What's drives the Chinatown van drivers?
By Loretta Chao
As convenient as the service is for riders however, drivers say the work is extremely difficult and unrewarding. Each driver has to buy, insure, and sign their buses up with a company, which then gets a cut of their daily earnings. Zhou, for example, makes seven round trips everyday during the winter and gets to save less than $100.
"I have worked 365 days for four years now," said Zhou, who lives in Flushing with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. "Just think - I've never taken a vacation, not even for one day. I haven't even had time to get sick.
"It's just unbearably hard. I don't know English. When I go out I feel like I'm mute. Everything I learned in school is useless," he said.
And while customers are plentiful, the increasing number of vans has led to bitter and sometimes violent rivalry over the past six years. Police arrested the drivers involved in a string of murders as part of what they called a "bus war" in January 2003, but investigators said minor offenses like tire slashing and window breaking often went unreported. With some drivers working until 11 o'clock at night, they face other dangers as well.