Maine charter bus companies will participate in a “rolling rally” in the nation’s capital Wednesday to advocate for financial support as the industry risks collapse.

More than 800 buses from around the country are expected to converge on Washington, D.C., and loop around the National Mall for the morning rally.

The demonstration is meant to raise awareness about the struggling industry, which has been excluded from federal bailouts, said Cameron Isherwood, sales manager at Custom Coach and Limousine in Gorham.

In early March, the company’s trips with university sports teams and public schools were canceled. Now it is losing business well into the fall that would have come from summer camps, weddings, tourists, cruise ships and others, Isherwood said.

A contract to help shuttle employees at Bath Iron Works from parking lots to the shipyard is the first time its buses have been off the lot in more than a month, Isherwood said.

“We’re probably looking at eight to 12 months of not a lot of revenue at all,” he said. “We are not an exception – that is every (bus) company around the country.”


Wednesday’s rally was organized by industry groups the American Bus Association and United Motorcoach Association.

U.S. bus companies have furloughed more than 90 percent of their workforce in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the bus association said in a statement.

The industry, dominated by small companies, says it has not benefited from federal relief bills. It did not receive industry-specific bailouts provided to Amtrak passenger rail and airlines, said bus association CEO Peter Pantuso.

Emergency loans such as the Paycheck Protection Program are a poor fit for bus companies that have no idea when they can get passengers back on the road, he added. Bus companies often have high overhead costs, including leases for passenger buses that can cost as much as $500,000.

“Of the 3,000 bus and motorcoach companies in the United States, 90 percent are small, family-owned business who have had to close their businesses during the COVID-19 crisis,” Pantuso said in a statement. “By having to shut their doors while no one is traveling, nearly 100,000 employees, which include drivers, cleaners, maintenance and repair, administrative and safety personnel, are now without incomes.”

The industry is asking Congress for $10 billion in grants to cover operations and payroll, and another $5 billion in long-term zero-interest loans.

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