SALEM, Ohio — Some group planners and travelers assume that all bus companies are alike when it comes to safety. Although it is true that, overall, bus travel is a safe way to go, some motorcoach operators are safer than others.
Most operators take safety seriously; however, there are always a few companies that cut corners, putting passengers and others on the road at serious risk.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and The Group Travel Family have teamed up to educate travel leaders on this important subject.
Before you book or contract with a charter company, take a few minutes to learn about safety considerations and research prospective bus operators. For instance, you want to choose an operator that does the following:
• Performs regular inspections of all its buses, completes required maintenance and repairs, and ensures that all safety equipment is present and working properly;
• Hires well-qualified, properly licensed drivers with good safety records and ensures that they are medically fit to drive and that they obey all safety laws and regulations.
Safety Info App
Now there is a a way to put bus safety in the palm of your hand. FMCSA has free safety information and tools to help trip planners and passengers research bus safety. Travelers and travel planners can download the SaferBus mobile app to research bus companies at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/lookbeforeyoubook.
If you are considering chartering a coach, find or ask for the company USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) number, and use it to search the app.
The following are some things to check for any bus company you’re considering:
• Authorization to operate. All commercial bus operators that carry passengers across state lines must have a USDOT number and be authorized by FMCSA to operate. If you see a red “Not authorized to operate” notice in your search results, don’t book with that bus operator. If you find that a bus company not authorized to operate is selling tickets, report it to FMCSA. Just click the “Leave Complaint” button on the SaferBus app to access the National Consumer Complaint Database.
• Operator safety records. These provide an indicator of how well a bus company has performed in specific safety categories. This includes following important safety practices like completing the required bus maintenance and using the required safety equipment, using qualified drivers who hold commercial driver’s licenses, ensuring compliance with hours-of-service regulations to prevent fatigued driving and having a proactive substance abuse screening program.
Empower Your Passengers
FMCSA’s Look Before You Book website also provides tips, information and a “Learn Before You Board” fact sheet to help passengers take an active role in bus safety. It includes the following:
•Understanding how to find and use onboard safety equipment and what to do in an emergency;
• Learning how to report unsafe driver behavior, such as speeding, texting while driving and driving impaired.
Visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov/lookbeforeyoubook to keep your passengers moving and learn safety. You can also attend your local TravelTalks meeting, where the subject of bus safety will be discussed.