Summary

Bus drivers
Most bus drivers are school bus drivers.
Quick Facts: Bus Drivers
2012 Median Pay $29,550 per year
$14.21 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2012 654,300
Job Outlook, 2012-22 9% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 57,900

What Bus Drivers Do

Bus drivers transport people between various places—including work, school, and shopping malls—and across state or national borders. Some drive regular routes, and others transport passengers on chartered trips or sightseeing tours.

Work Environment

Bus drivers, especially transit and intercity bus drivers, had a higher rate of work-related injuries and illnesses in 2012 than the national average. Most injuries to bus drivers were due to highway accidents.

How to Become a Bus Driver

Bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and complete a training program. In addition, they often need a high school diploma.

Pay

The median annual wage for transit and intercity bus drivers, which includes charter bus drivers, was $36,600 in May 2012. The median annual wage of school or special client bus drivers was $28,080 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of bus drivers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities for bus drivers should be favorable, especially for school bus drivers, as many drivers are expected to leave the occupation.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of bus drivers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about bus drivers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Bus Drivers Do About this section

Bus drivers
Intercity buses are growing in popularity.

Bus drivers transport people between various places—including, work, school, shopping malls—and across state and national borders. Some drive regular routes, and others transport passengers on chartered trips or sightseeing tours. They drive a range of vehicles, from 15-passenger buses to 60-foot articulated buses (with two connected sections) that can carry more than 100 passengers.

Duties

Bus drivers typically do the following:

  • Check the bus tires, lights, and oil and do other basic maintenance
  • Keep the bus clean and presentable to the public
  • Pick up and drop off passengers at designated locations
  • Follow a planned route according to a time schedule
  • Help disabled passengers get on and off the bus
  • Obey traffic laws and state and federal transit regulations
  • Follow procedures to make sure they and all passengers are safe
  • Keep passengers informed of possible delays

Local transit bus drivers follow a daily schedule while transporting people on regular routes along city or suburban streets. They usually stop frequently, often every few blocks and when a passenger requests a stop. Some large transit agencies may require bus drivers to submit traffic data for analysis. Local transit drivers typically do the following:

  • Collect bus fares, sometimes making change for passengers
  • Answer questions about schedules, routes, and transfer points
  • Report accidents or other traffic disruptions to a central dispatcher, and follow directions when using an alternate route

Intercity bus drivers transport passengers between cities or towns, sometimes crossing state lines. They may travel between distant cities or between towns only a few miles apart. They usually pick up and drop off passengers at bus stations. Increasingly, intercity buses are using curbside locations in downtown urban areas instead of stations. Intercity drivers typically do the following:

  • Ensure all passengers have a valid ticket to ride the bus
  • May sell tickets to passengers when there are unsold seats available
  • Keep track of when and at what stops passengers get on or off the bus
  • Follow a central dispatcher’s instruction when taking an alternate route
  • Help passengers load or unload baggage

Charter bus drivers, sometimes called motor coach drivers, transport passengers on chartered trips or sightseeing tours. Their schedule and route are generally arranged by a trip planner for the convenience of the passengers, who often are on vacation. Motor coach drivers are occasionally away for long periods of time because they usually stay with vacationers for the length of the trip. Motor coach drivers typically do the following:

  • Listen to and sometimes address passenger complaints
  • Ensure the tour stays on schedule
  • Help passengers load or unload baggage
  • Account for all passengers before leaving a location
  • Sometimes act as tour guides for passengers

School bus drivers transport students to and from school and other activities. On school days, drivers pick up students in the morning and return them home or to the designated bus stop in the afternoon. School bus drivers also drive students on field trips and to sporting events and other activities. Some drivers work at schools in other occupations, such as janitors, cafeteria workers, or mechanics, between morning and afternoon trips. School bus drivers typically do the following:

  • Watch traffic and people carefully to ensure the safety of children getting on and off the bus
  • Take care of the needs of children with disabilities
  • Keep order and safety on the school bus
  • Understand and enforce the school system’s rules regarding student conduct
  • Report disciplinary problems to the school district or parents

Work Environment About this section

bus drivers image
Many school bus drivers work part time.

Bus drivers held about 654,300 jobs in 2012. Of those, about 74 percent were school bus drivers or special-client bus drivers.

Most transit bus drivers worked for local governments or urban transit systems, which are private companies that contract with a city or town to provide bus service. Most charter-bus drivers worked in the charter-bus industry and intercity bus drivers typically work in the interurban and rural bus transportation industry.

The industries that employed the most transit and intercity bus drivers in 2012 were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals46%
Urban transit systems15
Charter bus industry11
Interurban and rural bus transportation6
Other transit and ground passenger transportation6

School bus drivers or special-client bus drivers are usually employed by a school district or private transportation company that contracts with a district to provide bus service. Some school bus service is provided by a local government. 

The industries that employed the most school bus drivers in 2012 were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local43%
School and employee bus transportation30
Local government, excluding education and hospitals11
Other transit and ground passenger transportation6

Driving through heavy traffic or bad weather and dealing with unruly passengers can be stressful for bus drivers.

Injuries and Illnesses

Bus drivers, especially transit and intercity drivers, had a higher rate of work-related injuries and illness in 2012 than the national average. Most injuries to bus drivers were due to highway accidents.

Work Schedules

About half of all bus drivers worked full time in 2012. The rest either worked part time or had variable schedules. School bus drivers work only when school is in session. Some make multiple runs if schools in their district each open and close at different times. Others make only two runs, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so their work hours are limited.

Transit drivers may work weekends, late nights, and early mornings.

Motor coach drivers travel with their vacationing passengers. Driver hours are dictated by a tour schedule, and drivers may work all hours of the day, as well as weekends and holidays. Some intercity bus drivers have long-distance routes, so they spend some nights away. Other intercity bus drivers make a round trip and go home at the end of each shift.

How to Become a Bus Driver About this section

Bus drivers
All types of bus drivers have to obtain a CDL.

Bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and complete a training program. A bus driver must also meet hearing and vision requirements. In addition, bus drivers often need a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Education

Most employers prefer drivers to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Bus drivers typically go through 1 to 3 months of training. Part of the training is spent on a driving course, where drivers practice various maneuvers with a bus. They then begin to drive in light traffic and eventually make practice runs on the type of route that they expect to drive. New drivers make regularly scheduled trips with passengers and are accompanied by an experienced driver who gives helpful tips, answers questions, and evaluates the new driver's performance.

Some drivers’ training is also spent in the classroom. They learn their company’s rules and regulations, state and municipal traffic laws, and safe driving practices. Drivers also learn about schedules and bus routes, fares, and how to interact with passengers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The qualifications for getting one vary by state but generally include passing both knowledge and driving tests. States have the right to not issue a license to someone who has had a CDL suspended by another state.

Drivers can get endorsements to a CDL that reflect their ability to drive a special type of vehicle. All bus drivers must have a passenger (P) endorsement, and school bus drivers must also have a school bus (S) endorsement. Getting the P and S endorsements requires additional knowledge and driving tests administered by a certified examiner.

Many states require all bus drivers to be 18 years of age or older and those who drive across state lines to be at least 21 years old.

Federal regulations require random testing of bus drivers for drug or alcohol abuse while on duty. In addition, bus drivers can have their CDL suspended if they are convicted of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle or of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Other actions also can result in a suspension after multiple violations. A list of violations is available from the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Advancement

Opportunities for promotion are generally limited, but experienced drivers may become supervisors or dispatchers. Some veteran bus drivers become instructors of new bus drivers. Other bus drivers get a job as a light truck or delivery driver or truck driver.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Bus drivers regularly interact with passengers and must be courteous and helpful.

Hand-eye coordination. Driving a bus requires the controlled use of multiple limbs on the basis of what a person observes. Federal regulations require drivers to have normal use of their arms and legs.

Hearing ability. Bus drivers need good hearing. Federal regulations require the ability to hear a forced whisper in one ear at five feet (with or without the use of a hearing aid).

Patience. Because of possible traffic congestion and sometimes unruly passengers, bus drivers are put in stressful situations and must be able to continue to calmly operate their bus.

Physical health. Federal regulations do not allow people to become bus drivers if they have a medical condition that may interfere with their operation of a bus, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy. A full list of medical reasons that keep someone from becoming a licensed bus driver is available from the U.S Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Visual ability. Bus drivers must be able to pass vision tests. Federal regulations require at least 20/40 vision with a 70-degree field of vision in each eye and the ability to distinguish colors on a traffic light.

Pay About this section

Bus Drivers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Bus drivers, transit and intercity

$36,600

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Bus drivers

$29,550

Bus drivers, school or special client

$28,080

 

The median annual wage for transit and intercity bus drivers, which includes charter-bus drivers, was $36,600 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,320, and the top 10 percent earned more than $59,480.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for transit and intercity bus drivers in the top five industries in which these drivers worked were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals $45,390
Interurban and rural bus transportation34,640
Urban transit systems33,370
Other transit and ground passenger transportation27,690
Charter bus industry27,610

The median annual wage of school or special client bus drivers was $28,080 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent of school or special-client bus drivers earned less than $17,610, and the top 10 percent earned more than $43,560.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for school or special client bus drivers in the top four industries in which these drivers worked were as follows:  

Local government, excluding education and hospitals $31,620
School and employee bus transportation30,000
Elementary and secondary schools; local26,860
Other transit and ground passenger transportation26,480

About half of all bus drivers worked full time in 2012. The rest either worked part time or had variable schedules. School bus drivers work only when school is in session. Some make multiple runs if schools in their district each open and close at different times. Others make only two runs, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so their work hours are limited.

Transit drivers may work weekends, late nights, and early mornings.

Motor coach drivers travel with their vacationing passengers. The work hours of motor coach drivers are dictated by a tour schedule, and drivers may work all hours of the day, as well as weekends and holidays. Some intercity bus drivers have long-distance routes, so they spend some nights away. Other intercity bus drivers make a round trip and go home at the end of each shift.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, bus drivers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook About this section

Bus Drivers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Bus drivers, transit and intercity

10%

Bus drivers

9%

Bus drivers, school or special client

9%

 

Employment of bus drivers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment of transit and intercity drivers (including charter busses) is projected to grow 10 percent. Demand for buses is expected to remain relatively flat over the next decade. An increase in gas prices could lead more people to choose the bus; however, trains are often preferred when available. Employment in the charter bus industry is expected to experience little or no change, limiting opportunities for charter bus drivers.

Recently, intercity bus travel that picks up passengers from curbside locations in urban downtowns has grown rapidly. This form of travel is expected to continue to grow, leading to more jobs for intercity bus drivers.

For local transit, a new type of bus service has gotten a lot of attention lately: bus rapid transit (BRT). BRT creates routes in cities where buses can travel quickly with only a few stops. Because it is less expensive than light rail, some cities are considering BRT lines instead of rail lines; this could create more jobs for bus drivers.

Employment of school or special client bus drivers is projected to grow 9 percent, largely due to an increase in the number of school-age children. However, growth will be tempered as budget limitations lead school districts to focus on increasing efficiency. They do this by using computer programs to determine more efficient bus routes, allowing some routes (and drivers) to be cut.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities for bus drivers should be favorable, especially for school bus drivers, as many drivers are expected to leave the occupation. Those willing to work part time or irregular shifts should have the best prospects. Prospects for motor coach drivers will depend on tourism, which fluctuates with the economy.

Employment projections data for bus drivers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Bus drivers

654,300 712,200 9 57,900

Bus drivers, transit and intercity

53-3021 170,600 187,400 10 16,800 [XLS]

Bus drivers, school or special client

53-3022 483,600 524,800 9 41,100 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of bus drivers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers

Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers

Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers pick up, transport, and drop off packages and small shipments within a local region or urban area. They drive trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW)—the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo—of 26,000 pounds or less. Most of the time, delivery truck drivers transport merchandise from a distribution center to businesses and households.

High school diploma or equivalent $27,530
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers

Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another. Most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers and operate trucks whose gross vehicle weight (GVW) capacity—that is, the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo—exceeds 26,000 pounds. These drivers deliver goods over intercity routes, sometimes spanning several states.

Postsecondary non-degree award $38,200
Train engineers and operators

Railroad Occupations

Workers in railroad occupations ensure that passenger and freight trains run on time and travel safely. Some workers drive trains, some coordinate the activities of the trains, while others operate signals and switches in the rail yard.

High school diploma or equivalent $52,400
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs

Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs

Taxi drivers and chauffeurs drive people to and from the places they need to go, such as airports, homes, shopping centers, and workplaces. They must know their way around a city in order to take both residents and visitors to their destinations.

Less than high school $22,820
Water transportation occupations

Water Transportation Occupations

Workers in water transportation occupations operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water. These vessels travel to and from foreign ports across the ocean, to domestic ports along the coasts, across the Great Lakes, and along the country’s many inland waterways.

See How to Become One $48,980

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about school bus drivers, visit

National School Transportation Association

National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services

For more information about transit bus drivers, visit

American Public Transportation Association

For more information about motorcoach drivers, visit

United Motorcoach Association

For more information on federal regulations for commercial vehicle drivers, visit

US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

O*NET

Bus Drivers, Transit and Intercity

Bus Drivers, School or Special Client

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bus Drivers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/bus-drivers.htm (visited August 21, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014