Formula 1 shuttle issues on par with national bus shortage trend, fleet provider says

F1 Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a sold out Formula 1 weekend that left guests waiting hours for shuttle services at Circuit of the Americas, one of the bus vendors contracted for the event said it’s reflective of ongoing national labor shortages.

A representative for Heartland Trailways said the company initially planned to send 10 buses to COTA for use during the three-day race weekend. However, a representative said that fleet size was slashed in half prior to the event due to limited driver availability, with only five of their buses in service at COTA.

In a statement Saturday, COTA spokespersons said the delayed shuttle service left guests “disappointed and inconvenienced.”

“Due to more than 100 buses canceling at the last moment, we know many guests have been disappointed and inconvenienced,” the statement read in part. “Labor shortages and unexpected cancelations have effected so many parts of all of our nation’s businesses, and we are no different.”

David Burnett, operations supervisor for Heartland Trailways, said several factors have contributed to problems plaguing the charter bus and motor coach industry, including:

  • A sizable portion of charter bus drivers are retirees and are classified as higher risk, leading some to go back into retirement during the pandemic
  • Motor coach companies still waiting on federal CERTS grant funding to assist members of the bus and motor coach industry impacted by the pandemic
  • Bus companies with more than 100 employees experiencing continued driver shortage amid COVID-19 vaccine hesitancies

Burnett said while the possible fleet shortages aren’t addressed in contracts with event venues, he said Heartland Trailways has added a note into its quotes that list fleet services as “subject to availability and that we reserve the right to cancel a charter within reason and reasonable time.”

Formula 1 is the latest event impacted by shuttle delays in Austin. Earlier this month, the Austin City Limits Music Festival encouraged attendees to seek alternate modes of transportation due to hours-long delays in its own shuttle services.

KXAN has reached out to COTA representatives regarding the number of bus companies contracted with for Formula 1 and when specifically the venue was notified of the cancellations. We will update this story if a response is received.

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