MADISON, Ala. — The COVID-19 outbreak has decimated the bus industry. While airlines, trains and other modes of passenger travel have received assistance from the federal government, the motorcoach industry was left out of federal support.
In the last 5 months, Spirit Coach LLC in Madison has made a total of 5 trips. Typically, their most popular season is between March and June where they would have around 350 trips.
With the loss of revenue and employees, Bryan Weeks, the operations manager for Spirit Coach LLC says they are ready for some normalcy.
“We’ve furloughed everybody in the company with the exception of the owner and me,” said Weeks. “And as we have a trip, of the few trips that we get, we will call drivers back to do that trip and then furlough them again.”
Nationwide, 90% of the motorcoach industry is furloughed. Thousands of buses drove through Washington D.C. in May to bring awareness to the struggling companies, but three months later, not much has changed.
Weeks says the rally brought exposure to the industry and now, politicians are working on the CERTS act.
The Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act has $10 million set aside for motorcoaches, but the passing of the act is still under debate. But if nothing changes soon, businesses will continue to go under.
“If it keeps on going, you’re going to eliminate a lot of motorcoaches in the United States which will do two things,” said Weeks. “First thing — it’ll drive the price up. Supply and demand. Second thing — put a lot of people out of work.”
Spirit Coach LLC has lost over $1 million in revenue so far, but for the little business they are getting, they work to keep riders safe.
Weeks says they encourage everyone on the bus to wear masks while the driver is required. “As far as how we clean them — we have a fogging machine that we go through the entire coach,” he adds. “We wipe all the hard surfaces down — the windows.”
Weeks says the goal of the company is to make it to Spring 2021. If business continues the way it is now, they may have to reassess the situation.