How To Become A Bus Driver

bus driver
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Driving a bus is one profession that gives you a lot of freedom. As a bus driver, you won’t need to worry about a supervisor constantly breathing down your neck, asking for this report or that spreadsheet.

However, this calls for a greater sense of responsibility because it will be your duty to ensure that the bus is in good, operating condition and that the passengers are safe at all times during the trip.

It may not be the most lucrative of careers out there, but if you are looking for a job that pays a decent salary while allowing you to work without direct supervision, this is a great choice. It, however, means that you will be accepting the extra responsibility because you will be answerable for the decisions that you make on the go.

Job Opportunities For Bus Drivers

Bus drivers have different opportunities where they can put their skills to a profitable use. Let’s discuss each of them and what it means for someone seeking entry in each category.

  • School bus drivers – Bus drivers move school children from their homes to their schools in school buses. Each driver serves a specific route every day and may take extra duties in the school when they are off duty.
  • Tour bus drivers – These drivers will be in charge of moving tourists on a predetermined route as they explore specific attractions along the route. The driver works hand in hand with the tour guide who escorts the tourists and tells them more about different attractions. Usually, trips are short and slow so that the passengers can have time to explore.
  • Commercial and charter bus drivers – These drivers transport passengers on longer journeys. It could be interstate trips, chartered tours or specific routes within a community. Owing to the nature of their job, these drivers normally spend long and unusual hours behind the wheel. Since charter buses operate on a strict schedule, it will be your duty as the driver to adjust your driving to ensure that these timelines are observed.

Requirements For Becoming a Bus Driver

A bus driver job does not have high-formal education requirements. You don’t even need to have a college degree. All you need is a high school diploma or an equivalent and you are good to go.

However, you will need to have good-people skills because the job will have you deal with all sorts of people. Here are the main requirements to become a bus driver:

In addition to the above requirements, some employees will have some extra requirements before you are hired as a bus driver. These may include:

  • Experience in driving, typically 1 or 2 years
  • 1 to 3 months of supplemental driving training
  • Clean driving records
  • Most school districts require criminal background checks and medical examinations on school bus drivers

CDL Endorsement Requirements for Bus Drivers

Drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles with passengers need to have proper endorsements in line with regulations set out in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Since buses fall in this category, bus drivers will also need these endorsements.

Passenger Endorsement

Passenger endorsements (also known as P endorsements) are required for driving vehicles with a capacity of at least 16 passengers (including the driver). To get this endorsement, you need to demonstrate that you know how to respond to emergencies, load and offload passengers and handle troublesome passengers.

School Bus Endorsement

School bus endorsements (also known as S endorsements) are required for driving school buses. However, before you can apply for an S endorsement, you will first need to have a P endorsement, hence you will first have to meet the P endorsement requirements.

On top of meeting the requirements for a P endorsement, you should also be able to safely load and offload children, operate lights, stop signs and other warning devices on the school bus.

Application Process For P And S Endorsements

The application process for these endorsements will vary from state to state, but generally, the process involves the following:

  • Sitting for a written examination
  • Applying for a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) with the endorsements that you seek
    • A check of your driving records for the past 10 years is usually a part of this application
    • Some states will need you to hold this permit for a specific period before you are allowed to test for the CDL endorsement
    • With a CLP, you can only drive a commercial passenger vehicle without passengers and in the presence of a supervising driver
  • Complete a medical examination to check that you are physically fit to operate a vehicle with passengers
  • Passing a practical road skills test. This test will be done in the vehicle that you intend to operate
  • Applying for a new CDL with the new endorsements and pay the associated fees

Benefits of a Job as a Bus Driver

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that you will enjoy when you decide to take this career path.

  1. Minimal Training – The most important credential in this career path is your CDL. Although there are some requirements that you will have to meet before you get it, it will not take you years to obtain, unlike in most other industries.
  2. Time Off – Most bus drivers have variable schedules. This means that, although sometimes there will be a need for working odd hours, if you are a charter bus driver, you will have plenty of time off between trips.
  3. Sightseeing Opportunities – If you are a tour bus driver, you will be required to take your passengers to different attractions scheduled in their tour. In the process, you will get to enjoy a free tour of the attractions that your passengers visit.
  4. No supervision – Like we mentioned earlier, you will also get to work with no direct supervision, hence you will generally be able to enjoy a more peaceful work environment.

Bus Driver Salary

Most bus drivers earn a decent salary for their efforts. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in May 2017, the median annual wage for school bus and special client drivers was $31,060 while their transit and intercity counterparts received $40,780.