We sat down with Shane Lauler from Starr Bus Charter and Tours to discuss how Starr and the motorcoach industry as a whole are ensuring your safety during these trying times.
Here's a summary:
Shane is the Vice President of Sales and has 25 years experience at Starr, a 3rd generation business. Their home base is in New Jersey. A lot of their business is in the student market and they are very focused on safety. These times are challenging but they've enacted some protocols they really feel confident about and are excited to share.
How are the coaches being cleaned and sanitized?
-First, we are electrostatically cleaning the coaches. It's not a new technology but it's new regarding its use for cleaning motor coaches. We go through the coach and spray using positive and negative ions that connect to every surface and it disinfects them and kills covid and other viruses. The drivers also have sanitizing kits that have wipes for high-touch surfaces that they do several times a day during the trip. We will have anti-bacterial lotion to use for everyone - one by the lavatory and one by the front entrance. Our drivers will wear masks and we ask our passengers to wear masks as well. The first row of the bus will be vacant to put distance between the driver and the group. The drivers have a plexiglass barrier behind them but the first row being empty gives extra distance.
So with the first row removed the capacity of the bus is slightly reduced?
Yes, from 56 to 52, generally. But it allows the extra distance to keep the drivers safe.
Will the cleaning during the trip impact driver hours?
Yes, but not dramatically. DOT regulations allow for 15 hours of on-duty but 10 hours of drive time. It will add maybe 15 minutes on the front and back end of each day that will count toward that 15 hours but won't have a significant impact on itineraries or schedules as we will be able to work with you in advance on that.
For those of you who don't know, that's a usual step for a tour operator. We'll work with the motorcoach operator to ensure that cleaning time is accounted for so you don't have to worry about it.
What about bus capacity - will it be changed to account for social distancing?
It's up to the group and their comfort level.
How do you test drivers and do you have backups if one is sick?
Drivers go through a pre-trip questionnaire to make sure they don't have the virus nor have they been exposed to it in the last two weeks. We have enough drivers to ensure if one is ill, we'll have a backup and will have plenty of time to get a new one in there.
We appreciate your time and information today. Shane and Starr have been valuable partners and we look forward to getting back on the road with them.