Years ago, “Leave the driving to us” was a bus industry advertising slogan. The message was clear: going by bus was a way to enjoy traveling without hassling with traffic and driver fatigue. The message worked in years past, and in some ways it continues to lure travelers to coach travel. But with today’s travel experience, leaving the driving to us often means group trips — the chartering of a coach so that groups of like-minded people can travel together in a social atmosphere. In many ways this is the precise business model for charter and tour businesses, and indeed, the plan works.
To all concerned, the advantages of group travel are numerous, but within the positives lurks a potential downside that operators should be prepared to face. This potential problem can be, and in some cases is, the on-board consumption of alcohol. With alcohol consumption problems such as intoxication, belligerent behavior, and even destruction of the clean and comfortable interior of the coach could arise. Then there are legal issues, seemingly making the operator a party to the actions of a few irresponsible individuals, underage drinkers or, in some locales, the illegal or unlicensed consumption of spirits.
Operators who permit on-board alcohol consumption — and many do not — may want to consider developing an advance plan to deal with the consequences of consumption that may arise. Just what is a driver to do when passengers are involved in an alcohol-fueled confrontation? Does the driver have any role to play when an obviously intoxicated passenger is departing the coach on his own? And, are there steps an operator might take to minimize the impact of allowing alcohol on board? These and other issues might be considered as an operator develops a plan to minimize problems.
There is no sure thing with an alcohol consumption plan, but there are steps that can be taken. They include:
1. Be sure the consumption is legal. Some jurisdictions require permits or licenses. Other jurisdictions demand more attention be paid to “open containers” and “underage consumption.”
2. Limit the quantity of alcohol that is brought on board. Do this as part of the terms and conditions in the charter contract the client agrees to, then ensure that the driver knows those limits. No stops for additional alcohol should be permitted.
3. Ensure that there is a responsible party (who refrains from consumption) on board with the group. This person should be the party to whom problems, questions, alerts and warnings should be directed.
4. Intoxication is a potential safety issue, and intervention is often wise. Attempt to get the group leader to take charge of the individual, or in an emergency, the driver should summon other assistance, such as company personnel or the police.
5. If problems arise, drivers should be aware of the procedures to follow, including:
• Giving the group leader an early alert; if problems arise get the responsible person involved immediately;
• If safety is compromised, the trip should be interrupted. Drivers should consult with company management. Making a stop at a police station, or in the presence of a police officer, may be good choices for trip interruption sites;
• In the event of threats or violence get the police involved. Drivers should not attempt intervention;
• On return to the company offices, the driver should be interviewed first, and then asked to provide a written report of what has occurred.
Responsible people can travel, enjoy a social event and perhaps add alcohol consumption to the experience. But a charter operator who permits alcohol on board would be wise to understand the potential problems and establish contracts, deposit amounts and procedures that minimize the potential for problems.