Charter bus operators travel to Washington, D.C. to rally for support

Published: May. 10, 2020 at 6:40 PM CDT
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The airline and commuter train industries have received funding from the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic, but one industry is feeling left out.

More than 500 companies from the motorcoach industry are loading up and heading to Washington, D.C. for what they call an awareness rally.

“We have a route that we are going to be running right through downtown D.C., passed the white house, passed the capitol,” said Rick Thielen, President of the Minnesota Charter Bus Operator’s Association. “The idea is to get the attention of our elected representatives that we need help. This industry may not survive.”

As people cancel current and future travel plans, Thielen says the industry that normally transports 600 million people a year is shut down nationwide.

“Don’t forget about the motorcoach industry as part of the national transportation network,” Thielen said. “They dedicated a $100 billion to the airlines and airports and to city transits and to Amtrak. We were totally ignored.”

Thielen says 18 Minnesota companies are making the trip to D.C. Some include East Grand Forks, Bemidji, and Detroit Lakes.

“We have facilities and equipment that we still have to pay for,” said Trevor Janich with Olander Coach in Detroit Lakes. “Insurance that has to be done. We try to take part in the Payroll Protection Program which helped for a bit. A lot of us have tried to do small business loans, but there is just such a great need that a lot of motorcoach companies across the nation have not been able to get the financial assistance.”

The hope is this rally will bring attention and support to their cause.

“We're hoping, for our industry’s sake, to get a little bit of help in that from our government,” Janich said. “We are also hoping that people don’t forget about us. When the nation does open up again that they would consider using some of their assisted money that’s been coming in to get on a bus and take a trip.”

These companies say they want to get help for the more than 100,000 employees in their industry.

The companies say the best way for anyone to help right now is to write to your local and state representatives to show support for the industry.