CLEVELAND, Ohio — At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., the airline corporations were among the first to feel the impact, and the White House sent signals that providing financial relief would be a priority.
Another sector of the transportation industry — motorcoaches — has also been devastated by the pandemic, and without relief.
- The motorcoach industry came to a screeching halt when social distancing orders went into effect
- A group of operators decided to form the Ohio Motorcoach Association to serve as one statewide voice for the industry
- Members say the new Ohio association they've formed is not only working to support the business owners, but the thousands of employees across the state
7.5 million people ride on motor coach buses each year, based on information from the United Motorcoach Association — North America’s largest association of professional bus and motorcoach companies. The majority of motorcoach companies are family-owned and operated.
“We stand as a operating industry here in Ohio to employ over 15,000 ohioans. So, with our 15,000 Ohioans, we not only are, as operators, looking at our industry. We're also looking at our employees,” said Ben Bolog, a 5th generation owner of U.S Coach out of Alliance, Ohio.
From weddings and field trips, to sports teams and the fans that watch them, the motorcoach industry came to a screeching halt when social distancing orders went into effect.
“It’s a scary time to think about how we have all these buses sitting and basically no customers to rent them out or go anywhere,” said Patrick Goebel, vice president of Barons Bus out of Parma, Ohio.
“We as motorcoach operators ended up being completely stranded, sitting and still making our bus payments, still making our insurance payments and everything and none of us were really actually kind of working together,” said Bolog.
Bolog began reaching out to Ohio’s congressional delegation for help in March. He says he has received supportive feedback from both political parties.
In late March, Bolog and a group of other operators decided to form the Ohio Motorcoach Association to serve as one statewide voice for the industry.
Members say the new Ohio association they've formed is not only working to support the business owners, but the thousands of employees across the state.
“I think it's great. Um, you know, it gives us a voice. Out of these last two packages we were left out. You know, airlines, Amtrak, a lot of other operations were given subsidies to get through this. We haul just as many people as airlines do and we were completely left out,” said Goebel.