The Motorcoach Industry is Bouncing Back Nicely
The private sector motorcoach industry lost nearly one-half of its companies during the pandemic, according to the Department of Transportation data for U.S. for-hire motorcoach companies. The survivors were typically better managed, perhaps a little stronger financially, but more importantly had strong networks, including associations, to stay informed about critical government support opportunities like PPP loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Main Street Lending Program, and CERTS grants where a massive industry effort generated a $2 billion bailout.
The motorcoach industry that emerged post-COVID is vibrant and more adept at pivoting to meet customer needs and finding ways to manage scarce vehicle and driver resources. With less capacity, the demand for coaches is impacting charter and tour rates. Drivers, support staff, fuel, and even new vehicles all cost more post-COVID.
Current buyers of motorcoach services learned the lessons from 2022 of tight capacity and are now booking motorcoach services sometimes as much as a year earlier. Additionally, with tight capacity in 2022, many buyers of charter services cast their net broader only to find they booked their trip with a broker. In general, brokers do not own and maintain motorcoaches, nor do they hire or train drivers.
Partners mean relationships
Knowing who your partners are is even more important in today’s world, and building relationships remains key. Tour organizers can start with their existing networks when looking for recommendations for a motorcoach company, as most motorcoach companies have built their own networks of people they trust.
Other tools to find a reputable motorcoach company include looking for their affiliation with a state/regional and national association or turning to UMA’s lead service – BusRates.com that enables buyers to send a request to multiple companies in a market with one click.
An eye to the future
In the next few years, we see the industry continuing to stabilize as companies adjust to the new competitive environment in their communities, as the labor market calms down, and the supply chain challenges continue to improve.
It seems counterintuitive with all the companies and vehicles that have left the market, but the supply of pre-owned motorcoaches that usually helps start new companies is unusually low right now.
Manufacturers have been unable keep up with demand for new motorcoaches, which has put added pressure on the pre-owned market for those looking to expand and for new entrants. Additionally, federal regulatory agencies have added layers of new regulations that impede and often discourage new startups.
We do expect more competitors eventually, but there is another factor impacting long-term planning for motorcoach companies: environmental regulations of emissions. With California leading the way, a collection of like-minded states and the Federal EPA are imposing an escalating series of limits on various pollutants. UMA and others are working to ensure that motorcoaches can continue to serve customers across the country, and to educate about the impact of proposed regulations.
Motorcoaches are already the greenest form of travel as clean diesel technology dramatically reduced emissions. In a recent study entitled, “Getting There Greener,” the Union of Concerned Scientists found that motorcoaches offered “the smallest footprint of any mode for people traveling alone or with a companion.” It’s plain and simple: buses are the low-carbon travel champ. Every person that chooses motorcoach travel instead of driving alone reduces his or her carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 85%.
Pull quote: Every person that chooses motorcoach travel instead of driving alone reduces his or her carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 85%.
New technologies are on the horizon to further reduce carbon emissions. These include battery electric motorcoaches for limited range, while hydrogen fuel cell electric motorcoaches may become the logical choice for long-distance travel.
Choosing motorcoaches over air travel
The modern motorcoach industry provides green, safe transportation to nearly 600 million passenger trips annually in charter, tour, and scheduled service. Book your trip early with a reputable motorcoach company and avoid brokers. Develop a relationship of trust that will likely serve you both for many years.
One day a tour operator noticed someone she knew to be a longtime airline pilot boarding a motorcoach for a multiday tour. She asked him why he was boarding a motorcoach when he could fly anywhere, at no cost. He replied that he had recently retired and said, “For over thirty years I have flown all over this country. Now, I want to see some of it.”
Indeed! We hope to see your group tour departing on a motorcoach very soon.
Scott is the President & CEO of the United Motorcoach Association, the essential resource for education and advocacy in the professional bus and motorcoach industry, giving our members the tools to build successful businesses. He leads UMA to protect and promote the interests and welfare of privately owned common carriers of passengers by motorcoach.
Prior to joining UMA in 2021, Scott was President & CEO of the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA). Like the motorcoach industry, the moving industry consists of thousands of smaller, family businesses, where their passion for their work was magnified by the deep connection they felt to their company. A graduate of Princeton University, Scott lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife and three daughters.
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