May 09th 2008
I have decided that a sleeper bus is the only way we can do this tour, having looked at the distances and travel times between the cities involved. The quotes for sleeper buses I have received are all from UK based companies and, what with the new driving regulations and increasing cost of fuel, are pretty expensive. Including ferries, double drivers and trailer costs the quotes are averaging GBP 23,000 for this tour. However given the logistical challenges of getting the backline from London and the advanced mileage between some of the show dates we will have to go with a sleeper bus and I will try my hardest to save money elsewhere.
Then I receive a quote from a German based company who quote to supply a bus for almost GBP 8,000 less!
Now this may be good news to the bottom line (in fact, if the bus is suitable it will be fantastic news for the bottom line!) but now makes my previously sharp picture go all fuzzy again.
The bus company is based in Köln but the backline gear is at Music Bank in London. It will not be cost effective to send a bus from Deutschland over the channel to the UK and back just to pick up this equipment. (I would also have to get the bus to take it back to the UK after the tour ends).
The location of the bus company also alters my plans to fly the band in and out of Amsterdam – I may be able to fly them into Köln, Düsseldorf or Frankfurt. Despite the added logistical complexity, my first thoughts are that I am going to have to make this work – there is too much of a cost saving at stake.
I need to establish a cost to get the backline from London to Köln. It would not be cost effective to have the bus drive over and get it. This would add 1.5 days bus hire to each end of the tour and also cost us 700 GBP in extra ferries. The cheapest option is to hire a van and drive the gear over. I will also need a second person to drive the van back or else I will have a rental van sitting in Europe for 27 days. Adding up the cost of a van, ferries, fuel and wages for a second driver is reducing the cost saving of the original German quote.
Looking at the quote again I also notice the price offered does not include a trailer. A sleeper bus may have enough space in the luggage bays (usually underneath the bus) to accommodate all the backline but this space is totally dependent on the make of the bus and how much extra a/c and a/v kit has been installed previously. If there is not enough space for your backline then your only option is to pull a trailer. You can then carry all your backline and have extra space for tour merchandise (T-shirts etc) as well as any other sound or lighting equipment you may want to take. In recent years bus companies have started to charge extra to pull a trailer. You now have to pay a set rate per day for the trailer itself and also pay extra to the driver for dealing with the trailer. Pulling a trailer also affects the speed and handling of a sleeper bus and will attract extra tolls and restrictions in some mainland European countries.
The German bus company is offering a 12-berth single deck sleeper bus made by Bova. I know from experience these buses do not have a huge amount of space in the bus bays, a fact confirmed when I receive the dimensions of the proposed bus. I am certain now that the backline is not going to fit in the bays – I am going to need a trailer.
I ask the German company for a quote for a trailer, which they duly supply. Suddenly their quote is no longer as competitive. The added cost of the trailer and extra driver wages couple with the associated costs and ball ache of getting the backline into Germany means there is no advantage to using this company. In fact, because I am not familiar with the company, I would be inclined not use them and to go with one of my regular suppliers instead.