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Bus Company Adapts To Survive COVID-19 Impact

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A Utah bus company that’s been in business for 70 years is shifting gears to vans and bikes in their ongoing struggle to adapt in an industry hit hard by effects of COVID-19.

“We’ve made it through 9/11. We made it through the financial crisis in ‘08 and ’09. But we’ve never seen anything like this,” said Bryan Copyak, owner of Le Bus in Salt Lake City.

Copyak’s grandfather founded the company in 1949. And since then they’ve been on the go. Things were looking great at the start of the new year.

“We were ready to have a record year in 2020,” he said.

And then March hit, pummeling the tourism, transportation and hospitality industries. And the scheduled tours, NBA games, church trips and conventions were gone.

“Everything canceled on us,” he said.

Most of Copyak’s fleet of 130 coaches were suddenly at a standstill, with no one to ride or steer.

“It was a hard thing to do,” Copyak said. “Our people are like family to us.”

With no clear path forward, Copyak returned from a mountain biking trip to his yard packed full of buses. He noticed his four-empty squeezed onto the lot and thought of the shuttle he had taken on his biking trip. And that’s when he decided to make a change.

“We’re trying to get creative and find new ways to survive,” he said. “So, we hand-built these really cool racks.”

They threw the racks on top of their vans and promoted a two for $1 deal to shuttle mountain bikers up to the crest trail. Same drivers. Same road. A new look and a new load. And the first week was a success.

“It’s going to be a good thing for us riders,” Hanna Sharp said. “Doing the self-shuttle wastes more gas, more time and more money. So this is totally a win-win.”

Copyak knows retrofitting his unused vans to shuttle mountain bikers isn’t enough on its own to carry the company.

“We’re just really looking to keep our people busy,” he said.

But thanks to his creativity, debt-free company and emergency fund, Le Bus is pushing through the uncertainty with a new reason to move. And even when his buses are full again, he plans to continue shuttling mountain bikers and skiers in the winter.

“We’re staying positive,” he said. “Things are going to get better.”

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