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What every parent needs to know

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Tour companies

A tour company will be used by schools, child associated groups and many others who want to book a trip in the UK and abroad. Usually a tour company will make all the arrangements for ferry crossing, flights, road transport and accommodation. They may organise skiing or other activities.

Tour companies have a legal duty of care to ensure passenger safety on the coaches they hire for the group.  They also have a legal duty of care for the safety of the coach drivers and are required to ensure they book accommodation for drivers that allows them to rest and get the necessary sleep they need to prevent driver fatigue. Quality of sleep is crucial.

Many tour companies offer a school a rate for the trip to cover everything, however, not all tour operators will book drivers into single room accommodation or into hotel rooms of a good standard or to the same standard they book the rest of the party into to. Drivers are often referred to as 'just the driver'.  It is common to hear from drivers that they have been given some of the worst rooms in a hotel...in basements without windows, above noisy entertainment areas etc., where it makes if difficult for them to sleep.  The tour companies that treat drivers in this way are aware that it affects their sleep but they carry on because it means they can give the school a lower quote, get the booking and then your child could be driven by a driver who is struggling to stay alert. 

It would cost less than £10 extra to pay per parent on top of the trip cost to improve your child's safety. Schools usually do not ask parents to pay this little bit extra as they are not normally aware of how tour companies book the accommodation for drivers. It is not a question they readily ask when booking the trip for the school. A teacher's main aim in many instances, will be to get the best rate, the best deal believing this is what the school and parents want, but what parent would refuse to pay a little more to safeguard their child?

Schools

Schools have a legal duty of care also to risk assess coach travel and who is driving and if they are fit to drive.  This is a legal requirement.  It may prove difficult for a teacher to do this but at least, if they tell the tour companies at point of hire that they require as part of the written contract, that all drivers will have a single room, in a quiet area to the same standard the teacher's rooms, then that would go a long way to protecting the entire party.

Things to remember!

30% of coach crashes are linked to driver error...now you know why they are tired you can do something about it!

Most crashes happen on overnight driving and on motorway.  It is very common for the return journey back to the UK to commence around 21:00 and travel on motorways.  Two drivers will share this long haul 21-hour drive.  They will have been up from early morning very often, will have hung around all day having been checked out of the hotel by teachers who go off for another day of activities and may not be provided with any facility to rest or sleep ahead of the long drive to the UK.  Then after being awake all day, all evening, they are expected to drive right through the night.  They may also have had a whole week of disturbed sleep because of poor accommodation and being forced to share rooms with other drivers.  By the time their 21-hour shift ends they will have been awake in many cases for over 30 hours.

If you are a parent reading this, our message to you is simple...coach drivers are warning us all that they struggle to stay alert/awake.  Are you going to do something about this or just hope for the best when you wave your child off on their trip of a lifetime?