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FMCSA Advises to ‘Look Before You Book’

SALEM, Ohio — Destination discounts, crisp weather, fewer crowds: From students to seniors, whatever your travel group, fall and winter are prime times for bus trips. But just as there are many advantages to traveling outside the peak season, there are also seasonal safety factors to consider.

Winter travel calls for allowing extra transit time. In many parts of the country, fog is prevalent in fall and winter. When planning for winter travel, always factor in fewer daylight hours and pad your travel times accordingly.

In other areas, fall or winter is the rainy season. The first rain can be particularly dangerous, as oil on the road creates a dangerous film. In other regions, wet leaves, early freezes, and snow can all make roadways treacherous. Make sure your schedule allows the driver time to factor in road conditions.

Fall is prime time for foliage and festivals, so you should explore whether your destination is a magnet for tourists or a major event that will draw heavy traffic on your route. Build in extra time, or explore alternate routes with your bus operator.

Many groups are drawn to offseason pricing, but choosing a bus tour or operator on price alone is false economy. The important criteria should always be safety and value.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides safety information and resources. You can “Look Before You Book” by searching online or using the convenient SaferBus mobile app to research bus operators and charter companies.

To get started, visit the FMCSA’s passenger safety site at

Then, research bus safety. Did you know that all bus operators that carry passengers across state lines must have a Department of Transportation number and be authorized by FMCSA to operate? If you see a red “Not authorized to operate” alert in your search results, don’t book with that bus operator.

You should also check on operator safety records, which indicate how well the operator has performed in specific safety categories in comparison to other companies.

If you search “bus operators” online, you may also see a safety rating. Operators with Satisfactory or Conditional ratings are authorized to operate. Operators with Unsatisfactory ratings do not have adequate safety management controls to ensure safe operation and should not be operating. You should not book a trip with them. Bus companies without safety ratings have not yet had their operations evaluated by FMCSA.