WASHINGTON, D.C. — Motorcoaches representing 3,000 companies from around the nation are expected to mobilize in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 13 under the banner “Motorcoach Rolling for Awareness.” Industry leaders want their representatives to acknowledge the economic and emergency contributions made by small-business charter companies across the country, and are requesting grants and zero-percent interest loans for operational and payroll assistance.
“We look forward to joining hundreds of our fellow motor-coach operators in Washington to showcase the strength in numbers of our industry and the positive benefits we provide to every community in America,” said Danielle Veronesi, marketing director for Peter Pan Bus Lines, which will participate in the rally.
Gill-based Travel Kuz will participate as well, said Pam Reipold, the company’s CEO.
“The situation is understandable; we’re so consistent as an industry that we’ve become background noise,” she said, referencing the oversight of economic relief from Congress and the White House, before noting the critical role the motorcoach industry provides. “Travel connects us; it brings people together. When we get through this [COVID-19], we’ll need that more than ever.”
The rally is a one-day, one-time, grassroots event born from independent motor-coach operators, industry suppliers, and state associations, represented by a joint initiative between the nation’s two largest associations, the American Bus Assoc. and the United Motor Coach Assoc. This is intended to be a positive event showcasing how big buses and small businesses move America. Buses will be decorated with informative signs about the motor-coach industry, including the groups they serve, the economic impact they make, and the people they employ.
Veronesi noted that the motor-coach industry includes about 3,000 companies across the U.S., operating 36,000 motor coaches and transporting nearly 600 million Americans and visitors annually across the country, generating more than $237 billion in transportation, travel, and tourism revenue.
Motor-coach operators are seeking to remind members of Congress and the Trump Administration that the industry — which has laid off or furloughed more than 90% of its workforce nationally in the wake of COVID-19 — needs federal assistance. The motor-coach industry has requested $15 billion in federal grants and loan guarantees and modifications to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Paycheck Protection Program.
Transportation is a heavily regulated field, Reipold noted. Each regulation comes at a cost, often learned after the fact. While the buses may not be rolling, the bills are still coming in. Throughout the U.S., transit companies are delivering food and medical supplies, being utilized for emergency evacuations and military transport, and are required to remain insured even when they are stagnant.
Many motorcoach companies also maintain a fleet of school buses. With school districts closed, many drivers currently find themselves collecting unemployment. This has affected their ability to access adequate healthcare. Keeping staff on payroll will be important because school districts are expecting buses to be ready in August, and driver retention will be a challenge without assistance.
“It is disheartening when I can’t offer stability to my people,” Reipold said. “They serve an important role in transporting our nation’s youth. All I can tell them is ‘stay safe,’ and we’ll get through this together.”