Safety and Profits
The summoning of a motor-bus driver at Marylebone Police Court recently, for driving in excess of the speed-limit, gives one more illustration of the dangers that attend the running of industries for the profit of shareholders, instead of for the use of everybody.
The case was reported in the Observer (22/11/25) as follow’s :—
George John Hickling, when summoned at Marvlebone Police Court yesterdav for driving a motor-omnibus in the Bayswater Road at twenty-seven miles an hour—fifteen in excess of the speed limit—told the magistrate he was trying to make up lost time. He had since been dismissed, he said, for not going fast enough.
“What is to be done?” asked the magistrate. “The safety of the public makes it necessary that buses should go at a reasonable speed.” The magistrate then read the notice of dismissal, which stated, “I have tried you with two conductors of experience, and they both complain that they cannot earn money with you in the way you work the road,leaving us no option but to make a change.” ”I suppose,” said the magistrate, ”that means that you are not going fast enough?”
The Defendant: That is so.
The magistrate said it was “very hard,” and, instead of fining there e defendant 20s., he ordered him to pay 10s., saying he must fine him something to protect the public.
It is curious that a case like this should come before the courts at a time when a certain amount of feeling is being stirred up by the frequency of road accidents. It suggests, to those who care to give the subject proper consideration, the real cause of many of the street accidents that occur in London, and other towns, where there is a good deal of road traffic, leaving aside for the moment the accidents caused by the rich pleasure seekers, who smash each other up as well as other unfortunate people, using the public roads as if they were private racing tracks.
When men are employed as drivers of this commercial motor vehicles, whether passenger or goods carriers, the job goes to, and generally stays with, the driver who is the most profitable to employ. Such a driver is the one who can get over the ground the fastest. Consequently, haunted by the fear of losing a job, the drivers tear through the congested streets as fast as they dare. If there is an accident, it is not the employers who are hauled before the courts, but the drivers, and consequently the outcry against increasing accidents is directed at the drivers, and not those who spur the drivers on to excessive speed. Here and there, to avoid responsibility, employers point out that they distribute certificates and good conduct stripes to the drivers who have the record that is clearest of accidents, but they omit to add that the drivers who cannot get through an average day’s work that is steadily increasing are sacked as incompetent drivers.
Motor drivers are in the same boat as other workers ; they must work at the very top of their capacity in order to compete successfully for jobs. The difference between them is only this, that when a driver has gone past the point at which bis capacities allow him to work properly, or when the strain has reached breaking- point, there is frequently an accident. Here as in other spheres of employment the cause of things going wrong must be sought in the same place. It is not the man who should be blamed when an accident occurs, but the system which compels men to endanger their own lives, as well as the lives of others,in order to gain a livelihood.