Looking through the office window with the phones not ringing and the emails not pinging, the reality of the current situation for the coach industry is really hitting home.
At the start of the pandemic, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) showed that over 40% of coach companies could fail without some form of government support. Allowing for a bit of scaremongering and a natural desire to paint the worst possible scenario in an understandable attempt to get government backing, they were sobering statistics.
I haven’t seen evidence of that and, to my knowledge, not one company within a 25-mile radius of us has stopped trading. Many have threatened to, but they are all still turning out each morning.
Why? My guess is that the worst is coming – and coming fast. The initial wave of government support is petering out and our industry – like many others – will be left to paddle our own canoe.
Going gets tough
Our turnover is now almost entirely school contracts and local services. We have no private hire, school trips or sporting events work, and our holiday programme has practically stopped until, I imagine, Easter 2021 at the earliest.
That simply doesn’t stack up financially. Wages, HP and finance, insurance, maintenance and lots of sundry costs mean we are in a far worse position cashflow–wise now than when we were effectively mothballed.
Every invoice received is scrutinised and every penny spent by anyone must be run by me. There isn’t much joy in that. I was always taught that when the going gets tough, you simply work harder. This time, though, that isn’t an option.
Who will survive?
Which brings me back to the over 40% and how many operators will be left by February half term 2021.
You don’t need to be an expert on viruses to suggest it will be ones who have a good mixed base of work, aren’t overburdened with HP and finance, and already run as lean an operation as possible.
Owning your own premises and having a good accountant will also help.
Staff to think of
Sadly, the winter of discontent is here for all of us.
It not just operators that are concerned for companies that have spanned generations. Our staff also have bills and mortgages that need to be paid. Where overtime was once plentiful, it is now rarer than a sensible tweet from Donald Trump.
If we are one of the lucky ones that aren’t part of the over 40%, I’ll see you on the other side. But if you or I are one of the ones who don’t make it, then it probably wasn’t your fault. Good luck.