How to Charter a Coach

Shopping for a motor coach charter company to transport your group can be a confusing and uncertain experience for consumers. Prices and services vary from company to company, and healthy competition exists for your business.

Selecting a company on the basis of price alone could lead to disappointment down the road. There are some unscrupulous operators who exploit a competitive advantage gained through non-compliance with the laws that regulate the motor coach industry. Canada’s motor coach industry is proud of its exemplary safety record and continuously strives to provide the highest level of safety, service, and value to consumers. Transport Canada has praised the bus industry for its remarkable safety record as compared to other modes of travel.

While safety and compliance pays, it also “costs”. Responsible, legal, and reputable coach companies make considerable investments to recruit and train suitable drivers, monitor driver condition and performance, inspect and maintain their vehicles to prescribed standards, obtain required insurance coverage, comply with hours of service limits, etc. Unfortunately there are a few companies that don’t. These companies can operate, albeit for a limited time, by cutting corners and shaving operating expenses in areas of safety, maintenance, insurance, and evading other government regulations.

Questions to ask when shopping for motor coach charter services

  • What is your company’s policy regarding the number of hours a driver can work? Can you affirm that our driver will be in full compliance with the Canadian (and U.S.) rules throughout the course of our trip?

The law restricts driving time to 13 hours in a day, after which the driver must take 8 consecutive hours off-duty before driving again. In the US, these hours are 10 and 8 respectively. It is unlawful for any person to request or require a driver to break these rules.

  •  Will our motor coach have a valid safety inspection sticker?

The law requires buses to undergo a periodic mechanical inspection. The safety sticker must be placed on the front right corner of the coach and indicate the day and month of inspection

  • Does your company have a carrier identification number issued by the province/territory?
  •  Could you fax to me a recent copy of your carrier performance abstract?

A Carrier Abstract is a document issued by the province/territory available to the general public summarizing a company’s safety performance for a two-year period.

  •  Does your company have an Operating Licence issued by the province/territory that authorizes the service being offered? If yes, what is the licence number?

If the trip is beyond the provincial/ territorial borders, the company may require an Extra-Provincial Operating Licence issued by the province/ territory.

  •  What is the name of your insurance company? What is your policy number?
  • Has your company filed a Certificate of Insurance with the province/territory?

Provincial/territorial laws require a public vehicle operator to carry $8 million in public liability insurance for buses.

 For Travel to the U.S.:

  • Does your company hold an Operating Authority issued by the United States Department of Transportation? If so, what is your US DOT number?

The US DOT number can be verified through the US DOT website at www.safersys.org/ In addition, insurance required by US DOT for US travel (US $5 million) can be verified on this web site. The US DOT number must be displayed on the side of the coach.

  •  Are your drivers enrolled in a drug and alcohol-testing program as required by US DOT? Can you provide proof?

The US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require all bus drivers who enter the USA to be enrolled in a drug and alcohol-testing program.

Additional things to consider:

Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration (CVOR)

Be sure to check CVOR numbers on the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) website.

Maintenance

Don’t be afraid to ask searching questions when it comes to the company’s vehicle maintenance practices, such as “Who inspects and maintains the coaches?” and “Where are the coaches maintained?”

References

Be wary of companies that will not provide references attesting to their safety performance and service quality.

Driver training

Ask questions to satisfy yourself that the company conducts regular driver training and evaluation.

Vehicle age and amenities

Determine the age of the coach if that’s important to your group. Motor coaches are solid and well-made vehicles that have a much longer service life than cars, so older equipment that has been well cared for can indeed provide safe, clean, and reliable transportation. Be sure to ask about amenities that are important to your group, such as video and sound systems, lavatory, reclining seats, wheelchair lifts, luggage storage, air conditioning, etc.

Back-up in the event of an emergency

Even the most modern, well-maintained coaches can experience an unforeseen mechanical failure. Reputable and experienced companies have 24-hour back-up measures and contingency plans in place to minimize disruption and delays en-route.

When in doubt, check it out

Legal, responsible, and safe companies have nothing to hide and will proudly show you their maintenance and operations facility. If you’re unsure whether the company’s services will meet your needs, ask to drop by to see before you buy.