Motorcoaches and Climate Change

Even while roughly 18 feet of Iceland melt every year, there are plenty of Americans who do not believe in climate change. As in Iceland, everyone does in the South Sea islands, where the coastline is receding dramatically.

But this belief is not as universal in huge countries like the United States where weather patterns were vastly different long before any notion of climate change emerged, and long before some of the forces that led to it, like large-scale fossil fuel consumption, even existed. (In the 19th Century, the sixth-largest industry was whaling!) This is not true of every contributing factor: Flatulence from cattle – and possibly other animals – creates considerable volumes of carbon dioxide. However, before automobiles began to perpetuate, and particularly before the discovery of synthetic oil (in 1877) and its widespread increase in usage in the early 20th Century, and with a much smaller population (with far fewer automobiles, far less cattle and exponentially less deforestation), the carbon dioxide levels created were relatively harmless as they were absorbed by the surrounding plant life. Further, many people do not understand the different between climate and weather. For such people, the fact that climate change makes certain places colder tends to convince them that the notion is a hoax, despite the many scientists who believe otherwise.

Now: What does such a phenomena mean for the motorcoach industry? Actually, it means quite a few things, Perhaps small and not frequent things. But things that add up to the need for more of them.

Mass and Clearance

We have all seen footage of cars floating down the river in massive floods. We have never seen a motorcoach do this. Other than some underside components, its floor is three feet above ground. And a 45-footer weighs roughly 50,000 pounds. So it would have to practically cruise along a beachfront during a Tsunami to be tipped over. In the vortex of a Class 4 hurricane, running into your home is better than standing outside. But unless your home is a large castle, a motorcoach is a better place to be – not to mention that, traffic notwithstanding, it can move you away from the storm altogether in a matter of hours.
Of course, even in perfectly-fine springtime weather, these features keep vehicles from getting snagged on protruding objects in the roadway. And despite its total height, the enormous mass of a motorcoach, often filled with luggage below the floor that lowers its center-of-gravity, minimizes rollovers even on short arcs taken at too high a speed (although there is always some speed at which a vehicle of any type and size can roll over on a sharp arc or turn).

Snow and Ice

When driven improperly, or taken by surprise (e.g., by “black ice”), the surface area of six oversized snow tires (which can be quickly fitted almost instantly with chains on some models) are a good match for even large patches of ice – particularly as most coach drivers know to travel slowly under such conditions. Otherwise, even on snowy and icy roads, the surface area of the large tires’ portions touching the roadway spread out at opposite corners of the vehicle help improve its stability – although most motorcoach drivers operate very slowly on such roadways or, often, do not drive on them at all.

Evacuation and Flexibility

With stupid mistakes, any mode of transportation can be dangerous. Most National Bus Trader readers remember the Hurricane Rita disaster (I was an expert witness in the lawsuit that followed). But that incident was an encyclopedia of problems (the broker) and bungling (the driver and the service vehicle). Otherwise, the safest way out of town in a weather-related catastrophic is a motorcoach. Trains can skid on slippery tracks – for example when the tracks are covered with wet leaves. Small vehicles can be carried along the floodwaters. Obviously air travel is idiotic.

The body of experience for electric vehicles in rainstorms and floods is not yet large enough to draw conclusions – although common sense suggests that two things that go together poorly are electric currents and water. A motorcoach’s superiority is even true in intense fires, as the “envelope” for volatility of diesel fuel is exponentially less than that of gasoline, and unless stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, a motorcoach can race through patches of fire more safely than can a gasoline-powered automobile.

In terms of aiding evacuation, as I have written before in National Bus Trader (see https://transalt.com/article/the-price-of-digital-madness/), trains are of little value other than by coincidence because their usage is constrained by tracks. In contrast, a motorcoach can usually go wherever it is needed. Even a day before a huge storm is predicted, 10,000 motorcoaches can be staged within 500 miles of the target zone – and moved closer as the target is more precisely defined. This means that tens of thousands of individuals with no access to an automobile can be evacuated from a high-flood area. The fact that they can store dry clothing in the luggage bays, sleep on plush reclining seats and have access to a restroom are important footnotes.

Delays and Shenanigans

I have written before about the scale of corruption in commercial airlines around the world. In 2021, roughly half the world’s flights were cancelled – largely to eliminate anything but a flight with every last seat filled (see https://transalt.com/article/expanding-the-mode-split-dividing-line-part-1-exponential-airline-industry-corruption/). This consolidation occurred to a great degree even in the heart of the COVID-19 epidemic – although it may be more well known that 2020 was the heart of AMTRAK’s bonanza year, when it removed all but four trains from running in the northeast corridor, jamming those who could even get a reservation (and not during their preferable times) elbow to elbow into the few trains traveling – masks, faceguards, gloves notwithstanding, although one dressed as an astronaut could likely ride without much fear if he or she had a large oxygen container of uncontaminated air alongside him or her on board (see https://transalt.com/article/covid-19-shenanigans-and-liability-part-2-making-money-by-compromising-health/ ).

But even for those flights that went out, a study I recall noted that barely 10 percent of flights went out on time in one recent post-COVID year. In contrast, motorcoaches do not stack up on runways. And they depart full, half full or barely full on schedule – rather than consolidate passengers onto different runs to different layover destinations (or strand them altogether) when every last seat is not taken. They generally depart and arrive on schedule – often with 30-minute rest stops at selected restaurants along the route every few hours.

Heating and Cooling

Like transit buses, the passenger compartments of motorcoaches remain toasty as they are heated largely by recirculated engine coolant, whose boiling point is significantly higher than water, and which circulates throughout the heating ducts alongside the wall side passengers’ feet. When it is hot outside, all motorcoaches have oversized air conditioning units so that the passenger compartments remain cool even in the hottest parts of the country, in the hottest weather. The one exception is that engine compartments can overheat, and coaches must stop for short periods of time to cool them down, particularly if they had been running uphill for a while. Otherwise, they have roof hatches and ventilation systems to supplement the A/C units and bring in fresh air – something airplanes cannot do.

Worse and Worse and Better and Better

When one thinks about the sluggish pace at which we are addressing forces that are burning and melting the planet, while, oddly, cooling it in certain odd places as a consequence of the same ecological factors, riding in a motorcoach will easily be as cozy and immune to these factors as will be someone sitting next to his or her fireplace or air conditioning unit in the most well-built home. In fairness, this is likely true in most vehicles. The difference is that no vehicles other than motorcoaches and passenger trains have the same array of luxuries.

Unlike Europe, saturated by public transportation of all sorts, including motorcoaches (many of which are used to transport students to school [Europeans typically use a suburban-type bus for school transportation]), no modes other than taxis – decimated by transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft (see https://transalt.com/article/bad-regulations-and-worse-responses-part-1-introduction/; https://transalt.com/article/bad-regulations-and-worse-responses-part-2-the-rise-fall-and-transformation-of-supershuttle/; https://transalt.com/article/bad-regulations-and-worse-responses-part-3-invasion-of-the-tncs/; https://transalt.com/article/bad-regulations-and-worse-responses-part-4-judicial-heroism/; https://transalt.com/article/bad-regulations-and-worse-responses-part-5-executive-branch-responses/; https://transalt.com/article/bad-regulations-and-worse-responses-part-6-industry-and-association-responses/ and https://transalt.com/article/bad-regulations-and-worse-responses-part-7-conclusions/) – are as underused in the U.S. as motorcoaches: There are only about 33,000 in the entire country, and this figure has changed little in decades despite a considerable growth in our population.

Many pages of National Bus Trader have been filled with idea after idea for new and needed uses of motorcoaches (see https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-1-introduction/; https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-2-the-foreclosure-bus-2/; https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-3-the-classroom-extension-bus/; https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-4-the-lecture-bus-2/; https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-5-the-bingo-bus/; https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-6-the-prayer-bus-2/; https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-7-the-valet-errand-bus/; https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-8-the-evacuation-bus-2/; https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-9-the-conference-motortel-2/, and https://transalt.com/article/making-more-money-part-9-the-conference-motortel-2/. But one slippery (and, hopefully, upward) slope will occur as our climate changes, and the versatility of the motorcoach – including the almost endless changes that can be made to it (see https://transalt.com/article/survival-and-prosperity-part-2-the-magic-coach/) become more apparent, and the efficiency and effectiveness of this mode become more recognized – as it becomes more needed.