Motorcoach Transportation is a very safe mode of transportation. The motorcoach industry logs 750 million passenger trips each year in the United States, involving 1.8 billion miles. During the period, 1999-2008, there were 54 fatal motorcoach crashes resulting in 186 fatalities, or an average of only 16 deaths a year, far less than other modes of transportation.
As a travel planning professional, here is what you can do to make your coach trips safer for your guests.
1. Do not book departures too early in the morning. Keep in mind that a driver must wake up 2-3 hours earlier than your departure time to allocate time to get ready, get to the garage, do the mandatory safety inspection and drive to your starting point. A 5 AM departure time might mean the driver isn’t fully rested.
2. Do not offer any overnight trips.
3. Ask to be added as a certificate holder on the carriers Certificate of Liability and ask the motorcoach company how much insurance they carry. The minimum is $5M.
4. Don’t push it! The federal government has set maximum driving hours for a reason and they are not flexible. As planners, do not design itineraries that are close to the legal driving hours. Keep in mind that there might be traffic, food stops and that tour directors often try to include additional elements to your itinerary.
5. Take the time to visit their garages and you will learn a lot. We trust the DOT experts for the vehicle inspections, but as travel experts, we need to make the effort to visit their facilities.
6. Some Operators specialize in certain type of work for their vehicles and drivers. Make sure it matches your needs. For example, a limo company specializing in party buses and casino trips, is not the ideal supplier for an over the road coach tour.
7. The most important advice is to stop once and for all basing your decision purely on price. This is not a commodity. Coach companies that charge more, usually pay their drivers more, have newer vehicles, carry more insurance, do their own maintenance and invest more in driver training and uphold industry leading safety standards. An extra $1-$2 per person can make a big difference.
Bus Manufactures are also dong their part and we will need to do ours. For example, Prevost offers the following safety features on their new coaches too assist the drivers.
1. Following Distance Alert – Reminds the driver to keep a safe following distance by indicating when the coach is following too closely to the vehicle ahead.
2. Adaptive Cruise – When cruise control is on, AWARE automatically adjusts the cruise speed of the coach to maintain a safe following distance, taking into consideration the position of the vehicle ahead.
3. Impact Alert – This feature will alert the driver if the distance between coach and vehicle ahead closes too quickly, giving the driver an opportunity to take action.
These additional safety add-ons on motorcoaches obviously have a cost. As an industry, we need to be prepared to pay more for these benefits. With the cost of fuel going up, and the cost of new high tech motorcoaches reaching $650,000, we need to be ready to allocate more to the transportation component of our tours. If we were willing to pay more for air conditioning on a coach, of if we’re willing to pay more for comforters and plush pillows at a hotel, we need to be willing to pay more for safety and comfort of our guests. There’s too much riding on it.