The American Bus Association (ABA) – the industry leader advancing North American motorcoach travel and tourism – highlighted today that more than 400 buses from 137 companies from around the country are headed to Texas and other states as the Gulf Coast braces for Hurricane Laura.
"Each year 600 buses or more are called upon to assist in hurricane response activity in the U.S. It is their responsibility, not to be taken lightly, to move thousands of people out of harm’s way - from nursing homes, hospitals, senior centers and other facilities - and provide transportation for those who have no other means to evacuate." said Peter Pantuso, president & CEO of ABA. "All the official weather reports point to an especially active hurricane season in 2020. However, because of COVID-19, it is increasingly becoming more challenging to obtain buses as the season continues. Many of the motorcoach companies that would normally engage in these evacuation missions are now on the verge of bankruptcy because of the pandemic. These companies lost most, if not all, of their regular business this past year, and many were forced to deactivate their authority and idle their equipment. So, when the call comes for help now, this traditional emergency response force relied upon by the federal, state and local governments in these situations is not ready. Now who will answer the call to help evacuate if the buses aren't running?"
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the U.S. motorcoach industry with nearly all 3,000 companies being shut down and many will be forced out of business for good. When these companies shutdown, a vital link in the transportation network is lost, especially for rural areas. In addition to negatively impacting the transportation network, these company closures mean that when there are natural disasters around the country, there are fewer motorcoach companies able to respond and perform evacuations. In addition to providing hurricane relief today, many companies in northern California are being called on to evacuate citizens ahead of approaching wildfires.
"The industry needs help from Congress to stay alive, to be available during these disasters, to move the military and to get people to jobs," said Pantuso. "Without Congress' support the motorcoach industry will not recover from the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. These businesses are closing their doors daily, many of whom would normally answer the call to help evacuate Americans during natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires in California."
The industry is asking Congress to come together and provide the $10 billion in emergency economic relief funding as outlined in the both the Senate (S. 4150) and House (H.R. 7642) versions of the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act of 2020.