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Church Transportation
By: Jacob McBurnie

You've got tired, worn out teenagers, the radio is playing calming teenager music, there's no air-conditioning, and you're anxious to arrive home without vehicle problems. Sound familiar?  Perhaps this describes the drive home from the latest youth group retreat.

Church transportation needs haven't changed much over the years. The means, however, to transport church members have changed dramatically in the past decade. 

The traditional 15-passenger van, once the popular choice for churches, has been labeled unsafe by the National Transportation Safety Board, leaving church leaders in need of alternatives. 

Old school buses don't provide the comfort or the aesthetics to satisfy the senior adults. What is a church leader to do to satisfy the church's transportation needs? 

Fortunately, church buses of various sizes and configurations are now available to fill these voids left by old school buses and 15-passenger vans.

For many church leaders, the search for a church bus is a new venture. Likely, for the church's last vehicle, the church leaders traveled to a local car dealership to find a traditional 15-passenger van. 

Now, with the use of the Internet and with new options available, the church bus search has evolved into a process that requires church leaders to learn about different bus manufacturers, configurations offered, and lead time necessary for taking possession of a new church bus. 

Below are some commonly asked questions of church leaders in search of a church bus.

What makes a church bus different from a van?
The primary difference between a van and a church bus is safety. 

Unlike 12-passenger and 15-passenger vans, church buses meet all commercial vehicle safety standards. Most models are constructed using a steel cage that provides rollover and collision protection, whether from side or rear impact. 

Church buses are also engineered to allow for weight to be evenly and safely disbursed between axles, and capacities are regulated to prevent overloading the chassis. Church buses also have dual rear wheels to provide stability in the event of a rear tire losing air pressure. 

While the engineering of a church bus chassis allows for safer transportation than a van, it is important for church leaders to pay close attention to how each bus dealer has equipped its buses to assure safety. 

Look for items such as seat belts, an emergency rear door, a roof escape hatch, and a safety stanchion behind the driver. These are just a few of the important safety items that a church bus should include. 
Vans are small and buses are big, right?
This is a common assumption. As described above, the differences between vans and church buses have more to do with safety and construction than with capacity. 

The most common size for a church bus is actually 14 passengers (+driver). This size is significant because the driver will not be required to have a commercial driver's license (CDL) in most states.  The capacity is actually the same as the traditional vans, although have you ever been able to fit 15 adults in a 15 passenger van? Church buses are available in larger sizes, but generally don't exceed 25 passengers (+driver).    

What makes a church bus different from any other kind of bus?
A church bus has been equipped for church use, whether your need be for youth group trips, senior adult outings, or community pick-ups on Sundays.  It is important for church leaders to select a dealer whose staff demonstrates knowledge of the church market and its unique demands.   

Church buses are all the same, so I should just choose the closest bus dealer, right?
As mentioned above, it is important that church leaders research and select a company whose staff demonstrates knowledge of the church market. The needs in the church market are different from those of other markets. 

Not all buses are equipped the same, and only select bus companies specialize in researching/meeting church needs. There is also a disparity between prices and equipment included in models offered by different bus companies. 

Can one church bus meet every church need?
If equipped properly, one church bus can meet most of your needs, regardless of the group.  They can be equipped to be spacious, comfortable, and presentable for senior adult groups, yet durable, safe, and functional for youth groups. 

Again, it is important to make sure the company chosen has a staff with a strong knowledge of church needs. Be sure to openly discuss your intended uses with the representative from the chosen bus company.  
Are church buses too expensive for my budget?
You'd likely be surprised at the affordability of a church bus. Prices will differ drastically by company (it is important to compare specs and prices), but most church buses start at a price in the mid to upper $40,000 range. Finance and lease programs can make a church bus affordable for nearly any budget. 

Is maintenance/service expensive for a church bus?
A church bus is a piece of machinery that requires maintenance like anything else. Churches typically put just minimal miles on a church bus, so maintenance is minimal. They do require regular oil changes, tire rotation, and brake service, just like any other vehicle. 

Most service can be done locally at a Ford or Chevy dealership, regardless of where the church bus was purchased. Be sure to partner with a bus company that will be your advocate should any service or warranty work be needed. 
Can I save money by choosing a used bus instead?
While used church buses are available, consider a new model first. You will find that you can get more for your money by choosing a new church bus. It is important to select a bus company with access to a large fleet of pre-owned church buses if your budget simply won't allow for a new church bus purchase.

While church bus shopping is likely a new venture to you and your church's leaders, there are models available and knowledgeable representatives eager to assist you. 

The sooner you transition from a van or old school bus to a church bus, the sooner your church members will enjoy safe, reliable, and affordable transportation.    

Jacob McBurnie is sales manager for www.ChurchBus.com.

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