Motorcoaches are meant to provide transportation in a comfortable environment.
This week, they're being used to ask for a lifeline, rolling east to Washington, DC to urge lawmakers to allocate funds to keep their livlihoods from going under.
About two dozen buses left St. Paul Monday morning, headed east on I-94 after taking a lap around the state capitol building.
Along the way, they'll be joined by other bus line operators for their all-out effort.
For the past two months, those long, lean buses have been idle. Parked in place because of stay-at-home orders that allowed only what government officials call "essential" businesses to operate during the coronavirus outbreak.
What Minnesota motorcoach operators want congressional leaders to know is that they are pretty essential, and have proved it time and again.
"When there's a national disaster, they don't call the airlines and they don't call for AMTRAK, they don't call for transit, they call for buses," said Rick Thielen, owner of Thielen Bus Lines in Redwood Falls. "When you have floods, when you have hurricanes, and thousands of people need to be evacuated, we're the ones they call."
That's not all.
"And we always respond," Thielen said.
According to the Minnesota Charter Bus Operators Association, most of their business for the rest of the year is canceled, putting 100,000 people out of work.
"We are part of that transportation network out in rural areas," Thielen said. "Many of our companies here in Minnesota are located in small towns, and we provide transportation to our local people, to our local schools, our colleges, our groups, our churches, and we play a huge role in our tourist industry."