Do you ever pass a motorcoach on the road and wonder where it’s headed? Or pass by your favorite restaurant when you see one in the parking lot? More than 596 million people in the U.S. travel by motorcoach each year for countless reasons, including travel. It’s a convenient, efficient, and cost-effective way to explore!
As a small group travel planner, you’ve probably spent some time on a motorcoach. However, just like many other businesses, the motorcoach industry was strongly affected by the pandemic (36,000 buses were brought to a standstill) and has made some changes. Here are 5 things you need to know to plan a bus trip.
Efficient and Environmentally Friendly
Motorcoach travel is efficient and environmentally friendly. One gallon of fuel = 240 passenger miles! Compare that to the 50 passenger miles you get in a good hybrid.
Motorcoaches also have the lowest carbon footprint among transportation providers like air, rail, and automobile. One motorcoach using cleaner diesel fuel can replace 36 cars, reducing pollutants AND congested roads.
Today’s travelers are much more conscious of how the decisions they make impact the world they are exploring. Showing them the environmental benefits of motorcoach travel is a gamechanger!
Strong Safety Record
Safety tops everyone’s list of concerns right now. Travelers want to know that they are as safe as possible when they get back on the road.
A 2017 statistic shows 37,133 fatalities on U.S. highways. Of those, only one-half of one percent (18) were attributed to motorcoach accidents.
Health and Safety
Motorcoach companies have taken steps to ensure passenger health and well-being with new standards and protocols that may include:
- Air cleaning systems
- Regular cleaning and disinfection of hard surfaces (including seats, floors, overhead areas, handrails, bathrooms, etc.)
- Plexiglass where appropriate
- Masks for both drivers and passengers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) encourages travel planners to “Look Before You Book” by examining the safety record of your motorcoach company.
The United Motorcoach Association (UMA) created a safety checklist to help determine if a company is reputable and safe.
- USDOT Identification Number– Ask the company for their USDOT ID number and search www.safersys.org for rule violations, accidents, etc.
- Insurance– Verify that the company has current insurance coverage ($1.5 million for 15 passengers or fewer vehicles and $5 million for more than 15 passengers)
- Drivers– Verify that the carrier’s drivers have all appropriate licenses (all drivers must have a CDL issued by the state)
- Hours– Confirm that the trip can be completed within hours of service. Under federal law, commercial bus and motorcoach drivers may not drive for more than 10 hours a day or at all after being on duty for 15 hours. Requiring periods of rest/sleep for the drivers helps ensure the safety of passengers and the public
- Equipment– Always ask about the equipment to be used on the trip! Motorcoaches should be in good condition and serve the purposes of the group
- Emergencies– Request a copy of the company’s policies and procedures for emergencies or breakdowns
Motorcoach companies are working hard to maintain safer, hygienic buses for your travel. Just be sure to do your homework before you book!
Comfortable and Convenient
Today’s motorcoaches are incredibly comfortable and convenient. Most are climate-controlled with plush, reclining seats, ample legroom, and storage. Many have charging outlets, Wi-Fi, and entertainment systems as well. Passengers can pack a pillow and blanket and settle in to watch a movie or just the stunning scenery pass by.
Motorcoaches are also often equipped with restrooms. However, these should be used for emergencies only and not in place of a rest stop. Otherwise, the “extra cargo” travels with you until it can be emptied…
Let’s not forget, when you plan a bus trip, your guests don’t have to worry about directions, traffic, or GPS. They can sit back, relax, and leave the driving to a pro!
Schedule Stops and Plan for Parking
Motorcoach travel usually requires many stops, and they can really slow you down if you’re not careful.
Schedule time for driver stops, rest stops, food stops, and more. Set reasonable timeframes and help your travelers stick to them. Keep your driver hours in mind (see above) and plan your itinerary accordingly.
Also, remember to change things up for your passengers at these stopping points. Let the back-of-the-bus passengers disembark first occasionally!
Motorcoaches are big. The average coach is roughly 45 feet long, 12 feet high, weighs around 35,000 pounds and holds approximately 56 passengers.
Why is this important? Because they may be restricted from certain areas or roads – something you need to know if you’re planning a bus trip.
Your motorcoach company will almost certainly be aware of any restrictions, but you should also keep them in mind when you plot your route and stops. Don’t count on GPS since it doesn’t take these limits into consideration!
Remember that in certain destinations (especially in large cities like New York City and Washington D.C.), motorcoaches can only drop off and pick up in designated areas. This is especially true today as we factor in crowd capacity limits and social distancing.
Know where your group can get on and off at hotels, theaters, museums, restaurants, and more.
Supply is Down and Demand is Up!
Many motorcoach carriers expect to sell out in spring 2022. They simply don’t have enough equipment to meet a surge in demand.
Similar to rental car companies, some motorcoach businesses were forced to sell parts of their fleets when no one was traveling during the pandemic. Now that vaccines are making travel accessible again, demand is up but the numbers of available buses are down.
Related Reading: Don’t Miss the Bus – Motorcoaches are in Short Supply for 2022
What You Need to Know to Plan a Bus Trip
Motorcoach travel is a great way to explore! It’s efficient, convenient, safe, and comfortable. It’s also in short supply.
If you’re planning a trip, the most important thing you need to know is to book your bus now!