GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — Restaurants, nail salons, retailers, and many other businesses have been financially devastated during the pandemic.
What You Need To Know
- The Giddens family has owned and operated their fleet of 25 motor coaches and buses for 31 years
- Tom Giddens and his wife had hoped to pass down to their son, Michael and his wife
- The Giddens also use their buses for philanthropic purposes like helping out during natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina
- Giddens said they may only last another few months, possibly three
Another industry that’s also come screeching to a halt is the charter bus industry. Most of the country’s estimated 3,000 charter bus companies are family owned, including one in Orange County called Pacific Coachways Charter Services.
The Giddens family has owned and operated their fleet of 25 motor coaches and buses for 31 years.
Tom Giddens started in the bus business as a driver of his church’s bus. He was a teenager at the time. He then moved on to driving school buses, and then worked at charter bus companies.
Thirty-one years ago, however, Giddens and his wife, Connie, started their own company.
“It’s a fun business to be in because you get to interact with so many people, said Giddens.
Giddens said he enjoys taking people and families to destinations. The Giddens also use their buses for philanthropic purposes like helping out during natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina.
The last time their fleet hit the roads was March 13, 2020, when the pandemic was declared.
Future trips were cancelled, and trips that had been prepaid had to be refunded.
While the Giddens have had zero revenue coming in for months, their bills have continued.
“A new bus costs about $650,000 nowadays. So, you’re talking a $7,000 a month payment, with another insurance payment per month about $1,200,” he said.
Monthly, Giddens said he is on the hook for about $150,000 in payments. He said his insurance company and banks have been working with him for a few months putting off payments, but the clock may be running out on the payment forgiveness he’s been offered so far.
Pacific Coachways Charter Services also has 48 employees. The company’s paycheck protection program loans have ran out after eight weeks. Giddens said layoffs were unavoidable.
“I haven’t been unemployed ever. And now I’m unemployed,” he said.
It’s a business Giddens and his wife had hoped to pass down to their son, Michael and his wife.
Michael Giddens has been working at the company since high school, working part-time through college, and for the past few years, running day to day operations.
“Unfortunately no, I don’t really have much of a Plan B,” said Michael.
Michael said he jokes with friends that he’s never really had a job interview. The bus business is what he loves doing and hopes to continue to do. So, Michael is helping make plans for – if and when – they’re back to business. He’s placed social distancing signs near the driver’s seat. “Drivers are wearing masks, and we require our passengers to wear masks as well,” said Michael.
He said buses will also be wiped down and disinfected between each trip.
The Giddens said their buses also have germ-killing air filtration systems that circulate the air more often than on airplanes.
These are all steps that the family said they hope will help them prepare for the “new normal” as more destinations and businesses begin to open their doors again that people want to visit.
Tom Giddens and his wife have refinanced their home and using their lifetime savings to stay afloat for the time being. Giddens said they may only last another few months, possibly three.
“I’m fearful of losing my house, my business, everything,” he said.
Tom Giddens remains hopeful.
In July, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced Senate Bill S. 4150 Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act of 2020. This bipartisan legislation would provide $10 billion in emergency economic relief funding, in the form of grants (no less than 50 percent of total funding) and other economic assistance, through the U.S. Department of the Treasury, to motor coach operators, such as the company run by the Giddens.