How COVID-19 Affected the Commercial Bus Industry

How COVID-19 Affected the Commercial Bus Industry

Every industry worldwide was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, even those you might not have thought of initially. For example, the airline industry was greatly affected but has mostly recovered as the pandemic continues. Sectors such as hotels and casinos have seen similar recoveries. On the other hand, the commercial busing industry is one that has had a much harder time recovering in the wake of public anxieties and shifting consumer behavior. Here’s how COVID-19 affected the commercial bus industry and how it can recover.

What Did the Beginning of the Pandemic Look Like?

COVID-19 emerged in America between February and March of 2020. As America reported deaths stateside while the virus was growing overseas, industries and the government took action. The World Health Organization declared it a pandemic on March 11, and two days later, Donald Trump declared it a national emergency. Local state and city governments put various stay-at-home orders into effect not too soon after, crippling industries that relied on consumers coming into their doors. Finally, on March 27, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law, providing $2 trillion in aid to hospitals, local governments, and small businesses.

America did not progress forward all at once. Governors and mayors kept some states and cities in lockdown longer than others. The only industries still operating were health care, grocery stores, and restaurants that could make deliveries. As time went on, some cities began to open more, and these industries recovered somewhat. This recovery was thanks in part to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) within the CARES Act and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). Unfortunately, these programs were not nearly enough for many industries like commercial busing.

What Did the Pandemic Look Like for Commercial Busing?

While all this relief was occurring, people were beginning to be more comfortable flying or going out to restaurants again. For many industries, this was not the case. Commercial busing was one of those industries. People needed groceries and food, and some of the industries that were unable to shift to remote work still required air travel for employees to get where they needed to go. Busing that was not public transportation was no longer needed.

Schools and universities had gone remote and did not need to pick up students. Businesses and other organizations were not having retreats that needed buses. Busing was hit hard as a result. It was one of the first industries that saw significant ramifications of the pandemic, and it is proving to be one of the last ones to recover.

How Did Commercial Busing Change as the Pandemic Went On?

The beginning of the pandemic saw commercial bus sales fall to their lowest levels in 15 years as countries continually tried to stop the virus. People did not feel safe riding on crowded buses with other passengers, and there was often no need when everyone was still working from home and living in lockdown. However, when fear of the virus runs rampant, consumer behaviors change in response. As the virus was more understood, busing emerged as safe when appropriately managed, but consumers still did not want to choose it.

COVID-19 had a huge impact on the commercial bus industry. In the heat of the pandemic, 90 percent of commercial bus companies were using less than 5 percent of their buses, and 72 percent of companies stopped operations altogether. Many companies could receive financial relief through PPP and EIDL, but these solutions were a Band-Aid for a much larger issue. Consumer attitudes needed to change, but it was difficult to do so while the pandemic never disappeared. People just learned to live alongside it. Commercial busing had instituted safe practices to ensure the safety of its passengers, but they did not publicize this enough to sway public opinion.

Transportation has always been an industry that is greatly affected by different crises. People will change their patterns in response to these crises, and it will always take a lot of time for people to be confident enough to travel in the same ways they once did. Problems can create spaces for innovation as industries meet new and unique demands, but they can also set them up to fail.

What Does the Future of Busing Look Like?

Situations like this force industries to improve, and busing has met the challenge. There has been a greater emphasis on environmental factors that industries can improve. For example, the beginning of pandemic lockdowns saw fewer people out on the roads and the streets, and there were visible environmental changes as a result. The sky and water looked clearer, and the public was beginning to better understand the way emissions affect the environment. There is greater support for energy-efficient transportation, and the busing industry has been working hard to develop new zero-emission buses to meet this demand.

Buses in the future are also poised to be a much safer alternative to regular cars. The beginning of lockdowns saw many roads and highways much emptier than expected; there were initially fewer traffic incidents, and the states saved more money. However, traffic deaths surged when more people eventually got on the roads. According to National Safety Council researcher Ken Kolosh, drivers were more likely to speed and drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Other experts have said that these behaviors reflect drivers’ feelings of depression and isolation.

These feelings are not likely to go away anytime soon, so busing is an alternative many need to consider. These commercial industries need to emphasize their safety and worth to the broader public and stand as an alternative to excessive emissions and traffic accidents. It will take a lot of work before busing is ever the industry it once was, but if it continually positions itself as a better option than cars, it can recover and grow. COVID-19 affected the commercial bus industry, but it also revealed many different areas of improvement for companies like National Bus. If you need both new and used buses for your school or church, we can help you find what you need.

How COVID-19 Affected the Commercial Bus Industry


Steve Henshaw President National Bus Sales

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