Motorcoach industry facing uncertain future without financial help from government

Coronavirus

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Many companies in the private bus industry fear they may be forced to go out of business if they do not get financial assistance from the federal government.

According to the American Bus Association (ABA), the motorcoach industry is feeling harsh effects of the coronavirus pandemic as charter bus companies are not operating at their full capacity, if at all.

The relief companies are seeking is outlined in a bill called the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act.

Bus companies hope to get at least $10 billion from the government in the next stimulus package under negotiation because that my be the last chance for some of them to stay open. However, in the latest negotiations of the next stimulus package, relief for the motorcoach industry is not being considered.

“We’re going to see 25 to 40 percent of companies shut down permanently,” said ABA president and CEO Peter Pantuso. “Their employees, probably close to 50,000, about half of the employees, be put out of business.”

Pantuso says the industry typically racks up $15 billion every year through its three services: chartered tours, commuters, and scheduled service. Because of COVID-19, the ABA anticipates the industry driving in just $4 billion in 2020.

“It had completely idled most of it,” Pantuso said Wednesday, July 29.

One of the companies not facing the risk of going out of business is Abbott Bus Lines in Roanoke. Manager John Abbott says the 90-year-old company has financial stability through owning most of its fleet, which is helping the bus service stay afloat.

The company drives sports teams to games, tournaments and competitions, takes groups on tours, trips and other services. Abbott Bus Lines has done 10 trips in July, but that is no way near the amount of people they serve every year.

Abbott says driver and customers are required to wear face masks and he is installing shields to divide the drivers and passengers while on board. There is also consistent sanitizing and cleaning on the buses.

The ABA lists more than 3,000 chartered bus companies in the U.S., more than 36,000 buses, and more than 100,000 employees.

Pantuso estimates 2 million people around the country rely on buses for regular travel or construction to build and maintain the motorcoaches.

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