Tour buses have been cleaning up their act. Specifically, the diesel-fueled coaches that deliver artists to the show have reduced their negative impact on the environment in recent years.
"They have been lowering the emissions and raising the fuel economy in these vehicles as new technologies come online," says Hemphill Brothers co-owner Trent Hemphill, whose Nashville company has a 100-coach fleet that supplied 19 buses for Beyoncé's 2016 tour. "But it takes time."
Hemphill and other top bus companies get much of their fleet from Volvo-owned Prevost in Canada. Prevost has been responding to more stringent emissions standards in the past few decades.
Since 1988, Prevost has reduced emissions of poisonous particulate matter and nitrogen oxide in bus exhaust by 98 percent; the company's 2017 models, says Hemphill, improve fuel economy by 7 percent.
The improvements have come under new standards set by states and the federal Environmental Protection Administration. "Every couple of years, we have new EPA or California resource targets that we've got to hit," says Robert Hitt, North American service training manager for Prevost and Volvo.
Top coach companies gradually have offered upgraded vehicles. As business allows, Hemphill Brothers buys new fuel-efficient Prevost buses and customizes them for their clients.
Hemphill and Nashville-based Pioneer Coach -- which has 40 coaches and works with acts including My Morning Jacket and Ray LaMontagne -- plan this spring to begin offering Prevost's 2018 models, with new electrical fans that reduce the demand for power and increase fuel economy.
But few established companies are taking chances on all-electric buses and other less-established technologies. "We just are not seeing it in the market," says Doug Oliver, Pioneer's general manager.
Hemphill is wary of pursuing fuel efficiency at the expense of reliability. "You can't just go, 'OK, this product here looks good,' because it'll maybe lower your emissions or raise your fuel economy," he says. "There's a level of testing before you would put people on the road in the middle of the night down the highway. Being greenhouse-gas-conscious is one piece of what we do, but it's not the only part of what we do."
This article originally appeared in the April 29 issue of Billboard.