Consider Using a Charter Bus on Church Trips

Learn about the benefits of using a charter bus for your next road trip

Whether it’s a youth group activity or a trip to a leadership conference, your ministry may consider traveling by chartered bus to special events. Sometimes, you may even team up with other area churches to make the trip more affordable. When that happens, there are certain things both parties need to consider prior to embarking on the trip, like how to choose a charter bus company, what to look for in a charter contract, and what types of forms trip participants should complete.

Why Hire a Bus? 

Using a charter bus company is a good idea when your ministry needs group transportation for a road trip. While the cost may be higher than using your ministry’s own vans or borrowed vehicles, the charter line’s larger, safer vehicles, and experienced drivers can greatly reduce the likelihood of an accident.

Here are some factors you should keep in mind when considering a charter bus company:

  • Choose an established charter company that owns modern, well-maintained equipment.
  • Verify that the charter line is insured by asking for a certificate of insurance from its insurance company.
  • Never sign an agreement with a charter bus line that has wording making you responsible for injuries trip participants sustain while riding in a vehicle driven by a charter operator.

Know the Charter Company 

You should carefully investigate the background of the charter bus company prior to signing a contract with them. Make sure the company has a good reputation within the community and with the Better Business Bureau. Are the buses clean? Are the drivers professional? Are there any hidden fees that you need to be aware of? These are all good questions you should ask before hiring a charter bus company for your road trip.

Review the Contract

Once you feel confident about the charter company, you should carefully review the contract prior to signing it. As with any contract, you may want to ask an attorney to look at it as well. The agreement should clearly indicate that the charter company is responsible for injuries that are the result of the ownership, operation, or use of the vehicle.

The charter company should also provide evidence of primary insurance coverage that meets all applicable state and federal motor carrier requirements. An attorney can help confirm that these regulations have been met.

Provide Activity Participation Agreements

In addition to arrangements with the charter bus company, you should take care of business with trip participants, too. All participants should sign an activity participation agreement. This is a simple form that spells out the group's destination and what activities will take place during the trip. All trip participants over the age of 18 should sign one of these. The same agreement should also be signed by the parent or legal guardian of every minor who will be on the trip.

By signing this form, trip participants or their guardians:

  • Acknowledge their understanding of what will be involved in the trip;
  • Agree to hold the ministry harmless for injuries that occur while on the trip;
  • Grant the ministry authority to obtain medical treatment for trip participants who become ill or injured while on the trip.

In addition to providing trip participants with activity participation agreements, it’s a good idea to clearly communicate who’s responsible for certain aspects of the trip, especially when more than one church is involved.

Consider the following:

  • Who is responsible for researching and retaining the charter bus company?
  • Who is responsible for coordinating and staffing activities at the destination or along the way?

Pinning down these points can help to clarify responsibility so that details don't fall through the cracks. It can also help to clarify the responsibility, if any, of the individual churches in the event that someone is injured during the trip.

Who’s Responsible for Injuries?

Churches may think that if they hire a charter bus, any responsibility for injuries during the trip will fall to the charter company. If an injury occurs on the bus, including one that is the result of an auto accident, the primary liability is with the charter company. However, a church is still responsible for injuries that occur at the trip destination and those that are the result of inadequate planning.

You may consider purchasing accident and sickness travel insurance for participants on the trip. This would help cover medical costs that are incurred during travel.

Additional Resources