Ground transportation is a very tricky part of the event planning industry because if done right no one really thinks to thank you. How hard is it to order a car/bus and driver? Here is the answer: harder than you think. If ground transportation isn’t done correctly — for example, a shuttle bus hits a car with your passengers on it (this happened to me recently), a driver is late for an airport pickup, or a bus gets lost on the way to an event —the mistakes may be talked about long after the event.
The first piece of advice is to get quotes from a couple of different companies. Many people hire destination management companies (DMC) to manage their ground transportation at a pre-negotiated percentage of the bill. Others go directly to the transportation company and are assigned a coordinator that will manage logistics.
When planning ground transportation, your choice of vehicles tend to be divided into four vehicle categories:
- Town car or SUV
- Mini bus
Now that we have identified our choices of vehicles, let’s discuss recommendations for the contract. It is important that you include information that is specific to the event in your contract as well as get in writing whose responsibility it is to execute the action steps. Many of the details can be fine tuned as the event gets closer.
Here is an example of some information that should be included:
- Vehicle types and sizes of each vehicle type. Explain to the transportation company how the vehicles are being used. For example, for an airport transfer do you need another vehicle for luggage?
- Rates of vehicle and/or airport transfer and don’t forget gas surcharges. Ask that the contract include a column for fees and one that has inclusive rates.
- Who is providing signage for the vehicles?
- Contracted hours of the event and how far in advance these vehicles will be staged.
- Pick-up and drop-off locations. (Clients need to provide specific addresses along with drop-off and pick-up points.) Identify whose responsibility it is to get permission and locations to stage the bus from the pick-up and drop-off venues. Don’t assume because you have a large group at a hotel that it’s okay to have 10 busses show up without their permission. You must still get permission from the hotel to have the busses pick up. They will assign the location and document it with their facilities manager.
- Also, if you are doing a lot of business with a ground company ask for a complimentary airport transfer for either staff or VIPs. Previously, I have negotiated for complimentary drinks and morning newspapers in the VIP vehicles.
Below are things to consider when fine tuning your transportation needs:
Routing: Don’t assume the ground transportation company knows the location of where you are going, no matter how popular your destination is. I have had bus drivers get lost driving guests five miles down the street from one popular resort to another. Make sure the pick up and drop off addresses are in the contract. Ask your coordinator how directions will be communicated to the drivers and the drivers be given driving directions. Get a copy for yourself.
Where to go once they get there: You are at the stadium, but where in the stadium are you dropping off and picking up? At larger events, companies hire staff to hold lollipop signs that are lit up at night. Lollipop sign holders are strategically placed around the venue so they can assist your guests before and after events.
Wheelchair accessible vehicles: Know in advance if you have any attendees that will need special vehicle access.
Airport pick-ups and departures: Where should attendees meet their driver and what type of signage will the driver be holding? Who should they call if their arrival information changes? How does the transportation company handle delayed flights and cancellations. What is their process for communicating with your attendees? If possible, always give attendee cell phone numbers to a driver or dispatch and vice versa.
Departure notices: If you are providing ground transportation back to the airport who is doing these notices? How much time does the transportation company need to get people back to the airport depending on the time of day.
Pick-up at the hotel or facility: Many places have specific pick-up spots that have to be booked in advance, especially if there are several groups departing at the same time. Call the facility and get your reserved space in writing.
Road construction & detours: If this is a VIP function do a dry run and make sure the drivers know alternative routes. If you are transporting during a major event and roads are closed down near the facility, make sure the transportation company knows about those closings.
Parking Permits: Many times, for specialty events, you need to purchase parking permits per event, per bus. Be sure to add this into your budget.
Vehicle Parking: Find out exactly how far away from the event the busses will be parking. How long will it take for them to get from the staging area to the actual pick-up spot in traffic?
Phone Numbers: Get the drivers’, coordinator and dispatch phone numbers in advance and make sure they have yours.
Weather: Recommend putting money in your budget for umbrellas, or have your logo printed on plastic jackets, in case of rain.
Drinks and snacks on the transport: People always appreciate a bottle of water in their vehicle. If you want alcohol on the bus, find out the laws of the state you are transporting in prior to arranging the alcohol. Your bus company or DMC should know the these laws.
Signage for the bus: Discuss in advance who is responsible for the sign. The transportation company can print out a generic sign if you provide them with your company logo. However, if you want something upgraded, you’ll need to provide it. Don’t forget to ask about the capability to show videos on the bus.
Timeline for transportation: Once everything is contracted, do a running timeline that gives all participants an idea of where they need to be and when. Make sure that your drivers and coordinator have this information as well.