Operations

How To Plan Overnight Stays For Bus Drivers

Jim Luff
Posted on July 31, 2018

A hotel room would be a lot more comfy...

A hotel room would be a lot more comfy...

Overnight stays either with a passenger group or deadheading home may force you to get a hotel for your driver. This expense should be passed on to your client as a line item called an overnight or per diem fee, or by building it into the cost of the charter. It can get sticky when this happens after the passengers have been dropped off.

A simple explanation to the client about DOT regulations and the purpose of them is usually enough to eliminate any argument,” says veteran operator George Jacobs of Windy City Limousine in Chicago. Jacobs charges customers the actual price of a hotel room and doesn’t mark it up. But there are other ways to handle driver accommodations.

Get The Driver A Hotel Room

In the event a charter involves overnight stays, most operators prefer their clients to just add a room on to their group reservations and pay for it. This is the cleanest way of handling the driver’s room without a line item expense or the operator having to call a hotel and provide his credit card. The group is usually able to get a better rate than most operators could get on their own. Ask your client to book the driver a room. This is not an unreasonable request, and most tour companies and leaders will gladly do it.

Supplying Meals On The Road

This should be a no brainer. Many operators balk at paying for food and take an attitude that they wouldn’t pay for a driver’s meals on a local run, so why should they pay for them on the road? When a driver is on a local run, work hours are usually less than eight hours and it’s easy to bring a lunch box. That isn’t possible on a multi-day road trip.

Making sure your driver is fed should be important to you, as hunger causes blood sugar levels to drop which leads to fatigue. Don’t assume your client will feed your driver. Spell it out in the contract and offer a choice of either providing three meals a day or doing a buy-out.

What Is A Buy-Out?

In some cases, a client may not want to have the driver dine with them or even be

Be sure to provide your drivers with a per diem.

Be sure to provide your drivers with a per diem.

responsible for getting them a hotel room. A buy-out is a term commonly used by tour companies for paying the daily expenses of a driver, such as meals and hotel. If they ask for a buy-out, it should be established by a preset daily per diem rate (see chart) that can be pro-rated by the timeline of the day. You can use the chart to calculate with the daily per diem based on the itinerary.

What Is A Per Diem?

A “per diem” rate is a payment schedule based on expenses per day. Some operators charge a flat fee to clients for overnight stays and provide a per diem amount to the driver to cover expenses on the road. Some operators just hand the money over and expect no receipts, no change, and no accountability, while others view a per diem rate as the maximum allowed expense and expect receipts and change. There is no right or wrong way to pay a per diem. It is completely up to individual owners to make that decision.

Average Per Diem Chart*

Breakfast (On duty time begins away from home) = $15

Lunch (Meal break with passengers) = $15

Dinner (Will not be off duty/home for the evening) = $20

Hotel  (Required to stay overnight) = $100**

*based on operator interviews byLCT Magazine

**If clients are staying in a high-end hotel, driver may be required to stay elsewhere. Plan a sleeping location in advance of the trip

Other Driver Considerations

  • Often, a team of drivers may leapfrog a driver by flying ahead to a city to take over driving duties while the other driver takes a mandatory rest/sleep period when arriving in that city.
  • When traveling by plane, the time flying is legally considered on-duty/not driving for DOT logbook purposes.
  • Do not ask your driver(s) to share rooms with each other or with a tour host. This is completely unacceptable.

Great Ideas provides a broad range of information focused on new ideas and approaches in management, human resources, customer service, marketing, networking and technology. Have something to share or would like covered? You can reach LCT contributing editor and California operator Jim Luff at [email protected]

Related Topics: charter and tour operators, driver behavior, driver safety, driver training, group transportation, group travel, hotels, How To, Jim Luff, leisure travel, managing chauffeurs, motorcoach operators, tour buses, tourism

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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