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Becoming a Bus Driver: From the Initial Testing to Continuing Education

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Boy waving to mother from schoolbus, smiling
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Becoming a Bus Driver: From the Initial Testing to Continuing Education

In order to be a commercial bus driver, you have to be eighteen years old, pass a written test, a road test, a skills test, and have a valid medical certificate (which must be renewed every two years) stating that you are fit to drive. Note that individual transit agencies usually have stricter application requirements than they need to have, which is one reason why many agencies are short of bus drivers .

Initially Becoming a Bus Driver

The first step in any journey to become a bus driver is to proceed to the nearest DMV, submit your application, and take a written test. Assuming you pass the written test, you will receive a temporary instruction permit (TIP) which will allow you to practice driving with a current commercial bus driver. After logging a certain number of hours behind the wheel, which can vary by state, you will return to the DMV or other licensed road tester to take a road test. This road test consists of three parts: an exhaustive pre-trip inspection, at which you will have to point to various parts of the vehicle and identify them; a skills test, which will test your ability to back in a straight line, make an alley dock, and other maneuvers; and an actual over-the-road test over a course designed to give you exposure to a wide variety of road experiences. You must pass each one before you can continue to the next one, and pass all of them in order to receive your commercial driver license (CDL). If you get hired by a transit agency the agency will coordinate all aspects of your training, including any required testing.

Continuing Education of Bus Drivers

Coach operators who avoid accidents and infractions, stay healthy enough to have their medical certificates renewed, and can pass driver license renewal tests every four years could remain employed until retirement. However, this does not mean that they are good drivers. Although many school and transit buses are outfitted with cameras - a trend that is likely to continue in the future - allowing supervisory staff to view driver behavior if an incident arises, the fact remains that the vast majority of the time that bus drivers spend working is not supervised. Because of this limitation, several states require bus drivers to attend continuing education classes on an annual or bi-annual basis.

For example, in California , in addition to the other documents operators who work for local transit agencies must annually complete additional training and submit a Verification of Transit Training (VTT) document to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. This additional training, which must total eight hours, consists of learning about such things as safe driving habits, good customer service, how to deal with passengers in wheelchairs, and other similar topics.

In Michigan, school bus drivers must spend six hours every other year on continuing education. This continuing education takes the form of dealing with different situations on the bus in addition to safe driving practices; the curriculum is in fact put together by the state Department of Education and not the Secretary of State, which normally deals with driver license requirements. In Ohio, school bus drivers must have four hours of annual in service training; in Iowa, school bus drivers must have three hours of such training.

Many states require that professional bus driving educators undergo continuing education courses. For example, in Texas, all driving education professionals and assistants must take six hours of additional classes per year. These "classes" can include attendance at conferences.

Overall

School and transit buses are the safest vehicles you can be in if a crash happens. In fact, school and city buses do not require seat belts because seat belts would add nothing to the safety of the occupants. Continuing education, though repetitive (there have not been any significant changes to how to drive a bus safely in the past few years), is a way to drive the point home that transit agencies and school districts need their operators to drive safely and professionally at all times. Because of the advantages of such education, transit agencies and school districts should consider requiring continuing education for their employees even if not required by state law.

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