The Honorable Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Mr. Secretary,
Thank you for your leadership in implementing the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This investment in our infrastructure comes as a critical time as the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and navigates ongoing supply chain and inflation issues.
The undersigned organizations, led by the Community Transportation Association of America’s (CTAA), write today to bring awareness to a burgeoning crisis in the small bus industry that threatens the ongoing operations of rural, small-city, paratransit and nonemergency medical transportation providers across the nation. Today, the demand for
small buses, particularly body-on-chassis vehicles, far outstrips supply with estimates of 20,000 small bus purchases currently backlogged.
We need your assistance in securing more chassis for the small bus marketplace so the trips to vital health care appointments (like dialysis); to congregate meal sites and grocery stores; to work and education; and to other social services that these types of buses typically serve can safely continue. In addition, the current environment creates an
opportunity to promote flexibility, competition, and innovation by streamlining the procurement regulations for small buses.
Recent dialogue among transit agencies, state departments of transportation, bus dealers and bus manufacturers highlight the current state of the small bus marketplace:
- A survey of State Departments of Transportation (State DOTs) last month revealed that three quarters of State DOTs are feeling an unprecedented level of concern regarding standard vehicle replacements and maintaining a state of good repair, with more than one-half of agencies having had a small bus purchasing contract or
agreement terminated in 2022;
- Bus dealers predict the small bus backlog, nationally, to eclipse 20,000 in 2023, and expect full recovery of the market to take five to seven years;
- The largest small bus manufacturer currently has one of seven manufacturing facilities up-and-running, and can only meet 25 percent of demand; and
- Prices for these vehicles are running 30 percent to 70 percent above prepandemic levels.
With the Biden Administration’s leadership in enacting the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), public transit providers have record levels of federal capital investment. However, the small bus manufacturing backlog and price inflation threaten to stifle the IIJA’s impact on transit service delivery in communities across the country. The positive impact of the IIJA’s generational infrastructure investment is surely threatened by this
The undersigned transit industry partners are actively working together to collaborate and support each other throughout this challenging time. Working together, we have developed a number of potential solutions for your consideration, including:
- Encourage chassis manufacturers, particularly Ford, to set aside units for vital public transportation and for small buses.
- Streamline current procurement regulations, with an emphasis on flexibility, because of the unprecedented nature of current small bus crisis. Use the vehicle backlog, nationally, to determine the timeframe for these procurement process changes.
- Expand the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) proposed Buy America general nonavailability waiver for passenger vans (87 Fed. Reg. 43101) to include waiving Buy America requirements for small buses and vans when manufacturers are not able to guarantee delivery within 12 months or less of an order. Use this temporary waiver to incent manufacturers to locate production facilities in the United States.
- Offer clear guidance to FTA grantees on whether, when, and how to amend bus procurements or reprogram funds when vehicles as specified cannot be delivered under the terms of a procurement agreement.
In summary, we strongly encourage the U.S. Department of Transportation to help the public transit industry secure additional chassis for the small bus market. It is critical to our shared goal of ensuring that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides unparalleled opportunities to all Americans. We would surely welcome any opportunity to discuss this critical subject further.
Paul P. Skoutelas
President and CEO
Vermont Agency of Transportation
Nebraska Association of Transportation Providers
Tennessee Public Transportation Association
Georgia Transit Association
Transportation Association of Maryland
Prairie Hills Transit
TransAction Corporate Shuttles, Inc.
New Mexico Department of Transportation
Santa Fe, NM
Call a Ride Service, Inc.
Utah State University Aggie Shuttle
Southern Georgia Regional Commission
Starkville Mississippi State Area Rapid Transit
Mississippi State, MS
Rogue Valley Transportation District
Ohio Department of Transportation
Washington State Transit Association
River Bend Transit
Arkansas Transit Association
Mercer County Trade Trenton,
Oklahoma Transit Association
Coordinated Transportation Solutions
Special Services Transportation Agency
Claiborne County Human Resource Agency
Port Gibson, MS
Alaska Mobility Coalition
Oklahoma Department of Transportation
Oklahoma City, OK
California Association for Coordinated Transportation (CALACT)
Fairmont-Marion County Transit Authority
North Carolina Public Transit Association
Kentucky Public Transit Association
Illinois Public Transit Association
Minnesota Department of Transportation
St. Paul, Minnesota
Cocoa Beach, FL
Community Transportation Association of the Northwest
Oregon and Washington
Community Transportation Association of Virginia
Missouri Public Transit Association
Florida Public Transportation Association
The Bus Coalition
Michigan Public Transit Association.
Michigan Transportation Connection, Inc.
Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency
California Department of Transportation
River Cities Public Transit
Pierre, South Dakota
Michigan Department of Transportation
Maricopa Association of Governments
NJ Transit Corp.
Siouxland Regional Transit System
Sioux City, Iowa
South Dakota Department of Transportation
Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation
MIDAS Council of Governments
Fort Dodge, IA
Vermont Clean Cities Coalition
Division of Multimodal Transportation
Facilities, Division of Public Transit, West
Virginia Department of Transportation
South West Transit Association
Fort Worth, Texas
Texas Transit Association – TTA
MS Department of Transportation
Southeast Vermont Transit
Gifford Health Care
Community Transit of Watertown/Sisseton, Inc.
Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission
Senior Solutions Council on Aging
Age Well, Inc.
Upper Valley Services
Mississippi Public Transit Association
Natchez Transit Regional Center
Natchez Senior Citizen’s Multipurpose
Center Natchez, Mississippi