The following is important information for music directors to be aware of when traveling in the United States by motorcoach.
Department of Transportation (DOT) Regulations:
Your driver can only be on duty for 15 hours during his/her cycle of duty, of which he/she can only drive for 10 of those hours. The driver MUST then go off duty for 8 consecutive hours. The driver’s time begins when they first start the bus for the day, including at the company’s “yard” or “garage” on the day of pick-up. While on tour, waiting for your group to board in the morning at the hotel, that driver is using part of those 15 hours. If the driver runs out of time, he/she MUST stop the bus! No exceptions! A new driver must take over at this time. If we know in advance what your itinerary requires, we can plan for relief drivers as needed.
The standard size deluxe motorcoach in the United States holds 55 seats. This is the size on which Music Celebrations International (MCI) bases its domestic coach tour costs. With a 55-seat coach, the group can utilize 54 seats, leaving one seat open for the MCI Tour Manager. There are some “off-size” coaches available, smaller coaches, or 57-passenger coaches, but because they come at a premium price and would not bring a significant (if any) cost savings to the travelers.
In the United States, a deluxe motorcoach is not allowed to travel with an attached trailer. Large instrumental ensembles may need to plan on hiring a truck to follow the group to their tour destination if there is not enough room in the undercarriage of the coach for both the luggage and instruments.
Music Celebrations accepts contracts with motorcoach companies only if the contracted coaches are in good working condition. This helps to ensure that the motorcoach will experience little to no mechanical issues, and likely has the latest amenities, such as television screens, wi-fi, and so on (though these items can never be 100% guaranteed). MCI will put out to bid the contract on behalf of the group to reputable companies that service your location.
Tour Pricing based on Motorcoach Transportation
You will see on the proposal that the per-person cost is on a sliding scale, dependent upon the number of travelers you have per coach. Each motorcoach represents certain fixed overhead costs, which include driver, fuel, coach, overnight parking, overnight room for driver(s), and Tour Manager (one per coach). The best per person price is achieved by filling up each motorcoach (54 per coach), thus spreading around the fixed costs to as many people possible.
Pre-Approved Motorcoach Vendors
School Districts may have a “pre-approved” vendor list of motorcoach companies. These lists should be shared with MCI early on, so the companies can be contacted and bids requested. Budgets may need to be adjusted. Late receipt of these lists might endanger the availability of equipment. It is advisable to add as many reputable companies to this list as possible, to ensure competitive pricing and the availability of equipment.
We occasionally receive requests to back out the transportation from the tour proposal for various reasons; wanting to compare “apples to apples” (competing proposals don’t include transportation), school districts or booster organizations may offer to cover the cost of the transportation, or directors may have a relationship with a local coach company and feel that they can negotiate a better rate. Whatever the reason, MCI insists that it negotiate and/or sign the coach contract on the director’s behalf, thus making the contract between MCI and the coach company.
Securing Your Own Motorcoach Transportation
We occasionally receive requests to remove the motorcoach transportation from the tour proposal for various reasons:
- Wanting to compare “apples to apples” with a competing tour proposal that does not include motorcoach transportation;
- School districts or booster organizations may offer to cover the cost of the transportation, and therefore need to know the cost;
- Directors may have a relationship with a local coach company and feel that they can negotiate a better rate.
Whatever the reason, MCI insists that it negotiate and/or sign the coach contract on the director’s behalf, thus making the contract between MCI and the coach company.
The following four (4) bullet points illustrate why it is important to have MCI be the contracting party:
- Our quotation to you will include all necessary and essential arrangements for the coach and driver, including any needed relief drivers, overnight accommodations for the driver(s), overnight parking, parking permits, toll fees, etc.
- Group (and MCI staff) will be covered under Music Celebrations International’s Liability Insurance in case of any coach-related accidents.
- When MCI is the contracting party, our Tour Managers and staff can work most efficiently and effectively with drivers. Our requests/instructions have much more clout if we are the party paying the bills. Our ability to negotiate with the transportation company regarding unsatisfactory service, faulty or unacceptable equipment, changes in routing or itinerary, or quick repair or replacement of equipment is vital to the smooth operation of any concert tour.
- Should the group handle the contract with the coach company and 1) the coach breaks down during the tour; 2) there are issues with the coach driver, and he/she needs to be replaced; or 3), there are any other coach-related issues, such as faulty air conditioning or malfunctioning windows; MCI would not be responsible for rearranging the itinerary program and no refunds will be given for any missed meals, sightseeing, or other inconveniences. Despite everyone’s best efforts, this does occasionally happen! Don’t let it happen to you!
If you still opt to contract your own motorcoach arrangements, MCI requires that we are named on the coach company’s liability insurance as “additionally insured.”