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Tourists bringing their own cars? No can do

Tourists might want to do a cross-country jaunt in their own vehicles. But as the owner of a commercial bus fleet, it is up to you to get them to ditch their private cars and opt for tourist buses instead.

Bus tours have always been popular in the country. Taking the tour is an easy way for you to check out the major tourist attractions with a scenic route to each destination. Over the years, bus tours have grown in popularity even among younger age groups.

One would believe that most tourists would like to drive their own vehicles or hire out small buses for cross country jaunts – and several do. But as improbable as it may seem, it appears that younger age groups today prefer to take public transport daily rather than drive. This also applies to inter-State bus tours, where tourist buses and motor coaches ply across a predetermined route on a ticketed basis. One reason is that younger people today prefer not to drive their own vehicles.

There are statistics to back these trends. A report by the US PIRG Educational Fund titled ‘Why Young People are Driving Less and What it Means for Transportation Policy’ states that increased legal and financial barriers to driving and higher technological changes has resulted in younger age groups reducing their driving hours. The report also mentions that there has been an increase in the numbers of 14-34-year-olds without a drivers’ licence between the years 2001 to 2009, and this number has marginally increased thereafter.

Meanwhile, the demand for bus tours to popular destinations among tourists wishing to get an authentic feel of ‘real America’ continues to shoot upward. However, erstwhile popular bus tour destinations like casinos and music and food tours in places like Nashville now seem dated to newer generations of tourists, who are more interested in wine and museum tours. The bus tours in high demand include camping tours, Grand Canyon tours, hiking and camping tours across States, rafting tours, etc.

Another factor that your motor coach and tour bus company needs to consider, is the increased intervention of web-based bookings for tours. Higher numbers of tourists today prefer to check route maps and seat availability on tour companies’ websites and apps, rather than call the company and make bookings via human interaction. If your company is not active on social media or if your company website does not currently accept bookings and queries, then you might need to address these areas urgently.

Customise your bus for long trips – but check Government rules first!

There are several federal and State regulations your company must comply with before plying any of your buses for tourist purposes. This is especially true of tourist buses plying across State borders, mostly on overnight journeys. Mainly, these are some of the regulations you must comply with:

* Safety regulations for motor coaches mandate compliance for regulator overload, anti-slip requirements, ASR, latest generation emission rules, three-point seatbelts, etc.

* Start by checking this fact sheet for inter-State commerce and for-hire transport, and whether your company’s motor coaches and commercial buses qualify for the same.

* The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates a compulsory maximum hours of service for each motor coach (Sec 395.5) , drivers’ total hours of service (Part 395) , safety belt use, brake systems and safety technologies, among others.

* Starting December 2017, all commercial motor coaches are to swipe cards to log in hours of service and vehicle routes. There is no need for a log book.

* FMCSA regulations also apply for such heads like registration requirements, driver licensing, random drug and alcohol testing, vehicle safety inspection, vehicle maintenance, minimum level of insurance, etc.

On their part, though tourists are primarily concerned with having a great time on their trip, some basic checks and precautions about the bus they are hiring and the company credentials are in order before embarking on the bus tour.