State offers warnings when scheduling bus trips - WNEM TV 5

State offers warnings when scheduling bus trips

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LANSING, MI (WNEM) -

The state of Michigan is offering tips if you're planning an excursion or holiday travel on a bus.

The Michigan Department of Transportation suggests bus riders should check out the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's SaferBus app for the iPhone or iPad, or check out the website at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/saferbus.

The free SaferBus app gives bus riders a quick and free way to review a company's safety record before buying a ticket or while waiting to board a bus. SaferBus provides access to the safety records of nearly 6,000 interstate commercial passenger carriers operating in the United States, which includes privately operated motor coach, school bus and tour bus companies.

"Traveling by bus is one of the most practical and affordable ways to go," said Sharon Edgar, administrator, Office of Passenger Transportation, Michigan Department of Transportation. "We want consumers to be educated before they book a trip. Don't let price be your sole guide. There are more than 200 carriers licensed by the state, and we want to be sure you choose one that fits your wallet and complies with safety regulations."

MDOT says motor coach service is one of the safest and least expensive ways to travel, and the development of a curbside bus industry has added even more options. But price and convenience are not the only factors, reminds Edgar. Safety should be a top priority.

MDOT requires each bus company to carry liability insurance and Michigan no-fault insurance, and to pass a mechanical bus safety inspection conducted by MDOT inspectors. A list of more than 200 licensed Michigan carriers is available on the MDOT Web site, www.michigan.gov/mdot.

Under "Rail and Public Transit," click on "Bus and Limo Licensing," then look under "Commercial Bus Licensing." Click on "Current List of Carriers." If you do not see a bus company listed, it is likely the operator is providing service illegally and should not be hired.

MDOT offers a checklist of safety tips to help you choose a bus company that meets all your needs.

- Take your business to a reputable company. Never select a bus company that does not have a certificate of authority to provide service.

It is easy to find out if they have this authority by calling the MDOT Office of Passenger Transportation at 517-241-0679 or 517-241-0680, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (or by checking MDOT's Web site).

- Remember that a simple advertisement on Craigslist or a website does not guarantee the operator is licensed.

- Put safety above economy. All privately owned bus companies must undergo annual safety inspections of all buses, carry insurance and limit the number of hours that are driven on a trip. These required items may end up costing more but protect the safety of the consumer.

- Be wary of bargains. Bus companies offering drastically reduced rates to charter or tour groups may be forced to cut corners on bus maintenance work, safety compliance or comfort features.

- Consider the needs of your group. The size of your group and the distance traveled should be considered along with your group's budget when selecting a company.

- Make sure you put your agreement in writing. Document, in writing, the services to be provided, as well as the costs.

- Ask for a copy of the company's policy regarding the steps they will take to minimize trip delays or disruptions as a result of vehicle problems.

- Report possible mechanical vehicle safety violations to MDOT. Did the vehicle have a major mechanical problem? Were the emergency exits clearly labeled for easy use? MDOT wants to know. Call 517-335-0904 or e-mail MDOT-buslimo@michigan.gov to file a report. All reports are confidential.

- Report non-safety complaints to the company first. If you do not receive satisfactory action from the company, complaints unrelated to safety can be filed with the attorney general, Consumer Complaint and Protection Division, at 517-373-1140 or online at www.michigan.gov/ag.

- Be a good passenger. Respect the company's property, the needs of the driver and all safety regulations for the protection and comfort of all on board. You should understand in advance of your trip what rules must be followed.

For further information about selecting a quality bus company, particularly if your bus must cross state lines or travel into Canada, go to the American Bus Association website at www.buses.org and search for "Consumer Travel Tips."

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