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Before hitting the road with your group, there are plenty of considerations to be made to ensure your trip runs as smoothly as possible. And while you likely at one point had your go-to industry contacts who helped everything come together, many things have changed over the last couple years—people leaving the industry, companies closing their doors for good, etc. If you're starting all over again when it comes to shopping around for a safe and reliable motorcoach company, consider these tips.

During a recent Destination DC webinar, Peter Pantuso, President and CEO, American Bus Association, shared his insight for choosing a motorcoach operator and how to know your choice is the safest one possible.

Think safety and reliability—not just price.

"The supply and demand curve has changed a bit," Pantuso said. "There's going to be more demand than ever for motorcoaches for group travel going forward as we get through the rest of this year and certainly into next, and that's going to impact pricing. You're probably not going to be paying the same as you did not that long ago."

Check the operator's safety record for accidents, safety violations and breakdowns.

"You can easily check an operator's safety record," Pantuso explained, noting it's also vital to ensure operators have interstate operating authority and at least $5 million in insurance. "Make sure when you're hiring, that you're hiring a motorcoach company—don't just hire a broker or somebody who has a fancy website but doesn't really own buses and isn't going to be there at the end of the day to take care of you."

If it's within a reasonable distance, visit their facility.

"If you're concerned or have any questions about an operator's safety performance in addition to looking at their website, go and visit them," Pantuso encouraged. "Any company worth their salt is going to be happy to have you come and see their safety protocols and see what they do on a regular basis."

Pantuso also suggests asking to review a motorcoach operator's pre-trip safety message or offer to have the group leader provide it at the start of the trip. Be sure to ask about breakdowns and if the company subcontracts with other operators in case of emergency or over-booking. Pantuso also encourages the use of ABA members or motorcoach operators who are members of other associations.

Watch your itinerary.

"There's a limit to motorcoach drivers—it's no different than an airline pilot," Pantuso said. "They can only be on the road behind the wheel for 10 hours at a time. They can be on duty for 15 hours during a 24-hour period."

Pantuso also encourages those in the industry to be good partners in return.

"Now that driver's time is being monitored by computers on the buses, there's no getting around the 'extra times'; once they hit their maximum time, they're going to go off duty," Pantuso said. "There's no extra trips or off-the-books side activities. Make sure you're following the rules and make sure you're thinking about the driver's safety, because he or she is thinking about yours at the end of the day."

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.

 

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