Often, it’s the least glamorous parts of event planning that can make or break your event. If you want the event to flow smoothly, it’s essential that the transportation provided for guests is reliable, safe and on time. As in any industry, there are bus charter companies that are fabulous and others that are less so. Here are a few tips for selecting a reliable bus charter company:
Safety: A charter bus rental company should have a reputation for taking safety seriously. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website allows you check safety ratings of motor carrier companies; if you’re evaluating a motor carrier, look it up by name or U.S. DOT number on the site to discover its safety rating.
Insurance: If the bus charter company doesn’t have the proper insurance, it could get fined or impounded, which would leave you high and dry at the time of your event. Ask for proof of a valid insurance certificate and a minimum liability coverage of $5 million.
References, testimonials and reviews: When contracting with a charter bus company, it’s a good idea to ask the representative if s/he can provide three references, i.e. customers who can attest to good service that the company provided. If a company can’t do this, you can use Yelp, Angie’s List, or simply Google the name of the company with the search term “reviews” to get an idea as to whether the company is reputable. Every business is sure to have a few negative reviews, so don’t just read one or two. Look for a pattern of overall satisfaction or dissatisfaction before you make a decision.
Contingency plans: Ask the bus rental company how it handles unforeseen circumstances, like a bus breaking down en route to an event or a driver getting sick. You don’t necessarily need to know every detail about how they handle a Plan A and Plan B for each event because it’s their business to coordinate the logistics, but you should feel confident that the company has systems in place in order to accommodate a situation that could be out of the ordinary. Inquire as to whether the charter bus rental company has a 24-hour number staffed by real people (i.e. not voice mail) that you can call in case of emergency.
Driver screening: Ask what qualifications the driver must have. Again, safety is important, and the driver is a crucial part of the safety equation. Find out if the company’s drivers undergo drug screens, criminal background checks, driving record checks and other rigorous application processes. Especially if your event involves transporting children, you need to know that drivers have been screened appropriately. The driver must have a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a passenger endorsement printed on the document. CDLs can be issued once a driver has demonstrated ability based on on-road and knowledge examinations. If necessary, inquire as to whether the company has bilingual drivers.
Cost! Cheapest is not necessarily best. Many charter bus rental companies offer a variety of vehicles so that you can choose specific vehicle amenities for your group. Some shuttle vans, charter buses or minibuses have features like on-board restrooms, DVD players and wifi, so you should discuss with your representative specifically what would best meet your guests’ needs and what the involved fees would be.
These are all just starting points; the main aspect to scheduling a shuttle van or charter bus for your event is making sure that you have enough capacity to accommodate the number of guests you’re expecting and that the bus rental company is able to provide service to the venues where your event is being hosted. The American Bus Association has additional tips and facts on its website with respect to vetting a charter bus company.
Glenn Orloff is CEO and founder of Metropolitan Shuttle, which serves metro areas all over North America.