CHARTER TIPS

Consumer Protection Tips for Chartering a Motorcoach

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.

 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 boundaries.

01

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).

02

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.

03

Operator 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.

04

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.

05

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 questions

06

The consumer should be provided an opportunity to conduct an inspection of available vehicles to determine vehicle and equipment preferences and review vehicle cleanliness.

07

Determine when is final payment due?, If your group wishes to view commercial videotapes or movies, ask the motorcoach operator who is responsible for meeting copyright law requirements. 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.)

08

• 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 travelling 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 en route changes or decisions.

09

For a UMA member motorcoach provider in your area, you should visit BusRates.com a database of motorcoach and charter providers. These are not brokers, all the companies listed own their coaches. Look for companies listed with the UMA Logo. If you're considering a motorcoach company which is not a UMA member, you may also wish to check theUSDOT's Passenger Carrier Safety Ratings list to certify that the carrier does NOT have an unsatisfactory safety rating.

10

Operating a dependable service business requires organization, competent management and a substantial capital investment.

Tel: 301.347.8412

Clinton, MD 20735

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