Presented by FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, SEEK2019 is an adventurous event that took place in Indianapolis, IN from January 3-7, 2019.
The event is a gathering of over 15,000 college students, missionaries and church leaders as part of campus groups traveling from all points across the country. Over one-third of the attendees arrived by chartered motorcoaches, which we arranged.
Our client’s goals and objectives were to offer member campuses a single-source for their transportation needs while maintaining a fair price to budget-conscious students. Safety was also a top priority as the journeys are long.
The role of our company was to communicate directly with campuses, obtain their needs and then source, plan, strategically route and manage the entire bussing process. In total, we transferred 5,114 students on 98 buses originating from 60 campuses across the country – tallying 121,528 miles traveled!
Coaches traveled from as far as Washington State and Virginia, with the longest trip originating from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA – over 2,000 miles and nearly 30 hours of drive time each way. The University of Nebraska Lincoln had the largest single caravan with seven full size coaches.
For those campuses with the longest journey or those that served as leadership campuses, travel began on January 1 and continued overnight to join a well-choreographed arrival process. This year, we asked each campus liaison to activate an app that allowed us to track buses as they made their drive across the U.S. This provided timely data as the hotels pre-key the rooms and deliver key packets aboard each coach upon arrival.
The overall program included numerous challenges and parameters, which we faced during the logistical planning portion of the program. These included:
- Our client tasked us with sending an initial survey out to all campuses to gather estimated ridership and routing, followed by customized quotes and contracts for each campus. This resulted in 60 separate agreements to negotiate, review and approve.
- A coordinated bidding process to source buses from 22 states, including full vetting and due diligence of each bus company. In some locations we solicited up to five competitive bids to determine the best overall carrier to balance safety and comfort with budgetary requirements. Executed agreements, additional insured certificates, driver names, numbers, etc. were gathered from each company chosen.
- A detailed master routing plan that included 60 different pick-up times and locations, timeline management of 60 simultaneous trips, pre-coordination of adequate stops for drivers (each bus company had their own requirements, in addition to federal and state laws), vetting and coordination of meal stops and, in many cases, pre-planned driver rotation/swap-out plans.
- Securing 98 driver hotel rooms nearby the HQ hotel and sufficient parking for 98 full-size motorcoaches – this sounds way easier than it was! We also had to coordinate driver gratuity pick-ups, handing out over $31,200 in cash, which required working with a local bank to secure as none of our staff wanted to travel with that much money in tow!
- A detailed communication plan to the hotel for the arrival process, with all 98 buses set to arrive within a strict 4-hour window allowing for check-in in advance of the opening session. Because we would be unloading nearly five buses in each ten-minute period, the plan had to begin with strategically setting the departure times from across the country to arrive in sequence and not all on top of each other.
- We then crafted a similarly, but very different departure plan for swiftly loading passengers and getting all buses on the road again within a few hours of the conference closing, communicating to and allowing those with the furthest distance to travel to board first. This also included reverse timing for all stops, restaurant and break coordination for the 98 buses!
- In addition to the over-the-road transfers, we ran an extensive shuttle over the conference days up to 17 hours a day. Peak service daily had 26 buses moving between ten hotels. We used local buses on arrival and departure days due to DOT regulations on driver hours, but on the middle days we utilized the over-the-road coaches and were able to save the client nearly $300k by negotiating the hours for no charge while onsite and providing the drivers a healthy gratuity for their time.
Our client was thrilled with the outcome of our services. Diligent planning and preparation in advance of the program paid off as the execution of everything was nearly flawless. The additional convenience and cost savings realized from consolidating the efforts proved valuable to executives as they, without hesitation, have retained our services again for future years!