The economic uncertainty of the past year has clearly taken a toll on the motorcoach industry, evident in the decreasing numbers in METRO’s 17th Annual Top 50 Fleet Survey.
Even Coach USA, which remains in the No.1 spot with 2,821 vehicles, did not escape unscathed. It disclosed a 6% decrease in revenue. Meanwhile, Stagecoach Group, Coach USA’s parent company headquartered in Scotland, revealed plans to downsize its North American holdings by closing or selling businesses not consistent with its new restructuring plan. At press time, Peter Pan Bus Lines in Springfield, Mass., signed a purchase agreement to acquire Coach’s five New England operations.
Our Top 50 shows a total of 11,939 vehicles tallied, 2,068 less than last year, a 15% drop. Compared to the year 2001 numbers, that is a 37% decrease. The disappearance of Vectour Inc., No. 3 in 2002 with 870 total buses, was a major factor for the drop in our fleet tally. Since its Chapter 11 filing in October 2001, Vectour has been cleaning house, selling off its company holdings, primarily back to the original owners — at cut-rate prices.
Greyhound stayed in the No.2 position for the second year in a row, with a fleet total of 2,425, nearly 400 vehicles behind No. 1-ranked Coach USA. The top two operations comprise 44% of the Top 50 total, counting 5,246 buses. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this year’s smallest operation, Susquehanna Transit Co. of Avis/Williamsport, Pa., has a fleet of 30 buses.
The number of buses longer than 40 feet declined 24% this year, from 904 buses to 685. Doubledecker buses also saw a decline, dropping 32% to a total of 65. Forty-foot vehicles, which continue to comprise a major segment (70%) of the Top 50 fleets, rose 20% for a count of 8,383. Vehicles longer than 40 feet rose a slim 2%, staying in second place for the fleet mix with 2,806 buses.
Following the decline of fleet totals, the average fleet size shrank 15%, from 280 vehicles to 238. As a majority of the fleet total resides in the upper portion of our list, the average fleet size lands somewhere between No. 9 Martz Group (297) of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and No. 10 Green Bus Lines (235) of Queens, N.Y.
Only 10% of survey respondents equip their vehicles with video cameras, while 25% of fleets use global positioning systems on buses. ADA-compliant buses made great strides this year, jumping 35% to an increase of 900 vehicles. The number of vans in the survey also made a notable rise, from 2,565 to 3,550.
In response to our question about security implementations for the past year, a majority of operations developed training programs based on increasing driver awareness. Other security measures taken by operations include checking IDs with luggage, establishing stronger relationships with state police and pre- and mid-trip inspections.
Several new operations have joined the fleet rankings this year, including Red Carpet Charters of Oklahoma City and Peoria Charter Coach of Peoria, Ill. If you feel you belong in the 2004 edition of METRO’s survey, please let us know.
Click here to see the complete Top 50.