Individuals who hang advertising flyers on homes’ doorknobs, are known as “walkers.” Before they can begin their distribution, many of them are picked up and delivered to the designated area in cargo vans that have no seats, let alone seatbelts. Many times, up to 10 people ride in the back, along with stacks of flyers to be circulated. On March 4th, three people were killed and seven others were injured when the 1995 cargo van they were in burst a tire and careened into a tree. The ironic part of it is that Texas law, (as well as most other states), does not require seatbelts for adults in a cargo van that has no seats. There’s no state or federal prohibition against carrying adults in the back, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. And because there are no seatbelts, restrictions on capacity don’t apply, stated the DPS. (Another ironic part of this is that the vehicle’s manual states that carrying passengers is unsafe.)
Pablo Alvarado, director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, stated, “tragedies such as these are a reminder that more needs to be done to protect the rights and safety of workers. Day laborers, like those who lost their lives, go to great risks to humbly provide for their families. Employers must be responsible for their safety during and en route to work.”
Day workers gather around service stations, shelters, and boarding houses, hoping to have the opportunity to earn typically around $40 to $55 a day, walking approximately 10 to 15 miles. Many of these workers are homeless, and although they realize that the vehicle they are climbing into may have bald tires, or be unsafe, they need the work. Firms who furnish cleanup crews at sports stadiums also use this type of transportation. Some of these vans have nothing more than floorboards for persons to sit on. Hopefully, following this accident, things may change. Two flyer-distributing services not involved in the accident said they are rethinking their use of such vehicles and may install seats. Until recently, the industry has taken advantage of loopholes in state and federal road safety regulations to hold down costs.
Advertising companies that furnish this type of labor face restrictions from many cities. Several communities in the Metroplex – Bedford, Colleyville, Frisco, McKinney, Allen, Rowlett, Murphy, Coppell, and Corinth, have passed city ordinances that require these advertising companies and each of their workers to be individually registered with their local police. Companies must pay $50 for a six-month permit. They also require all walkers to display their permit and wear an orange reflective traffic safety vest. Solicitation ordinances suggest that permits are not issued to anyone who has been convicted or pleaded no contest to a felony or misdemeanor in the previous ten years. Charitable solicitations, political literature, or distribution of religious tracts are exempted from the permitting requirements. Police want to know who is in their neighborhoods.
There are flyer delivery services that do not rely on cargo vans. Some say they use minivans with factory-installed seats and seat belts. Others say they limit riders to seven, not ten. One owner said he uses a van, but it has seats. As he said, “It sounds kind of unsafe not to have seats.”
Let’s hope that this latest accident will get the attention of lawmakers in order to protect the safety of those persons who do this type of work. They deserve better than this.
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram