Death driving the bus in Guatemala

I just finished up writing a chapter where I argued that unionized labor in transportation, though a favorite whipping boy, has some pretty good reasons to be unionized, in that operating transit vehicles is a pretty difficult job. My claim was greeted with incredulity, largely by a reviewer whom I’m pretty sure has never had a job in his entire life that didn’t involve sitting on his butt in front of a computer. Driving a commercial vehicle is difficult ergonomically, making the route’s time points can be difficult and stressful in mixed traffic, and then you have to deal with clueless and jerk face customers on top of that. It’s a hard job, and transit advocates seldom stop to think about how crucial operators and their morale is to overall level of service.

Anyway, I’m sticking to my guns on the point in the chapter, and this recent write up of the dangers of bus driving in Guatemala from The New Republic reinforced the point. No rule of law means no rule of law, and everywhere becomes dangerous, but the whole story is both amazing in the bravery of the operators and in the horrible conditions that govern their work:

There, in the crowded office, the phone lit up. A man’s voice came on the line. It was calm, almost pleasant. You’re going to pay us taxes now, the voice said: 8,000 quetzales a week—about $1,000. If you don’t, we’re going to start killing your bus drivers.