Whether you’re planning a wedding or you’re a corporate event planner, you know that the logistics can make or break an event. If the guests’ memories of the event are more about driving around in circles, lost, searching for the venue than they are about the fun they had there, that’s not a good thing. One of the best things you can do as you plan either a social or corporate event is to coordinate your guests’ transportation. Even if the attendees are largely local, coordinating charter bus transportation can eliminate the anxiety of finding the venue, the potential for drinking and driving, and avoid having to ensure space for lots of cars to be parked.
As well, if you’re expecting attendees from out of town, a shuttle bus rental to transport them back and forth to airports and hotels can not only alleviate their stress, but your own, too, because you can ensure that they will arrive safely and on time. However, not all bus charter companies are created equal; here are some tips for choosing a charter bus company that will be reliable and suit your needs:
1. Safety first: Certainly, the first priority for choosing a charter bus rental company is finding one with a reputation for taking safety seriously. The website allows you check safety ratings of motor carrier companies; if you’re evaluating a motor carrier, look it up by name and number on the site to discover its safety rating.
2. Check insurance: Bus charter companies have different regulations to follow based on whether they travel within states or over state lines. While you might think that’s their problem and not yours, it could be a problem for you 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.
3. Get references or read testimonials: Some charter bus companies list testimonials on their websites, but it’s hard to know whether they are legitimate. 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. Sometimes, companies are hesitant to do this, and it may not be because they’re afraid of what the customer would say; it could be that they have confidentiality agreements or other reasons why they’re not comfortable approaching former clients. However, if that’s the case, you can simply Google the name of the company with the search term “reviews” and you’ll likely find a host of reviews that will give you 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. Check them out and look for a pattern of overall satisfaction or dissatisfaction before you make a decision.
4. 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. What is their backup plan? 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. Whatever the procedure is, you want to be assured that if they need to substitute a bus or driver, it won’t impact your guests’ safety or comfort, or their arrival at their destinations on time. 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.
5. Driver screening: Ask what qualifications the driver must have. Again, safety is important, and this is part of that. 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.
6. Cost! Of course you’re going to compare pricing of various bus charter companies before you make a decision. But, cheapest is not necessarily best. Many charter bus rental companies offer a variety of bus rental options so that you can choose specific vehicle amenities that are ideal 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. Providing transportation might be the single biggest perk you can give your event guests; we’ve all been in situations where we’ve had to be somewhere on time, but we’ve struggled with maps and parking, or we’re simply too tired to drive home afterwards. Eliminate all of that hassle — it will be worth it!