SIC 4131 Intercity and Rural Bus Transportation


SIC 4131

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in furnishing bus transportation, over regular routes and on regular schedules. The transportation is principally outside a single municipality, outside one group of contiguous municipalities, and outside a single municipality and its suburban areas. Charter bus transportation services are classified in SIC 4141: Local Bus Charter Service and SIC 4142: Bus Charter Service, Except Local.



Interurban and Rural Bus Lines


According to the Department of Transportation, only 36 companies were providing regular route intercity bus service, and only one carrier, Greyhound, maintained a national network in 2005, compared to 143 intercity bus companies in existence in 1960. The corresponding decrease in passenger miles was largely due to competition from private automobiles and the airlines, which offered a variety of discount fares and added convenience that lured would-be bus riders to take to the skies instead. In the mid-2000s intercity buses accounted for less than 2 percent of all long-distance travel in the United States.

The intercity bus industry generated $1.35 billion in revenues in 2003. However, operating expenses were $1.31 billion, leaving a thin margin of profit that was spread unevenly across the shrinking industry, which employed approximately 21,700. The number of locations served by intercity bus lines also declined, totaling about 4,000 in 2003—fewer than half the number served in the early 1980s. The number of stops continued to decline through the mid-2000s as Greyhound attempted to streamline its operations.


For years, Greyhound has dominated the intercity and rural bus transportation industry. The carrier's position was secured in 1987 when Greyhound acquired Trailways, the nation's second largest bus line. That purchase left Greyhound the only bus line in the United States with routes covering the entire country. In the mid-2000s, a handful Class I bus companies (companies with average revenues of $5.3 million over a three-year period) competed with Greyhound to provide regular route intercity bus service regionally. Greyhound, which served more than 2,200 destinations and transported 22 million passengers each year.

Trade Associations

A number of trade associations served a variety of functions in the bus industry. The American Bus Association, in Washington, D.C., was founded in 1926. Of its 500 bus operator members, 75 provided intercity service on regularly scheduled routes. Another Washington, D.C., group, the National Bus Traffic Association, founded in 1933, served as a publisher of bus tariffs. The National Trailways Bus System was what remained of the Trailways system after the Greyhound merger. The system was an association of 32 independent, intercity bus companies, which coordinated schedules and promoted a unified approach to marketing and operating procedures.


Intercity bus services sprang up independently in different regions across the United States in the early part of the twentieth century. Some of the earliest intercity bus lines began as extensions of urban jitney operations. Minnesota is often named as the birthplace of intercity bus transportation. The Mesaba Transportation Company, of Hibbing, Minnesota, transported miners between mining villages over regularly scheduled routes as early as 1913. Around the same time, the Pickwick Transportation Lines initiated intercity bus service in Southern California. By 1918, this company had expanded its service area to include Northern California and Oregon.

As road conditions improved, bus companies began to appear by the hundreds across the country. Over 4,000 intercity bus companies were in operation by 1926. Soon, the number of companies began to decrease as the industry consolidated. Mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies became commonplace, a trend that continued until the 1970s.

In December 1926, the Motor Transit Corporation, a $10 million holding company, was organized by Eric Wickman, the founder of the early Hibbing bus operation. A few years later, the Motor Transit Corporation was restructured as the Greyhound Corporation. Greyhound acquired...

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