Charter Bus teams, how do you handle them?

I lurked on CD for “charter bus” but didn’t find any answers to my general questions.

Our team’s only option seems to be charter bus. So I wondered if those of you that use charter buses can answer a few questions.

When you book a bus, do you have to book it for say the whole event? So that means the bus, and bus driver are stuck with you the entire time you are at a regional?

If you keep your bus:
Do you have to pay the bus driver for all this time and a room to stay in?

Or do you send the bus home, and bring him back at the end to take you home?

If you send the bus back, how do you get from ther regional event to your hotel if they don’t have a shuttle service?

I’ve never booked a charter so this isn’t my area of logitics, but I assume we will need to start being concerned.

Not sure if this is the same for all charter companies, but with the few I have dealt with a lot has been the same.

When we are going out of state (example: Midwest or St. Louis or Atlanta) we call up the bus company we are dealing with, give them the itinerary (Leaving at x AM from X place, going to X Place for such and such a time). They give us a quote that covers the bus and the drivers. We have to provide a hotel room for the driver (s).

The bus drivers usually come in and checked out the event for a time and then go on their way until we need a ride back to hotel or home.

I haven’t dealt with sending a bus back home for the day, we keep them with us the whole trip, usually because we are far from home.

Most bus companies are pretty helpful when setting you up with them.

When we took a charter bus to ATL, the bus stayed with us the whole time, the bus driver slept in the bus, and I think he sat in the bus and read and did crossword puzzles during the events.

We also had a driver switch when we were about half-way to ATL, but not on the way back.

We’ve done it both ways, had the bus stay with us so we could use it to get around town, and booked separate drop-off and pick-up.

If the bus stays we pay for the driver’s time, food and lodging, but this has been a fairly expensive option unless you’re trying to go a lot of places, or are going far.

Generally, for the three days of competition it’s been cheaper for us to send the bus back on trips of 3-6 hours. We try for a hotel withing walking distance, but have also looked for a hotel with shuttle service (and an attached or nearby restaurant).
Even if the hotel has shuttle service it is sometimes only one small bus and we’ve had to make several trips to get the whole team back and forth.
For hotels without shuttles there have been local shuttle rentals, but they can also be expensive, and we have rented vans locally and resigned ourselves to several trips to move the whole group.

This is where a tenacious NEM comes in very handy.

1188 has chartered a bus to Atlanta several times. As far as I know, we tell them when we want to leave and come back, and when we might need the bus while in Atlanta. This year we generally used the bus to go over to the Dome in the morning, but walked back. The bus company gives us a package price. It’s up to them to figure out when to transfer drivers (due to max hours behind the wheel) and what the driver does while we’re at the competition. We can also call the driver by cell phone when needed. Rates generally are based on miles driven and driver-on-call hours.

The HS Band has also used charters to go to Band Camp. The bus drops the band off at the camp, then picks them up again 3 or 4 days later. One year the company figured the milage at 2x, because the driver would have to take the empty bus back home after drop off, and then come back again at the end. Last year with a different bus company, AFAIK, they just gave a price and didn’t explain how they got it.

The two big factors are number of riders and distance. Let the charter company price it out for you and see what they recommend. Keep in mind that the cost of additional shuttle service can add up fast.

The bus has always stayed with us on out of state trips. We provide the driver a room. The cost of the drivers meals should be included in the cost of the charter. A lot of restaurants will feed bus drivers for free if he brings in a bus load. Ask the driver, he will be your best source of information.

Make sure everything is spelled out in the contract.

FYI Cheapest is not always the best. The story of the trip from CT to Rochester in March 2005 for Finger Lakes Regional will someday be made into a musical. :ahh:

I am not calling you a liar but a bus driver by law can not sleep on the bus unless it the bus has a bunk and have it count as off duty hours. The law requires that a driver of a commercial vehicle ( I believe that includes bus drivers) can not be on duty for more than 11 hours in a 14 hour period. Then needs 10 hours off duty. I am very surprise that on the way home from Atlanta you had only one bus driver. I do not know how long it takes to go from Atlanta to your home in Michigan but I am sure it is more that 11 hours. The fines and penalties are quite stiff for violating those rules.

I have handled charter reservations for our team in the past and this is what we did:
We kept the bus for the entire duration of the trip and we used the bus whenever we needed it. If you do this, you must pay for the bus driver’s hotel arrangements and you must pay for any parking fees for the charter bus. You give the driver a schedule of when you need him and you have his cell phone number. If you don’t need him, then the bus driver has free time to do whatever or he stays in the hotel. As long as you have a clear budget and a clear idea of your itenerary you shouldn’t have a problem. If you have any more questions feel free to PM me.

^ Ditto what SlickGuy said ^

also, there is an easy and strangely wonderful way to cut your bus cost in half!

Double up with another team in your area, and go to a regional together. If you have to get a slightly bigger bus (yes, there are different size charter busses) the small increase in cost will be nothing compaired to each team getting their own bus.

Sharing a bus to a regional will spark an excellent long term relationship between your two local teams.

We had a pretty large charter bus with us for the whole trip to Phoenix. We had to give the driver his own room. He watched the competition and ate meals with us. The bus was a few thousand dollars.

We use a charter bus 3 times a year.
We always book it for the entire event. The bus driver is “stuck” with us for the entire regional. Most of our bus drivers come to competition and watch us , w have even had a couple give out our promotional stuff with some of our mentors.

You pay the bus driver’s room. Usually we take a bus from our hotel to the venue and back.

Indeed. I rode with 845 to UCF this year, since they had space. Historically, they split a bus down with 343, who is nearby. (This year that couldn’t happen, since 343 went to VCU instead.) From what I heard, it worked well in the past–you might want to try contacting them about sharing across teams (and school districts, for that matter.)

That’s going to be just another plot twist in the musical. LOL

Often your bus driver will also be able to locate inexpensive meal options for your team… (I seem to recall a Trenton, NJ competition where the bus drivers all got together and located a great take-out place for us to get sandwiches, etc. from). We used to request the same driver for our trips - he’d often watch the competition with us.

NEM things - One thing that sticks in my mind is that the driver asked us to treat his bus as though we were guests in his living room - in other words, bring lots of garbage bags with you and NO ONE gets off the bus until the place is spotless. Bring a few extra and clean up your mess in the bleachers at the competition - and go around and ask other teams for their garbage, too. Make several copies of your attendance list - one for each time you’re going to board the bus on your trip (at least twice a day or more) so you can quickly call out the names (sometimes attendance lists vary by day as other people meet you at your destination and may not travel there with the team). Try to save a few extra seats for the team leader’s “stuff” or the bin of snack food or breakfast items you’re bringing on board.

Many school districts have rules regarding private busses because they have outsourced their bus service and have exclusive contract provisions.

Pontiac is just such a case. Any trip less than 200 miles requires us to use the contract bus service. They are more expensive and the busses are not comfortable since they are just yellow regular school busses.

I would prefer to use Seniors Unlimited - a local private Pontiac bus company that has some very nice units. We use them for long trips such as to Atlanta.

When we make our contract we negotiate the conditions. I usually get the driver a room so they are with us. The bus is at our use all day if we need it. The driver usually becomes a team member, I give them team shirts and they join the students in the stands. They become a team member.

The driver covers their own personal expenses and food expenses. We do often invite them to join us for late night pizza.

Over the years one special driver - Lois - have taken a huge interest to our team. She requests that she be our driver. As a result she knows the students and staff and plans stops and events that are of interest on long trips.

Seniors Unlimited has some of the best “State of the Art busses” and are very affordable. I would recommend them to anyone in the Michigan Area.

Contact me if you want more information.

One must agree that a Bus full of FIRSTers is always Fun’n Frolic. :slight_smile:

I handled this issue for our team last year (2006 season). First thing you want to make sure is that you think ahead of time and Book it at least a month before the departure date. I had to call 79 companies in our area, only because i started a week before…(I was too busy building a robot :stuck_out_tongue: )
As members have mentioned before it depends from town to town, county to county. I think you should contact your School or County Education Department and ask them for the List. Most of the time, they have a updated list with all the Companies; mentioning whether they are insured or approved by the County’s/Town’s Education Department or not.

Most of the Bus Companies try to converge their schedule with yours and make it as easier as possible. For example, if a team is attending a regional and only need transportation from and to regional, thats possible too. If one wants to keep the bus with them all the time and use it, thats possible too; one only have to pay for the parking and bus drivers room.
Its pretty much what you ask them for. You are paying them for the service and its part of the customer satisfaction rule to accommodate anything possible.
(Another Customer Satisfaction Rule is to satisfy the FIRST teams as much as possible :stuck_out_tongue: )

Many, many, many thanks for responding to this thread. I am glad I started it. Seems to be tons of information here for those that are just getting started into Charter Buses.

Our team is not part of the high school so we can’t use any “yellow buses”. We are strictly a 4-H group. Because of 4-H insurance rules, they limit us to no more than 8 passengers per vehicle if we get the parents to drive our team for us. This means we can not rent 15 passenger vans. we have to step up to a “contract” service which only includes charter bus services. I only mention this because Mike Martus was talking about his relationship with the school, where we don’t really have one.

I found a place in Indiana, actually Fort Wayne called Excellent Adventures. The Fort Wayne Wizards and Comet Hockey team uses them and I already got a quote from them. They worked out the same contract which most of you have stated, we supply a room for the driver and the driver stays with us the whole time. They are responsible for their food. They contracted 10 hours of bus use, I think we will need to extend that or I need to ask what they really mean by “10 hours”.

For example, it only takes 2 hours of drive time to get from point A to point B, but they contract 10 hours of bus use. If the driver is sitting in the stands with us for 12 hours, which would be 14 hours total, does that mean I need to negotiate a longer contract, even though we aren’t on the bus? I assume the driver is paid for 10 hours. Just trying to read the mobo jumbo legal stuff.

PS: Mike, thanks for beating me up on the silent auction at IRI… :wink:

That is wayy better then paying 350$ for a flights for 30-50 kids.

Even if you aren’t a local public school, stop by the office of your local school and get a copy of the “approved vendor list.” There is a reason that companies are removed from this list.

Band groups are often the most similar to what goes on at a FIRST regional. Ask for advice on which company to use.

Draft a grid worksheet, with categories such as "cost for 47 passenger, cost for 52 passenger, hours (many have a set figure and then overtime kicks in), how much deposit and refund rules, etc.

Call around. You will be surprised at how different the price quotes will be. Watch if one is a lot lower. You might have forgotten one of the many categories that should be on the grid above. Never just get one quote (unless the driver is the father is someone on the team-and then still get another quote-long story there…)

Having a bus lets you look at less expensive hotels for overnight trips. Consider the costs if you don’t do an overnight (if trip is under 90 minutes).

Besides sharing with another team, also consider asking for “donations” from parents, etc, who ride with you, to offset the price. Use this for the tip. Yes, you need to tip.

Bus prices have gone way up, because of gas and insurance.