There are many things to consider when planning to rent a charter bus with a professional driver-whether it is a full-size motorcoach, a smaller coach bus, or a school bus. By the way, school bus charters are mostly rented out by the bus operators for strictly local charter trips. In any rate, I would like to outline a few important and essential things to consider and resolve before, during, and after renting a coach or a school bus from any bus rental company. These points to note come from the extensive experience working as a bus company operator and having made, as well as witness many clients make, many mistakes and blunders resulting in charter delays, bus/bus-driver scheduling errors, and other such inconveniences like having no-shows on the day of the charter trip. I realize along with our clients that any charter trip begins and ends with a functional and clean coach/school bus being driven by an enthused and punctual coach bus or school bus driver. There are, however, ways to ensure that all of the logistical fronts are covered for the clients to be satisfied with their chosen charter bus rental company and the bus operating company in turn to be happy with their clients. It all boils down to effective and efficient communication.

Firstly, the relationship between the client and the bus operator begins with the client requesting a charter trip quotation or a charter trip appraisal. There are many things that are taken into consideration before a bus rental company issues a quotation. For example, the season, month, day of the month, bus fleet availability, and the rates given by the 3 largest charter bus rental companies in the industry for a given date-just to name a few. At this stage, the client is strictly focused (like tunnel vision) on getting the best price for the best possible charter bus services. And they rightly should be; however, not at the cost of neglecting their focus on very simple but profound details. Such crucial, albeit simple, details include making sure to submit the exact and correct dates for the charter trip; provide the correct time of departure and arrival; and outline the itinerary details, like extra charter-trip destination stops. Once, these details are provided to the charter bus rental company, the bus operator issues a charter trip quotation with a trip-rate. The client is now at the stage of either accepting the charter bus rental company as their vendor or not. Once the charter bus company is chosen and the client confirms the booking of their respective charter bus (be it coach bus or school bus) a formal trip confirmation is issued by the charter bus rental company to the client.

At this stage, it is crucial to double-check all of the aforementioned “simple” charter trip details. Many times, clients get quoted for a different date than what the trip confirmation states. That is there is a discrepancy between the trip quotation and the trip confirmation. Any bus rental company ultimately goes by their trip confirmations when scheduling and finalizing their bus rentals and schedule. These trip confirmations are also signed by the client upon the finalization of their charter trip booking. In my personal experience, some clients end up not getting their charter bus arriving on the right date. This seems to be a ridiculous mishap and it is. But it all stems from neglecting to focus on the contracted details stated on the trip confirmation.

I plan to continue the series of articles focusing on such logistical details in order to help clients and operators to foresee and overcome such blunders and to ultimately provide a reliable and professional charter bus rental service to our community. Please stay tuned for future publications on how to rent a charter bus and, equally important, how to make sure that all the charter trip logistics are put in place.

This article is written on behalf of BelCa Tours & Coach Inc., a charter coach bus and school bus rental company. As the Operations Manager of a reputable charter bus rental company, I seek to inform the readers of the industry insights, chartering details, and a plethora of the publicly unknown information which is essential when chartering any bus for any charter trip of a client’s choice.

Information and its accessibility is the most valuable asset of any client, business, or enterprise. Also, the source of such information is essential for it to be reliable and accurate. I therefore, would love to share as much as I am able, presently being an integral part of operations of a medium-size charter bus rental company.

In the early morning hours of every school day, youngsters board a yellow and black bus and head to an exciting day at school. We rely and trust that knowledgeable and responsible school bus drivers will deliver and retrieve our children each day, with safety as their number one priority. According to the American School Bus Council, each school bus equals 36 cars, which means that children have a better chance at a safer ride to and from school rather than riding in a standard vehicle. Even the safest, most law abiding drivers are at risk for being involved in an accident with a distracted driver. Taking your children out of the backseat and on to a school bus should be a safer alternative, but recently in some states, school bus riders are at risk of being involved in an accident caused by distracted driving. The distracted driver? The trusted school bus driver.

Laws Against Texting and Driving

According to the U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving, currently 41 states ban text messaging while driving and for good reason. No one, regardless of what they think or say, is good at texting and driving. Texting and driving, as separate actions, require visual, manual, and cognitive attention. Choosing to combine the two actions, at the same time, is a potentially lethal decision. While many drivers may argue that they have texted while driving without an incident to date, we all know it only takes one small incident to change life forever. Some drivers are self-proclaimed multi-taskers, boasting at their ability to drive the kids to school, while drinking piping hot coffee, texting co-workers, and keeping the car within the speed limit.

Studies show that multi-tasking doesn’t really exist. When you try to do more than one thing at a time, your brain struggles to prioritize the task at hand. For example, when you are driving, your visual attention is on the road, your manual attention is on the wheel, and your cognitive attention is in tune to driving. Once you hear the beep of a text notification, your brain suddenly “switches gears”. Your eyes may remain on the road, your hands may be on the wheel, but you are suddenly thinking about the text message and who may have sent it. The alert nags at you until you reach into your purse and check your phone, causing you to take all attention from driving.

Considering all the potential dangers of texting and driving, why are the school bus drivers in particular states allowed to text while transporting dozens of innocent children? Against the Golden Rule?

In September, a student, riding the school bus, took a video of the bus driver texting while driving. At one point, the driver was using her knee to control the wheel and struggled to stay within her lane. While the driver was suspended, the video footage has left many parents feeling uneasy, rethinking their morning transportation plan. While those states that allow it ban texting while driving, school bus drivers are allowed to text if the messages are work related. Even if school bus drivers pledge to use their cell phone for work related information, who will monitor to make sure the term “work related” isn’t be used loosely?

More importantly, how would a cell phone interfere with a bus driver’s performance? A school bus driver’s occupation can be rewarding and stressful. Safely transporting children is the main objective of the job, which doesn’t (and shouldn’t) allow for error. In addition to being a safe driver, according to United States Department of Labor, bus drivers are expected to have good customer service skills, be in good physical, mental and emotional health, have patience, good hand/eye coordination, and excellent vision and hearing. If a driver becomes immersed in “work related” text messages, he/she cannot perform the following important tasks:

Watch traffic and people carefully to ensure the safety of children getting on and off the bus
Take care of the needs of children with disabilities
Keep order and safety on the school bus
Understand and enforce the school system’s rules regarding student conduct
Report disciplinary problems to the school district or parents

Although texting laws have a few exceptions, it is safer and smarter to adhere to the “no texting and driving” law rather than trying to read between the lines or slip through a loophole. Texting and driving can injure, kill, and change your life in a matter of seconds. The next time you walk your child to the bus stop, will you trust her life in the hands of a texting bus driver or will you drive her to school, risking the busy roads filled with distracted drivers?

Driving near a school or a school bus can be dangerous if motorists don’t take proper precautions to ensure not just their own safety, but the safety of children in the vicinity. Here’s a guide to help you understand the right protocol to follow as a motorist in a school zone, or near a school bus.

Picking up or dropping off children at school:

Every school has a system to pick up and drop off children. Make sure you educate yourself on the rules of the school and adhere to them
Don’t double park because it reduces visibility for other drivers, and can endanger students
Park in the allotted areas (these have been designed keeping in mind the safety of students), and take permitted turns while navigating the school grounds. Avoid making U-turns and three-point turns.
While driving, watch out closely for children on bikes coming onto the roadway from between parked cars. Also keep a safe distance of at least 3ft between your vehicle and the motorcycle, and always check your side-view mirror before exiting your car
As a rule, ensure that your child is safely buckled in with the seat belt or in an age-appropriate child car seat before starting the car. Also, make sure your child enters or exits the car only via the ‘safety door’ which is the rear door on the kerb-side

Driving in a school zone:

Don’t exceed the 25mph speed limit imposed while driving in school zones. Most often this speed limit is imposed in school zones between 8 a.m. and 9.30 a.m., and 2.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Motorists must adhere to this speed limit even if there are no children in sight
Slow down when approaching a school crossing
Do not proceed past the school crossing until the crossing supervisor’s hand-held sign is no longer displayed, or until he/she indicates that you can continue
If there is no crossing supervisor, but ‘CHILDREN CROSSING’ flags are displayed, the motorist must stop and wait until all the pedestrians have crossed the road
While driving through a school zone, avoid honking as it might scare children and cause them to stumble or fall in the way of oncoming traffic

Driving in the vicinity of a school bus:

Learn to understand the flashing light system on school buses.

If the overhead lights on the bus are flashing yellow, then prepare to stop. These lights indicate that the bus driver is planning to bring the vehicle to a halt to load or unload children.

If the overhead lights are flashing red, and the stop sign extended, it means that the bus has stopped and that children are getting on or off the bus. At this time all motorists, regardless of the direction in which they are moving, must come to a halt until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign pulled back, and the bus resumes motion. In all 50 states of the U.S., it is mandatory for all vehicles on both sides of the road to come to a halt during this process. However, if a median divides the road, this may not be required.

If you are passing a school bus, make sure that there is plenty of visibility and space in the next lane. It is illegal in the U.S. to pass a bus on the right side, as this is where the loading and unloading of children occurs. Therefore, vehicles may pass the school bus on the left side on multiple lane roadways

Remember, though buses have large mirrors to assist the driver in his/her navigation, these vehicles also have huge blind spots. Stay cognizant of this, and pull back and slow down if you see a bus flash its blinkers, and allow it to move into the next lane.

Be especially vigilant near bus stops. Children may be playing at the bus stop to kill some time, or might be arriving late for their school bus and may inadvertently dart into oncoming traffic.

Bear in mind that buses stop frequently, so maintain at least 3ft distance between your car and the bus, to allow yourself enough time to come to a halt too

Do not park at or near a bus stop. In fact, maintain enough distance between your vehicle and the bus stop to allow children to enter and exit the bus with ease

Always remember that children can behave in an unpredictable, often rash, manner. In their haste or enthusiasm, they may not remember the safety concerns associated with walking on the road or picking up something they’ve dropped on the road. Therefore, it’s important to look very carefully to make sure the way is clear before navigating traffic behind a school bus.

These tips will help you drive in a safe, responsible manner while driving in a school zone, or near a school bus. If you would like to share your thoughts or suggestions of your own, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below!

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Getting your kids to school and back home safely can be a major concern for parents. Safely is the key word. Kids who are taught how to behave on a school bus will do their part to create a safer, nicer travel environment on the bus.

Listen to your school bus driver and obey Bus Rules

Your school bus driver is the person “in charge” on the bus, and will expect bus riders to observe all the safety and bus-riding rules.

Like your teachers and parents, bus drivers are trusted adults who have your safety in mind. Follow their instructions. Don’t argue with the bus driver.

Don’t be afraid to ask the bus driver if you have any questions or concerns.

If you have questions or concerns about the bus driver, tell your parents and teacher.

If there are set Bus Rules on your bus, follow them.

Be respectful to everyone on the bus

Keep your voices down so you can hear the driver’s instructions.

Enjoy the ride. Bus rides are great times to talk with the person in the seat next to you, maybe even a good place to make new friends.

Stay in your seat during the entire ride. Buckle your seat belts properly (if your bus has seat restraints). Use Buckle Guard Seat Belt Covers to hide the seat belt release buttons.

Report bullying and vandalism to the driver and to your parents.

Alert the driver if another child has fallen asleep on the bus.

Be responsible for your own belongings, such as school bags, lunch boxes, electronics, sports equipment, etc.

Be aware of safety in your School Zone

Both adults and kids need to practice “school zone” safety in the outdoor area where kids are getting into cars and buses, riding bikes, or walking home from school. Often this school zones are at the school’s main entrance or main parking lot.

After school, school zones will become crowded and chaotic with students, parents and vehicles. The situation this can quickly become dangerous if people aren’t paying attention to their surroundings and other people.

Obey Street Safety Rules

Know what common street signs mean. Red means “Stop”, Green means “Go”, etc.

Always STOP before stepping onto any street. Don’t ever rush into any street or alleyway mindlessly.

Look both ways when you cross the street.

Cross the street in pedestrian cross walks only.

Listen to the crossing guard, if they are on duty.

Walk to and from your school bus stop in groups. A group is easier to see than a single child.

A responsible and reliable school bus driver is dedicated to transporting students safely to and from school. However, part of this depends on the amount of self-disciplined the students passengers display. If the students are acting chaotic and undisciplined on the school bus, the safety of the transportation is in jeopardy and the competence of the driver is questionable. Therefore, in order to assure the safety and security of the students, the school bus driver must play a major role in their lives. A successful bus driver is willing to go beyond the responsibility of transporting students back and fourth.

Types of Deviant Behavior

A school bus driver may encounter a number of deviant behaviors among students, inappropriate language, verbal harassment, horse playing, getting out of seat while bus is moving, throwing objects at others as well as out of the window, stealing other student’s belongings, insubordination and displaying aggressive behavior toward fellow students. This is only a few examples of a chaotic activity. Children left to themselves can become increasingly destructive. Therefore, such chaos must be prevented before students even think of acting them out.

Establishing Bus Rules and Regulations

In order for a bus driver to take immediate control over his bus, he must establish rules and regulations right away. On the first day of pick-up and drop-off, he must clarify his expectation for each student rider without hesitation. Once students are aware of your expectations and your willingness to enforce them, they will usual think twice about acting up on the school bus. If you do not have a school bus monitor, you must be observant even while driving. Glancing into the rear view mirror to catch potential rule breakers will have to be done. A successful school bus driver is always aware of what’s going on.

Confronting Deviant Behavior

Confront misbehavior instantly. Do not let anything slide. Letting little minor incidents slide by will only create greater problems for everyone on the bus. Issue a warning no more than two times before threatening a right-up and phone call home. Your immediate response to rule violations determines whether or not a student will take your authority seriously. When students see you persistently enforcing the school bus rules, many will abide by your expectations.

Displaying Strength of Character

In addition, in order to successfully manage a school bus, a bus driver must be strong in character, refusing to give an inch to students who are bent on making life miserable. Backing down from a student’s misbehavior or permitting them to bully other students can ruin your reputation as a competent school bus manager. Students will take your weakness as an opportunity to do whatever they please without repercussions. To avoid this, a school bus driver must make it absolutely clear who is in control, without reservation.

Engaging In Effective Communication

In order to take control of a school bus, the driver must be able to communicate effective and connect often with his student passengers. He must be willing to do this because he cares not because he is afraid of losing his job. Students seems to know if you really care about their well-being. If you are not sincere about the safety and security of your students, you will reap the consequence of disobedience and challenge as a school bus driver.

Developing a Positive Attitude Toward Students

Develop a positive attitude toward all students. When students know that you care about them, even though some are very challenging, they will begin to respect you and your driving. Some bus drivers give incentives such as pencils and notebooks as well as rewards and letters of excellent behavior to parents and teachers. Whatever you can do to obtain a students trust, do it. But never get angry and react in an unprofessional way toward children. This will only add fuel to the fire, resulting in frustration and confusion.