When juggling what seems like a million different moving pieces for an event, meeting planners might get focused on the venue or the catering or the speakers and may overlook — or underestimate — an equally important aspect: transportation.
“I think, oftentimes, it’s at the bottom of the food chain,” said Eddie Stewart, CEO and owner of Nashville-based Stewart Transportation Solutions, which he founded in 1990. “Transportation doesn’t always get the attention that it deserves.”
Getting transportation plans in place early on creates a solid framework that helps everything else go smoothly, said Pam Upton, director of tours for Lexington, Kentucky-based Blue Grass Tours, which provides charter bus service with its fleet of more than 140 motorcoaches and minicoaches.
“Without that transportation infrastructure,” Upton said, the event and schedule could “fall apart.”
“[Transportation is] kind of an afterthought sometimes, when possibly, it should be the first thought,” she said.
Stewart and Upton, along with Mitch Kirchner, a meeting planner and founder of Mitch’s Meetings Management who has handled transportation for events around the country, offered their tips for planning transportation for events.
Safety is perhaps the most important aspect planners should keep in mind when choosing a motorcoach operator. Stewart said planners should check operators’ records on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safer database at safer.fmcsa.dot.gov. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) database shows if operators have had accidents or other violations, he said.
Both Kirchner and Stewart said planners must also check the operator’s liability insurance and ask for a certificate of insurance to make sure the policy hasn’t expired or been canceled. Then, Stewart said, planners should “add yourself and add your client as an additional insured; it’s an expense that’s well worth it.”
In addition to making sure a company is DOT registered, Upton said planners may want to check if a company is certified through the U.S. Department of Defense, in case extra security steps are needed for highranking riders, such as a federal court judge.
Upton also recommended hiring an operator that knows the area. For example, some of rural Kentucky’s narrow, winding roads aren’t safe for a 55-person motorcoach or a bus that exceeds certain bridges’ weight limits, she said.