Consumer Guide to Purchasing Professional Motorcoach Services
This Page Is Provided by the
United Motorcoach Association.
Transportation by motorcoach is America's safest, most convenient and
hassle-free mode of ground transportation. A group trip or tour is made
easy by using a professional motorcoach company. While it's a simple
matter to arrange for your group's transportation by motorcoach, most
consumers feel "under-educated" when they first step into the process.
This quick checklist is designed to help you find the right transportation
company and ask the right questions. It's intended to serve only as
a guide. The list is divided into safety considerations, a shopping
checklist and a travel group transportation needs survey.
Use this guide when you plan your trip and make photocopies for your
future travel use. Once you've reviewed the list, we invite you to browse
through our directory of member companies to locate the professional
operators in your area.
The cardinal rule: Don't buy on price alone.
All motorcoach companies are not alike. When you're deciding on which
company to use, remember that safety can be affected by many mechanical
components which you can't see. If the price you receive from one operator
is significantly or surprisingly lower than others in your community,
it may be because that company is saving money by poor or inadequate
preventative maintenance procedures. Don't risk heartache to save a
couple of bucks! Follow these guidelines and remember that safety is
a reputable company's first priority.
As a final safety note, you may wish to check with your local law enforcement
agency or the closest state police installation to ask about their experiences
with the company you'd like to hire.
1. SAFETY & OPERATIONAL CHECKLIST:
- Operator should provide proof of current operating authority
from the **Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) if your trip will
cross state lines. Some states also require their own operating
authority if your travel does not cross any state or international
**Note: The Interstate Commerce Commission was eliminated by Congress
at the start of 1996. It's safety and carrier certification responsibilities
have now been transferred to the FHWA within the U.S. Department
- Operators should be willing to provide proof of valid, current
insurance coverage for any vehicle which might be used. The insurance
must provide $5 million per incident minimum liability if the carrier
is authorized for interstate service by the ICC (now the USDOT).
- Look for proof that the vehicle you will be using has passed
a complete mechanical inspection within the previous 12 months.
Most states will issue decals or reports to be placed on the coach
indicating the date of a successful inspection. If the carrier's
state does not require a periodic inspection, look for a decal issued
by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) or, at a minimum,
a copy of the operator's own annual inspection form for that vehicle.
- Operators should NOT have an unsatisfactory USDOT Safety Rating.
Some operators, however, may have not been yet been rated by the
USDOT. You may call the USDOT to ask about a carrier's current safety
rating. You may also check the carrier's record online using the
USDOT's new "SAFER" (Safety Fitness
& Electronic Records System) database for the carrier's safety
profile. We caution, however, that the SAFER system is acknowledged
by USDOT to contain some errors. Another site where carrier safety
ratings are posted is with the International
Motor Carrier Audit Commission (IMCAC), a new, independently
operated rating system.
Emergency & Breakdown policies
- All drivers must possess valid, current "commercial driver's
licenses" or "CDLs" at the time of your trip. CDL's are issued only
after drivers have demonstrated their ability -- through skills
and written tests -- to control the type of heavy vehicle they will
be using on the job.
- Ask about any affiliations with state or national professional
associations or emergency aid organizations which might be expected
to assist in the case of a mechanical breakdown or other complication
during your trip.
- If the motorcoach company will not be providing all of the vehicles
needed for your journey, ask your prime operator about other companies
which might be used to augment his vehicles. Ensure that the subcontracted
company also provides satisfactory answers to each of your checklist
2. MOTORCOACH SHOPPER'S CHECKLIST:
Inspection of Vehicles
- The consumer should be provided an opportunity to conduct an
inspection of available vehicles to determine vehicle and equipment
preferences and review vehicle cleanliness. Federal highway safety
authorities have specifically indicated that motorcoach passenger
safety would not be enhanced with the installation of seat belt
systems. As such, you will not find seat belts installed.
Price and Package Costs
- Do you desire newer vehicles or (often) less expensive older
- Do you desire a motorcoach equipped with video or audio playback
- Do you need a vehicle with disabled passenger boarding assistance
- Determine how the trip price is determined. (Hourly costs, mileage,
- Ask if special rates or discounts are available for off-season,
weekend or other packages.
- Ask about driver accommodations and costs. Are they included
in a package price or are they the travel group's responsibility
- Ask about driver gratuity policies. Are they included in the
price of the coach?
- Ask if an additional driver will be needed for itineraries which
extend daily service beyond the legal USDOT hours of service rules.
- What is the contract deposit policy? How much is expected at
the time of the reservation?
- What is the refund/cancellation policy?
- When is final payment due?
- If your group wishes to view commercial video tapes or movies,
ask the motorcoach operator who is responsible for meeting copyright
- Ask about smoking, alcoholic beverage and carry-on food policies
of the motorcoach company.
- Ask if the operator is aware of any costs normally incurred
by consumers which are NOT part of his package price (destination
charges, city taxes, permits, etc.)
3. DETERMINE YOUR TRAVEL GROUP NEEDS
- Determine what size coach and what level of luxury or additional
equipment you will need or desire.
- Determine whether or not you will need a coach on which smoking,
alcoholic beverages or food are allowed.
- Determine if your group will include any disabled persons who
may need boarding/disembarking assistance.
- Determine the TOTAL number of persons who will be traveling
in your group.
- Determine the total length of your trip, including preferred
time-of-day starting and ending times, departure and return points.
- Determine your itinerary, including time-of-day preferences
for specific attractions.
- Determine who will serve as the responsible liaison to the motorcoach
company for any enroute changes or decisions.
A FINAL NOTE
We're pleased to help you better understand the professional motorcoach.
We regret, however, that PBA is unable to make travel arrangements for
callers or provide specific carrier recommendations. Similarly, while
PBA members are regarded as professional motorcoach operators, PBA can
not guarantee the service or performance of any member.
Thank you for using PBA member professional motorcoach operators.