Support the federal Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act
In July, bipartisan bills, known as the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act (CERTS), were introduced in the U.S. Senate (S.4150) and U.S. House of Representatives (H.R.7642). If enacted, CERTS would provide $10 billion in economic relief for over-the-road buses, including the private motorcoach, tour and charter industry. The $10 billion would be used to provide grants and other forms of emergency assistance with at least half of the funds going toward grants.
The Pennsylvania Bus Association (PBA) applauds U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI)) and U.S. Representatives Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) for sponsoring these bipartisan bills to help this critical travel and transportation industry survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 shutdown in Pennsylvania and around the country has had a devastating impact on travel and transportation operators. The $15 billion motorcoach industry typically provides 600 million passenger trips annually through intercity scheduled service, charters, and tours. Yet, motorcoach, tour and travel industries were not included in the previous assistance packages provided by Congress; even though, we carry almost 20 times as many passengers as Amtrak. The motorcoach industry is second to domestic airlines in moving people. The American Bus Association (ABA) said that in 2018, privately owned motorcoaches transported 600 million people. The airlines flew 779 million, and Amtrak trains took 31.7 million people on its popular Northeast corridor runs and long-distance trains.
There are approximately 3,000 bus motorcoach operators in the United States, who normally employ over 100,000 employees, with a fleet of 36,000 vehicles that are largely sitting unused during this trying time. The motorcoach, tour and travel industries are dominated by small businesses, and most often these are family-owned, multigenerational businesses. These small businesses are not capable of withstanding even a modest downturn in domestic travel and tourism, let alone the devastating situation the travel industry is currently experiencing. Small businesses form the backbone of the U.S. tour and travel industry, as well as provide vital links for rural communities, commuting employees, school children, and price-sensitive travelers.
We do not go to Capitol Hill on a regular basis looking for handouts and we are not part of the government system like the airlines, pulling into government-funded airports or Amtrak, which is partly a government system. However, on May 13th of this year, PBA motorcoach operators joined hundreds of their fellow motorcoach companies from around the country for a rolling rally around the U.S. Capitol and National Mall in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness for the economic devastation inflicted upon the industry by the coronavirus. The “Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness” was an event to showcase how big buses and small businesses move America.
Congress has a key opportunity to stand behind the motorcoach industry, which is a key part of our nation’s transportation system, by passing the CERTS Act or including it in the stimulus package currently being negotiated by the Congress and White House. With the threat of a second COVID-19 wave, we want to ensure that our family motorcoach business, and tour and travel industries are not forgotten. As Congress aggressively seeks measures to combat the economic downturn resulting from the spread of COVID-19, we implore them to keep in mind the myriad of small, family owned businesses engaged in motorcoach, tour and travel operations. On behalf of our members, please support the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act (CERTS Act).
The Pennsylvania Bus Association was founded in 1923 and has functioned without interruption and with an unrelenting commitment to the safety of the traveling public and the economic well-being of its member companies. PBA boasts a well-rounded program of activities for both bus operator and supplier members and carries a current membership of over 750 entities. Governmental affairs, travel and tourism marketing, education, safety, and communication constitute the major areas of involvement for this, one of the oldest public passenger transportation associations in the United States.
Patricia Cowley is executive director of the Pennsylvania Bus Association.