Requirements for Bus Drivers
Looking for work as a bus driver? Like so many other autonomous transportation related positions, there is a continual shortage of bus drivers in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this industry have been heavily expected to grow between the years 2012 and 2022. That will amount to more than 57,000 new positions in total. This industry isn’t terribly difficult to break into either; a GED is required, and a specific kind of commercial driver’s license. The remainder of the training necessary, you’ll receive on the job. And with the average salary at a little over $39,000 a year, it’s certainly not a bad option for a career.
Qualifying as a Driver
Before you move forward with your decision to become a driver and undergo the necessary steps, you must first be aware of the requirements all drivers are required to meet, as well as those that specifically bus drivers must meet. If a driver has any medical condition that would interfere with her or his ability to function on the job, even for a few seconds, that person is ineligible for the job. These include, however are not limited to:
- A respiratory dysfunction that would keep the driver from maintaining safety throughout their commute
- Diabetes that requires insulin control
- Any of the following cardiovascular diseases: myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, coronary insufficiency, thrombosis or any other disease that could be accompanied by a collapse, congestive heart failure, syncope, or dyspnea
Some of the additional requirements you must meet if you want to be a bus driver: you must pass a drug screening, a hearing and a vision test, a background check and you must have a fluency in English.
Obtaining your CDL
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If you’re serious about driving busses for a living, you’ll need to start by checking into the requirements for obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License, or a CDL. A CDL is simply the license you need to drive larger commercial vehicles; you do not forfeit your personal passenger driver’s license in order to obtain it, and it works in place of a typical license. You’ll typically obtain this in your home state.
The CDL does require you to go through a few small hurdles, the first of which is taking a knowledge test regarding information on the kind of vehicle you aim to drive. This is a written test that tries to ensure you are aware of and will be able to comply with the higher driving standards the law expects of all CDL drivers. Once you’ve figured out which class of CDL you’ll need, and whether or not you need endorsements, or the permission to perform specialized skills via your CDL. You’ll want to pick up a CDL manual for that state to help guide you through studying for the exam.
Once you’ve passed this first test, you will be issued a permit, which will allow you to practice driving (with someone who has a CDLs licence only) before you have to take your skills test. The skills test is the actual driving part of the exam, the part where you demonstrate you’re capable of performing at a higher level of driving. If you know what kind of vehicle you want to or will be driving, you must also take the specific endorsement test for that as well. For example, the school bus driver endorsement, which further specifies that you can drive school buses, or the Class C driver’s license with a P endorsement bundle, which simply specifies that you are permitted to drive a large vehicle with 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
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Once you earn your license and begin driving, you must go through the necessary paperwork and registration. Most states will require you to obtain a USDOT number, or a unique identifying number that will carry information about your safety record, your company, and other important information. You will also need to go through safety permit registration.
You may have to register with additional outlets depending on the type of job you will be doing. Motor carriers that travel across state lines will also be required to have an authority to operate MC number.
Resources for Current Drivers
If you are already behind the wheel of a bus, you are probably somewhat aware of all of the things you must stay on top of in order to adequately operate your vehicle. Like regular drug and alcohol tests, current safety standards, and of course random things like the best places to stop on a commute. The list goes on and you may have trouble keeping up with all of it. If you do, there are plenty of great resources, like the FMCSA’s driver’s safety tips, and their page explaining keeping up to date on medical records.
Cell Phone Ban
It is very important for all drivers to note that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration strictly prohibits cellphone usage. About 90% of cell phone activity is entirely banned, and there are severe limits on what you can do while you operate your vehicle. Texting is completely out of the question, as is any holding of the cell phone in your hand. About the only way you could use a cell phone is if you fixed it to be hands free, and could operate it entirely via your voice, or had to press only a single button in the entire time you’re using it (such as answering a phone call, for example). Even using it at this restricted capacity is unacceptable if you have to remove or seriously adjust your safety belts in order to press that one button. Also, it is highly likely that even if you’re complying with the FMCSA, your employer will further restrict you from cell phone usage.
There are a lot of different things to keep tabs on, but thankfully the internet is full of outlets where you can find all the help and information you need to start and then maintain a successful career in bus driving.