With the lack of solid interstate rail lines, Brazilians still depend on bus transportation to travel throughout the country. Some companies have become so well established that they have become leaders in this market, as this article will show.
According to National Land Transportation Agency (ANTT), more than 140 million people are transported by bus companies every year on interstate trips.
As in many other cases, high demand means large supply. There are more than 2,000 bus companies in Brazil, but some are larger and stand out, like the ones below.
This business group transports passengers to 22 of the 26 Brazilian states, with lines covering more than 70% of the national territory. Over 3 million people travel in one of the 800 Itapemirim buses per year.
It was founded in 1953 in the state of Espírito Santo starting with 16 buses and 70 employees. Between 1970 and 1990, the Itapemirim Group started working in different economies such as mining, hospitality and agribusiness.
Some specialized media agencies pointed out that the company struggled a bit in the past, with rumours of a possible sale to other large companies. Yet, Viação Itapemirim remains one of the leaders in this branch.
Viação Águia Branca
Another company from the state of Espírito Santo is Viação Águia Branca, that was founded in 1946 in the city of Colatina. Originally it had only one line and was bought in 1956 by the Chieppe family.
Today, Grupo Águia Branca includes several companies, with a fleet of over 7,300 vehicles, including the logistics and cargo transport companies.The Group also sells heavy trucks and light automobiles, and in 2013, the activities of the entire conglomerate generated BRL 4.6 billion.
Started in 1948, in the beginning Cometa only operated in the state of São Paulo, soon extending to Rio de Janeiro and other states in the southeast region. It has always focused within a radius of 600 kilometers from the city of São Paulo. As the company slogan states, "Farther than that, the passenger belongs to the airplanes."
The company used to manufacture its own vehicles since 1983, but has been using vehicles from other manufacturers since its acquisition by Grupo JCA. The sale occurred in 2002, when the stockholders sold their shares to the holding company.
Auto Viação Catarinense
Originally named Empreza Auto Viação Catharinense, this company is considered to be one of the first in Brazil to transport passengers. Its original line connected the cities of Blumenau and Florianópolis in the state of Santa Catarina in 1928.
The company extended its services to other states in the southern region and was bought in 1995 by Grupo JCA. Today, it has lines operating mainly in the states of Santa Catarina, Paraná, and São Paulo.
Auto Viação 1001
This company originally from Rio de Janeiro, was officially started in 1968 after the merger in the 1950's of several bus companies. Today, Auto Viação 1001 has a fleet of nearly 1,300 vehicles. It serves the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Paraná, and Santa Catarina. This company is also associated with the holding company - Grupo JCA.
Founded in São Paulo in 1935, Pássaro Marron is considered to be the first company to connect this city with Rio de Janeiro by road. The company underwent a modernization process in 1977 when it was bought by the holding company - Grupo Soares Penido, which controlled it until 2011.
Today Pássaro Marron has approximately 450 buses serving 50 municipalities, and transporting 20 million passengers per year. It operates in the states of Minas Gerais and São Paulo.
São Geraldo & Gontijo
Companhia São Geraldo de Viação was founded in 1949 in the state of Minas Gerais. It presently has 100 interstate bus lines and a fleet of 800 vehicles connecting 15 Brazilian states.
Since 2003, São Geraldo has been owned by Empresa Gontijo de Transportes. Gontijo was born in 1943, also in Minas Gerais. The company now has 7,000 employees and transports almost 7 million passengers per year. It has 347 bus lines in 20 Brazilian states, and also one international bus line connecting Salvador in Bahia, to Asunción in Paraguay.
Real Expresso & Expresso Guanabara
Another company originally from Minas Gerais - Real Expresso - started an expansion process in the 1970's. In the 80's it transferred its headquarters to Brasília and started to buy smaller companies. Today it has bus lines operating in nine Brazilian states, including Tocantins, Piauí, Goiás, and Rio Grande do Sul.
Real Expresso was associated with Grupo Guanabara in 2009. This holding operates in areas such as banking, hospitality, and of course, transportation. One of its main companies is Expresso Guanabara - the largest bus company in the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil. Its headquarters are located in Fortaleza, Ceará, and it is currently responsible for the transportation of 500,000 passengers per month.
Expresso Guanabara has bus lines in 12 states, covering over 1,000 cities. It has 400 vehicles and employs 2,000 people.