School bus drivers have an integral role in the success of many school districts. While many people are familiar with the role, perhaps from their own days in school, there are plenty of duties school bus drivers complete daily. Understanding what school bus drivers do can help you decide if this is the right job for you.
In this article, we answer the question “What does a school bus driver do?” and share their duties, the requirements to become one and an example job description for this role.
What does a school bus driver do?
A school bus driver transports students from home to school and school to home safely. They might also transport students to field trips, sporting events and off-campus activities. Other school bus driver responsibilities might include:
Obtaining and maintaining a commercial driving license
Learning bus routes and when to arrive at each bus stop
Helping students, particularly those with disabilities, on and off the bus
Following traffic laws
Making sure students are acting safely
Maintaining order on the bus
Reporting issues to school supervisors
Making sure the bus is in good condition by checking important indicators like tire pressure, lights and gas levels
Performing regular vehicle inspections and alerting the school district of any repair needs or mechanical issues
Cleaning the bus interior and making sure it’s presentable
School bus drivers typically get paid by the hour. That rate can vary depending on the school, geographic location and the driver’s experience and safety record. Experienced drivers may be able to negotiate for higher pay. According to Indeed Salaries, school bus drivers earn a national annual salary of $43,973 per year.
For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.
School bus driver requirements
Safety is one of the most important qualifications of a school bus driver. Many employers place driving record, license and background over education level. Most states require school bus drivers to be over the age of 18, but, if their route requires driving over state lines, most states require them to be at least 21. You also have a requirement to complete a training program and obtain a commercial driver’s license.
Below are other requirements to become a bus driver:
Most schools require their bus drivers to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some well-qualified drivers may earn employment even if they did not complete high school. Even so, much of the learning for school bus drivers occurs on the job.
School bus drivers typically complete several months of training. They might spend some of this training in the classroom learning rules, routes and safe practices. They spend the other part of their training showing their ability to drive the bus and follow traffic laws. New drivers might also spend time alongside experienced drivers until they can drive on their own.
Many school districts provide the training school bus drivers need or cover the costs of the training program to ensure they have well-trained drivers. This includes ensuring the drivers understand general driving practices, safety protocols, maintenance and emergency response procedures.
School bus drivers have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). There are different types of CDLs, but school bus drivers need one with an (S) endorsement, which is specific to driving school buses. Every two years, drivers also pass a physical exam to make sure they meet the health, hearing and vision requirements to transport children. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides a list of medical conditions, such as epilepsy, that might prevent someone from becoming a school bus driver.
They might also pass random drvg and alcohol tests. Schools also check bus drivers’ records and run a background check before hiring them.
School bus drivers have the skills to maneuver a 40-foot school bus through a variety of road situations. They also have good people skills and the physical capacity to help passengers on and off the bus. Other important school bus driver skills include:
Communication. When greeting and interacting with children and parents, a bus driver is helpful and polite. They also communicate well with children and be able to calm any of their concerns.
Good hand-eye coordination. Bus drivers need this skill to operate a bus safely using their arms, legs and vision simultaneously.
Decision-making skills. Quick decision-making abilities are essential in challenging driving situations. When dealing with severe weather or traffic, school bus drivers make quick and smart decisions under pressure.
Good hearing and vision. Federal law requires bus drivers to hear a whisper from within 5 feet, with or without a hearing aid. They also have at least 20/40 vision, be able to tell the difference between traffic light colors and have a 70-degree field of vision in both eyes.
Patience. A successful bus driver has the patience to handle loud and rowdy students and congested traffic. They remain calm in stressful situations.
School bus driver work environment
School bus drivers drive safely through all kinds of weather, traffic and student behavior. They can also maintain their composure under pressure.
School bus drivers typically only work when school is in session, which includes weekdays during the regular school year, but they may also transport students during summer school and on weekends for competitions, games and field trips. Their days start early with a daily safety check of the bus. Most have a morning route and an afternoon route, and, in between, some school bus drivers might work other jobs at a school. School bus routes may be delayed or postponed because of severe weather such as snow, ice or flooding.
Steps to become a school bus driver
School bus drivers follow several mandatory steps to get licensed. These include:
Completing high school: Most school bus drivers have at least a high school diploma and all are over the age of 18.
Getting a commercial driver’s license: All school bus drivers have a CDL with an (S) endorsement. Once you pay the fee and apply for a CDL through your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, you can complete and attempt to pass health, vision, knowledge and driving exams and a background check.
Completing training: You might go through school bus driver training before getting your CDL, right after being hired or both. Training can last up to three months and might include reviewing traffic laws and safe practices, practicing bus driving maneuvers, learning and driving your designated route, taking supervised drives and learning the school’s rules and regulations.
Getting hired: Once you have completed training and obtained your CDL with an (S) endorsement, you can apply for school bus driver jobs. Drivers with excellent records and years of experience might get promoted to a supervisor or dispatcher position or help train new drivers.
Maintain your license: Drivers have a requirement to pass physical exams every two years to maintain a license to drive a school bus.