Archives for National Bus Trader

Defending Contractors, Part 3: The Whistleblower’s Song

A few months ago, 85% of the nation’s motorcoach fleet lay around collecting dust. As noted in a former installment of National Bus Trader (see, the fat charter and tour sectors of yesteryear are gone – at least for some time. If ridership on the mode (transit) transporting our tired, poor and huddled masses has shrunk by 10 percent in each of the two years preceding COVID-19, one can expect far fewer motorcoach joyrides. As we struggle to bounce back, limited stimulus funds notwithstanding, it would help to know what we are in for. Reducing bloated public sector transportation

Defending Contractors, Part 2: The History of Contracting and Brokerage

In Part 1 of this series, I explained the relationships among operating companies, lead agencies and brokers. I began the discussion about how operating companies are victimized by lead agencies and brokers, whose ignorance and impunity often create operating environments which make it impossible to provide service safely or profitably. And I introduced the core goal of this series: How to defend operating companies from liability exposure related to incidents caused largely or solely by negligence committed by the lead agencies or brokers who “make the rules.” The rules matter. Most “lead” agencies (those public agencies which receive the funding)

What’s in Store for the Post-COVID Era Motorcoach Industry

As disturbing as recent USDOT appointments have been, I almost did not write this column. When the FMCSA administrator was nominated, I felt I had to. This is because the FMCSA regulates, governs and largely influences both the troubled motorcoach industry and vaccine distribution (at least those vaccines delivered by trucks). Given even the most conservative budgets currently being discussed (as of February 2, 2021), the potential waste in vaccine distribution is disturbing since it greatly exceeds what is needed to completely restore the motorcoach industry – including subsidies it may need for several years to get back on its tires. This article is not a partisan political criticism. I voted for neither recent candidate. I am

Defending Contractors, Part 1: Lead Agencies and Brokers

For decades, motorcoach providers have provided commuter-express service, under contract, to transit agencies (and, occasionally, to municipalities which do not even have formal transit agencies). Particularly in the past 20 years, this role has expanded: Motorcoach providers are increasingly providing service on local and regional routes, often with regular buses – not even motorcoaches. Similarly, many motorcoach companies also own schoolbuses, and provide schoolbus service, under contract, to school districts. For decades, roughly a third of all schoolbus service has been contracted out, and this percentage had remained surprisingly consistent. For the same reasons that contracted transit service has been

Motorcoach Survival in the Age of Covid-19, Part 3: The End of Charter and Tour Service – For Now

Over the years, I have predicted countless things in the pages of National Bus Trader. No reader will ever find me to have been wrong. Nor am I wrong about this: Some day, charter and tour service will come back stronger than ever. But that day is a long way off. The challenge is what to do in the meantime. Particularly from the Pandemic, America is in far deeper collapse than most people would have thought possible. Recent estimates have suggested that renters (and their families) of 20 million households could be evicted after the short-term bans on evictions expire.

Tight Schedules, Part 3: Fixed Route Transit Service

For reasons different than those of other modes, transit schedules are often tight. In many urban systems, all or most schedules are tight. When schedules are tight, drivers compromise passenger, pedestrian and motorist safety to comply with them. A number of common safety compromises are summarized below. A deeper treatment of those compromises typical of fixed route transit service may be found on, and in the 12 National Bus Trader articles published on this subject in September through December, 2017 and April through December, 2018 issues. That series was organized by type of safety compromise. This series, organized mode

Tight Schedules, Part 5: Motorcoach Service

National Bus Trader readers were treated (or subjected) to three brutal installments about tight schedules in the transit, non-emergency medical and paratransit sectors. Apart from motorcoaches deployed in transit service, tight schedules are a problem in only a handful of motorcoach scenarios. Still, coping with them is challenging in Today’s economic and operating environments. Geography, Regulations and Inflexibility In the August, 2003 National Bus Trader article titled “Pi R Squared,” I argued for doubling the size of a single vehicle’s service area by simply expanding the hours-of-service to 12 hours on-duty, an 18-hour span and, most importantly, verification of a

Tight Schedules, Part 6: Schoolbus Service

Routing for general education schoolbus service has been increasingly performed by robots for 25 years now. Yet general education schoolbus schedules are not nearly as tight as those of fixed route transit. One obvious reason is that schoolbus passengers cannot continuously be late to their destinations. If their bus schedules are the cause of it, they are eventually adjusted. In the wildly-unplanned schoolbus sector, these adjustments are most often made during the “shake-out” period during the first few weeks of the school year. But they are adjusted. When they are tight, it usually reflects weather, traffic, detours, parades, maintenance problems

Responding to Adversity by Abandoning Support 

Responding to Adversity by Abandoning Support  Unusual for a writer in a motorcoach magazine, I have often illustrated problems which surfaced in other modes. And I have discussed how operators, agencies and other parties associated with those modes have succeeded or failed to address them.  These lessons are far more important now because of the impact of COVID-19 on motorcoach ridership, vehicle production, and the successes or failures of the industry as a whole to cope with these problems. An example of a partial success was discussed in the November, 2020 edition of NATIONAL BUS TRADER: “Small Efforts and Big Differences.” An example of the

COVID-19, Shenanigans and Liability Part 2: Making Money by Compromising Health

Amtrak, the heavily-subsidized enemy of the motorcoach industry, is now outdoing its airline industry colleagues. But as a quasi-government monopoly, the taxpayers will effectively cover the damages if problems develop. That Amtrak may not even belong in most parts of the country is only a footnote.  The latest development was disclosed formidably in the October 14, 2020 issue of Mass Transit, re-characterizing a story from The Times Union, in Albany, New York. Amtrak’s activities were actually presented as great news: Mass Transit titled its article: “NY: With cutbacks, some Amtrak trains now sold out.” The fact that this feat was