the same thing.

These one-bus companies make little money – which in turn forces them to increase the number of trips to stay afloat. Vidas’s bus, for example, was driven nearly 69,000 miles in 2013, enough for more than 200 trips to that particular casino or others that exist nearby.

This guarantees that many, if not all, of these “family-owned” companies will forgo maintenance.

Police said there was no sign of the bus braking before the crash. Did the driver fall asleep? Did the brakes fail? Was the bus in disrepair?

We may not know the immediate cause of the crash yet, but one thing is certain: Conscious decisions made by big corporations to maximize their profits can only make transportation unsafe for millions of passengers and drivers.