How To Start a Party Bus Business

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Speaking of DOT, you'll need a DOT number, and it's likely the first regulatory number you receive. For a USDOT number, and anyone operating a party bus across state lines is included, you can learn more information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in regards to USDOT numbers at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/do-i-need-usdot-number  In a nutshell, do not automatically think you don't need one if you're planning on operating a bus that is designed to transport eight or more passengers, and that includes the drivers.  States that require a DOT number include the following (as of the writing, albeit are subject to change at any time):

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Also, in regards to motor vehicle regulations, you and your staff if you hire drivers and or support people will need to use some common sense and be aware of your local laws that have nothing to do with transportation. For example, drinking laws and especially underage drinking. Laws differ from state to state, so what might be perfectly acceptable and legal in one state, may subject you to legal penalties, fines and possibly jail time. Take a look at the following news clip video that discusses a party bus driver that allowed underage passengers on the bus and the hot water it caused.  

In order to protect the safety of passengers, party bus operators must comply with Federal regulations that apply. Failure to comply with applicable regulations can result in civil or criminal penalties.

Generally speaking, bus companies are required to obtain both USDOT registration and operating authority registration from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) before transporting party going passengers for compensation. That's different that a bunch of friends taking a bus together, or even a family driving a bus (think RV and motor home). Once you're charging for your service, it leaves the realm of private use and enters the world of commerce and when crossing a state line (including leaving the country), it becomes legally interstate commerce. 

According to the FMCSA website listed here -> https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/passenger-safety/legal-notice-motorcoach-operations

  • There are some statutory exemptions to the operating authority registration requirement. For example, carriers operating wholly within a commercial zone or within a 25-mile radius of an airport may not be required to obtain operating authority registration.  These carriers, however, are still subject to FMCSA’s safety jurisdiction and the USDOT registration requirement, in most cases.
  • Interstate commerce generally occurs when a passenger is transported across a State boundary.
  • In order to obtain operating authority registration, a motorcoach company must demonstrate that its operations meet FMCSA’s safety fitness standard and that the company is willing and able to comply with all applicable statutes and regulations, including regulatory insurance requirements.
  • To obtain and retain operating authority registration, motorcoach companies must maintain and file evidence of $5 million in insurance coverage.

An interstate motorcoach driver must meet the following qualification requirements and responsibilities: 

  • Be at least 21 years of age; 
  • Speak and read English well enough to converse with the general public, understand highway traffic signals, respond to official questions, and be able to make legible entries on reports and records;
  • By experience, training, or both, be able to drive the motorcoach vehicle safely; 
  • Possess a valid medical examiner’s certificate;
  • Have only one valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) and this CDL must have a passenger endorsement;
  • Provide his/her employer with a list of all motor vehicle violations or a signed statement that driver has not been convicted of any motor vehicle violations during the past 12 months;
  • Not be disqualified from operating a motorcoach.

Interstate motorcoach drivers are subject to driving limitations that are established by Federal regulations. 

No interstate motorcoach driver can drive:

  • More than 10 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty. 
  • For any period after having been on duty 15 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty.

No interstate motorcoach driver can drive for any period after such driver has been on duty: 

  • 60 hours in any 7 consecutive days if the driver’s employer does not operate every day of the week; or
  • 70 hours in any 8 consecutive days if the driver’s employer operates every day of the week. 

If a motorcoach driver works more than one job of any kind, that time must also be included as on-duty time.

A motorcoach company is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) implementing regulations. 

A motorcoach company that provides charter or tour service must provide accessible motorcoach service to passengers with disabilities when provided with 48-hour advance notice of the need for accessible service.  

With 48-hour notice, a charter or tour operator must provide accessible service to include a motorcoach equipped with a wheelchair lift when required for passengers who are unable to board the motorcoach without the use of a wheelchair. The motorcoach must also be equipped with a specified location and equipment for securing the wheelchair.

It is considered discrimination for a motorcoach company to:

  • Deny transportation to an individual with disabilities except when such individual engages in violent, seriously disruptive, or illegal conduct. Service may not be denied, however, if the individual’s disability results in appearance or involuntary behavior that may offend, annoy, or inconvenience employees or other people.
  • Use or request the use of persons other than the motorcoach company’s employees (e.g., family members or traveling companions of a passenger with a disability, medical or public safety personnel) for routine boarding or other assistance to passengers with disabilities, unless the passenger requests or consents to assistance from such persons;
  • Require or request a passenger with a disability to reschedule his or her trip, or travel at a time other than the time the passenger has requested, in order to receive transportation; or
  • Fail to provide reservation services to passengers with disabilities equivalent to those provided other passengers.

 


Interstate motorcoach operations are regulated by the FMCSA. As the Federal agency responsible for safety oversight of commercial motor vehicle operations, FMCSA and our law enforcement partners enforce and administer applicable Federal laws and regulations. Motorcoach companies and their drivers and vehicles are subject to inspection by Federal, State, and local authorities. A violation of a law or regulation could result in a fine, a penalty, or the driver, vehicle or entire motor carrier operation being ordered out-of-service.

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