How to Become a Passenger Vehicle Driver
All types of bus drivers have to obtain a CDL.
Occupational entry requirements vary for different types of passenger vehicle drivers. In addition to education, training, and licensing requirements, some drivers must meet additional standards.
Drivers usually need to have a clean driving record and may be required to pass a background check; they also might need to meet physical, hearing, and vision requirements.
Bus drivers typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Other types of passenger vehicle drivers typically do not need any formal education; however, many of these drivers have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Bus drivers typically get 1 to 3 months of on-the-job training, but those who already have a commercial driver’s license (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 regularly scheduled trips with passengers while accompanied by an experienced driver who gives tips, answers questions, and evaluates the new driver's performance.
Most taxi and limousine companies provide new drivers with a short period of on-the-job training. This training usually takes from 1 day to 2 weeks, depending on the company and the location. Some cities require the training, which typically covers local traffic laws, driver safety, and street layout. Taxi drivers also get training in operating the taximeter and communications equipment.
Ride-hailing drivers receive little to no training beyond how to work the electronic hailing app so they can pick up customers.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All bus drivers must have a CDL. Some new bus drivers can 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, which is assessed through passing a driving test administered by a certified examiner.
Many states require all bus drivers to be at least 18 years old and those who drive across state lines to be at least 21 years old. Most bus drivers must undergo a background check before they are hired.
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 a suspension.
Other types of passenger vehicle drivers must have a regular automobile driver’s license. States and local municipalities set additional requirements; many require taxi drivers and chauffeurs to get a taxi or limousine license. This normally requires passing a background check, testing free of drugs, and passing a written exam about regulations and local geography.
Regulations for ride-hailing drivers vary by state and city. Check with your local area for more information.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires limousine drivers who transport 16 or more passengers to hold a CDL with a passenger (P) endorsement.
Some taxi drivers start their own cab service by purchasing a taxi rather than leasing one through a dispatch company. Chauffeurs may advance with increased responsibilities or experiences, such as driving high-profile clients or different types of cars.
Customer-service skills. Drivers regularly interact with passengers and must be courteous and helpful.
Dependability. Customers rely on passenger vehicle 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 vehicle. Federal regulations require bus drivers to have normal use of their arms and legs.
Hearing ability. Passenger vehicle drivers need good hearing. Federal regulations require bus drivers to have the ability to hear a forced whisper in one ear at 5 feet, with or without the use of a hearing aid.
Patience. Drivers must remain calm and composed when driving through heavy traffic and congestion or when dealing with rude passengers.
Physical health. Some medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy, may interfere with the safe operation of passenger vehicles.
Visual ability. Passenger vehicle drivers must be able to pass vision tests. Federal regulations require bus drivers to have 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.