Can You Handle It?
Taking on a job moving more than 1,000 people at a time is not for the faint of heart. You are responsible for the safety and punctuality of every passenger. Before you accept such a job, you must make sure you have all the needed resources.
This includes the vehicles, pre-event scheduling staff, onsite staff, and a dedicated dispatcher on event day who also will help plan. Unless you are chartering your entire fleet, you will still have other jobs to service, other quotes to provide, and routine business.
Don’t commit yourself until you have secured all the people and vehicles you might need. While you may plan on running the show yourself, you must have a backup coordinator familiar with the plans in case you get sick the day of the event.
Once you have secured the resources, you are still not ready to accept the job until you inspect the sites involved. If you are using multiple buses that will be onsite at the same time, you must have enough room for parking, staging, passenger-boarding and disembarking. You must know every route and any possible issues that might hamper the delivery of service such as a potential for U-turns or backing maneuvers, construction zones and train tracks. You want to make sure you have no egg on your face at the end of the day.
Terms of Engagement
When multiple subcontractors are used, each bus might have a different paint scheme and logo. If one company has multiple vehicles, you will not know the drivers as they approach the drop-off zone. Assign a unique number on a placard that easily can be created in Word and displayed in the windshield. Groups become known by their colors.
Once you decide you are fully capable of delivering the basic transportation service, it is time to get down to details. A large job like this should always have either a written contract or a “letter of engagement” clearly indicating exactly what the client expects. You might think it is just a ride but if you need to secure parking locations or have a city street shut down, you need to determine up front if the client will take care of those arrangements or you will. If there will be catering on the bus, will you subcontract to the caterer or will the client? Jaime Campbell, assistant to the CEO of Dignity Health, recently contracted my company, Limousine Scene of Bakersfield, Calif., to move 1,200 people. “Spelling out who is in charge of what duties provides peace of mind that no detail will be overlooked because someone thought someone else was doing that function,” Campbell says.
Who Are The Players?
At least one face-to-face meeting should happen before the big day, Campbell says. “On event day, many people might try to take control or give well-intentioned instructions but only those invited to the meeting should be considered a “boss,” Campbell advises. This should include management from your client and the venue, including the director of security who will have great control over where you park and how you perform your duties. If law enforcement is involved for street closures or traffic assistance, a police representative also should attend. Make sure your backup coordinator attends this meeting as well, so if he has to take over the day of the event, everyone will know him.
One reason for using a dedicated transportation coordinator is to shift the responsibility of “what-if” scenarios to a professional used to dealing with transportation issues such as lost passengers, disabled passengers, road detours or a breakdown, Campbell says. “I hired a transportation company because I didn’t want to spend my time doing something that someone else is better qualified for,” Campbell says. All of these issues may come up, and if a vehicle breaks down, you should have a plan of action in place before it happens so everyone knows what to do.
When multiple subcontractors are used, each bus might have a different paint scheme and logo. If one company has multiple vehicles, you will not know the drivers as they approach the drop-off zone. Elena Davila, a booking agent with Fast Deer Charter in Los Angles, recommends assigning a unique number on a placard that easily can be created in Word and displayed in the windshield. An additional method for passengers to identify their buses on departure is to print the signs on colored paper. Groups become known by their colors (i.e. the blue group or the pink group). “This is really important for onsite coordinators and passengers to make the whole thing work,” Davila says.
VIA Trailways’ Leslie Porter says it’s her job to know what the customers need and pass that along to the drivers.
Communications is critical to keeping track of the locations of each bus and driver to maintain the schedule. Smartphone technology has provided a wonderful app known as Voxer that can easily facilitate this. Voxer works like a two-way radio, including push-to-talk technology. The best part: It is free! You can load each person you want to communicate with in a group. When you transmit, everyone in the group can hear at the same time or you can selectively communicate with only one individual.
For instance, Campbell wanted to be notified of each arriving bus and its point of origin. However, she did not want to hear the entire group talking about where they were parking or routine communications. As a backup, make sure you have the cell phone number of every driver and employee working on the day of the event.
As travel coordinator at VIA Trailways, Leslie Porter says, “It’s my job to know what the customer needs and to pass those needs along to the drivers. In a huge move, communications between all companies is really important and having a packet with instructions, maps and bus numbers helps to prepare the drivers.”
“Soon after starting in the industry, it became eminently clear to me how necessary it is for bus companies to help one another,” Porter says. “Not only is it important for us to help move large numbers of people, but also with rescues and mobile fleet services. There is no way we can take on large jobs without the help of affiliate companies.”
Creating timelines will help keep the day on track and provide a checklist of what has been completed. Using multiple formats will provide instant information at your fingertips. If using a tablet onsite, load a master copy and a working copy of the timelines. Use only the working copy and delete lines from the minute-by-minute timeline as they are completed. Here are some timeline examples:
ITEMS TO INCLUDE IN CONTRACTS:
1. Vehicle Rates, Services & Types
Vehicle hourly or mileage rates, cost for additional hours or mileage, vehicle capacities and other information such as amenities in each vehicle and whether each vehicle proposed is handicap accessible. Mention if the route is Point A to B, as-directed, shuttle service, etc.
2. Scheduling Services Cost Per Hour
Includes compiling itinerary data and scheduling vehicles for top efficiency in transporting guests, handling the arrival of guests at the venue, providing directions, and giving final vehicle schedules to drivers, sub-contracted charter companies and conference staff based on data from conference staff, guests and subcontractors.
3. On-Site Coordination Service Cost Per Hour
Provide constant communication between conference coordinators and arriving buses the day of the event. Handle last minute requests, changes in itinerary. May also perform other duties such as message relay, message phone service, inter-agency communication, single control point for communication, or other administrative duties as requested.
4. Credential Passes
If access to buildings, lots or areas require badges, make sure the client agrees to provide them for the purpose of
gaining access and identification to security. Include a delivery date so you don’t have issues gaining access the day of the event.
5. Payment Terms
Probably the most important part is getting it spelled out whether you need a deposit, payment in full before the job, or how long you are willing to wait for payment. If you have to pay your subcontractors or caterers up front or soon after the job is completed, consider that in your terms. Impose a hefty penalty for a late payment to encourage a timely payment.