COVID-19 is destroying the revenue of transportation provider Northfield Lines and other motorcoach organizations throughout the country.
To call attention to the relatively lesser-known impact the coronavirus is having on the motorcoach industry, Northfield Lines will send a motorcoach to Washington, D.C., for a May 13 rally to raise awareness of the major role the industry has on the economy and request additional federal funding to help it survive the economic downturn.
A press release from the American Bus Association and United Motorcoach Association states the event is meant to raise awareness of the industry’s economic role in conducting military transports; evacuating Americans from wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods; connecting people to jobs; connecting rural Americans to urban centers; providing school transportation and other tasks.
The motorcoach companies, under the banner Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness, will operate in a rally with messages explaining the importance of the industry.
According to the ABA and UMA, the current economic remedies available to small businesses don’t address the motorcoach industry, while $75 billion has been allocated for the airline industry, Amtrak and transit. According to the two groups, the vast majority of U.S. bus and motorcoach companies are small, family-owned operations who have had to close during the pandemic, costing the jobs of nearly 100,000 employees.
Northfield Lines General Manager Bryce Barry said Northfield Lines and sister company Benjamin Bus used to have approximately 120 employees, including 30 full-time drivers and other workers. Now, that number has been dramatically reduced for the company’s three locations in Northfield, Eagan and Jordan, with the only people working in an office setting doing so with reduced hours.
Northfield Lines relies on currently non-existent tourism and college industries. Along with that, the company is bracing for an expected major loss of revenue from expected decreases in State Fair traffic and other Twin Cities events.
To make up for those losses, Northfield Lines is one of many motorcoach businesses that are looking for Congress to make available $10 billion in grants for operational and payroll assistance and $5 billion in long-term zero percent interest rate loans to the industry to ensure their operation until at least this fall. As of now, Northfield Lines, which has applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, is expected to be struggling to survive with limited staff by July.
Even if funding is allocated, Northfield Lines will need to make adjustments to how it cleans buses to ensure rider safety. They are also aware that it could take a long time for people to feel comfortable making long bus trips, which could further erode revenue.
According to Barry, Benjamin Bus is in a relatively good place because Northfield Public Schools is continuing to pay for its contract with the company despite the current distance learning format.