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What is a Bus Driver?

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

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What does a Bus Driver do?

The following are some of the things bus drivers do:

  • Check the bus tires, lights, and oil and do other basic maintenance
  • Pick up and drop off passengers at designated locations
  • Follow a planned route on a time schedule
  • Help disabled passengers get on and off the bus
  • Follow traffic laws and state and federal transit regulations
  • Follow safety 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 the same city or suburban streets. They usually stop frequently, often only a few blocks apart and when a passenger requests a stop. Local transit drivers typically collect bus fares, sometimes making change for passengers, answer questions about schedules, routes, and transfer points, and 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. 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, where passengers buy tickets. Increasingly, intercity buses are using curbside locations in downtown urban areas instead of stations. Intercity drivers ensure all passengers have a valid ticket to ride the bus, may sell tickets to passengers when there are unsold seats available, follow a central dispatcher’s instruction when taking an alternate route, and help passengers load or unload baggage.

Motor coach drivers transport passengers on charted 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. They are usually away for long periods of time because they usually stay with vacationers for the length of the trip. They typically listen to and sometimes address passenger complaints, ensure the tour stays on schedule, sometimes act as tour guides for passengers, help passengers load or unload baggage, and account for all passengers before leaving a location.

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. They also drive students to field trips, sporting events, and other activities. Some drivers work at school in other occupations, such as janitors, cafeteria workers, or mechanics, between morning and afternoon trips. They generally must 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, and report disciplinary problems to the school district or parents.

How to become a Bus Driver

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

Bus drivers typically go through 1-to-3 months of training. Part of the training is spent on a driving course, where they 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, 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.

Some employers prefer drivers to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Opportunities for promotion are generally limited, but experienced drivers may become supervisors or dispatchers. Some veteran bus drivers become instructors of new bus drivers. Bus drivers regularly interact with passengers and must be courteous and helpful.

Federal regulations require drivers to have normal use of their arms and legs. They also need good hearing. Some regulations require the ability to hear a forced whisper in one ear at five feet (with or without the use of a hearing aid). Due to 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. 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.

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.

What is the workplace of a Bus Driver like?

Bus drivers held 647,200 jobs in 2010, and of those, about 70 percent were school or special client bus drivers.