Background: Small-bus operators (SBOs) in South Africa operate on the periphery of the economic mainstream of scheduled subsidised commuter transport, and little progress has been made in getting these operators into the more formal subsidised industry. There is also a lack of information about the challenges these operators face in participating in the public transport industry. Objectives of the research: The main objective of the research was to conduct a survey among SBOs to obtain a better understanding of the challenges that they face in participating in the public transport industry. Method: A telephone survey of operators was undertaken to ensure an adequate response to a structured questionnaire. In analysing the data, we made use of Factor Analysis and the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) to undertake general statistical analysis. Results: The main results of the survey indicate that SBOs face significant financial and operational challenges. There is also a perceived lack of government support for SBOs. Major conclusions are that the Department of Transport (DoT) ought to address issues related to the complex governmental reporting and legal requirements for small business. In addition, government ought to be creating 'space' for SBOs in the design of contracts and actively encouraging the formation of consortia's or partnerships, among the SBOs and/or between SBOs and established bus companies. Government, and especially the DoT, ought to more actively market the governments' small-business support systems and procedures together with financial aid schemes to assist SBOs in acquiring or replacing buses.