How to Become a Bus Driver
All types of bus drivers have to obtain a CDL.
Bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which they sometimes earn during on-the-job training. They also need a good driving record and must meet physical, hearing, and vision requirements. In addition, bus drivers typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent and may be required to pass a background check.
Bus drivers typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.
Bus drivers typically get on-the-job training. Those who already have a CDL may have a shorter training period. For part of the training, drivers may practice various maneuvers with a bus on a driving course. 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 trips with passengers while accompanied by an experienced driver who gives advice, 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 interacting with passengers.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All bus drivers must have a CDL. Some new bus drivers earn their CDL during on-the-job training. Qualifications vary by state but generally include passing both knowledge and driving tests. States have the right not to issue a license to someone who has had a CDL suspended in another state.
Drivers can get endorsements for 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. Most bus drivers must pass a background check before they are hired. Check with your state agency for specific licensing requirements.
Federal regulations require interstate bus drivers to pass a physical exam every 2 years and to submit to random drug or alcohol testing. Most states impose similar regulations. Bus drivers may 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 drugs or alcohol. Actions such as excessive speeding or reckless driving also may result in suspension.
Customer-service skills. Bus drivers regularly interact with passengers and must be courteous and helpful.
Dependability. Passengers rely on bus drivers to pick them up on time and safely transport them to their destination.
Hand-eye coordination. Drivers must watch their surroundings and avoid obstacles and other hazards while operating a bus. Federal regulations require bus drivers to have normal use of their arms and legs.
Hearing ability. Bus drivers need good hearing. Federal regulations require them to be able to hear a forced whisper in one ear at 5 feet, with or without the use of a hearing aid.
Patience. Bus drivers must remain calm and composed when driving through heavy traffic and congestion or when dealing with unruly passengers.
Physical health. Bus drivers must be in good physical condition. Federal and state regulations do not allow people to become bus drivers if they have a medical condition, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy, that may interfere with the safe operation of a bus.
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.