The transport industry in the US is huge, to say the least. From commercial truck drivers to couriers and delivery drivers, the country is reliant on the people who are tasked with getting things from A to B. As such, employment opportunities are far-reaching and wages are generally ample, making a career in driving a very lucrative choice indeed.
One such career path that is becoming ever more popular is that of the humble school bus driver. Unlike many driving jobs, school bus driving comes with sociable and predictable hours, while still paying quite well. As of 2016, 687,200 were employed to drive school buses and this is predicted to rise by 6% over the next 7 years.
So, how do you make the leap into this much sought-after line of work? Here, we break down the five steps you need to take in order to become a school bus driver.
Step One: Understand the Licensing Laws in Your State
Before you can start applying for positions with schools, you first need to obtain proper certification. This certification will most likely come in the form of a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). But, when it comes to obtaining your CDL, different states have different regulations and expectations, so it’s vital you do some research into what that means for you.
For instance, to obtain your CDL in Alaska you have to be at least 21 years old, while in Georgia you can apply for your CDL at 18. Alternatively, states such as Colorado, Louisiana and Minnesota require you to pass a physical examination. Other than this, it’s also important to note that almost every state has its own CDL handbook, containing state-specific information for drivers operating commercial vehicles.
Step Two: CDL Training
The road to obtaining your CDL is not exactly as straightforward as just ‘driving’ a vehicle. The skills required when operating a commercial vehicle exceed those needed when you’re driving a car. Since the path to earning your CDL is more extensive, so too is the workload.
Depending on where you live, the expected training requirements vary, with some states such
as Ohio requiring that drivers complete 160 hours of training both in the classroom and on the road. To complete your education requirements, you might want to consider completing a qualified CDL training program through a community college, private driving school or school run by a trucking company.
But, not every training program is the same, each containing different characteristics. It is probably a good idea to evaluate the pros and cons of each program before committing.
Perhaps weigh up the length of each program, as some courses can take few weeks to complete while others can take months.
Also, depending on the school you attend, the cost will vary. A program conducted through a community college is a more cost-effective option, but a program with a private school offers a quicker completion time.
Step Three: Passing Your CDL Test
Passing the test is not necessarily a walk in the park. Even with the best training program under your belt, the final CDL exam can still feel overwhelming. There is a certain combination of both determination and courage needed to successfully pass the exam. So, if you’re feeling stressed, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
The CDL test is split into two parts: a written knowledge and practical skills. Your knowledge test will take place at your local DMV office. From there, you will have 60 minutes to complete 50 multiple-choice questions. To pass this section of the test, you will need a score of 80%, so there is some room for error.
Now, the practical skills test is in a league of its own. The purpose of this test is to evaluate your execution of procedures and determine whether you can safely operate the vehicle. Expect to perform many different maneuvers throughout this exam. Some of these driving procedures could include safety checks, sharp turns, checking mirrors correctly and navigating through traffic.
Step Four: Adding Endorsements to your CDL
Once you’ve earned your CDL, you’re not home free just yet. Following federal regulations, any driver transporting 16 or more passengers, is required to earn additional endorsements to their CDL. In order to transport students from A to B, school bus drivers are required to earn a School Bus Endorsement as well as a (P) passenger endorsement and air brake endorsement, if required in your state.
While it might be easy to assume that a practical exam is all that’s needed to obtain your endorsements, this is not the case. Similar to your CDL test, an endorsement exam is separated into two parts: a written knowledge test and practical skills exam. These tests cover a range of topics, such as student management, loading and unloading procedures, approaching bus stops, post-trip and pre-trip inspection, proper use of safety devices, emergency exit and evacuation, railroad crossings; backing. Now, if you feel overwhelmed by the range of topics covered here, not to worry!
There are a number of resources available online to get you up to speed. Particularly, there’s an extensive range of practice tests you can take to give you a taste of the real deal.
Step Five: Making It Official
Once you’ve earned both your CDL and appropriate endorsements, you can start applying for work. A great place to find positions is to either search through bus driving companies or follow school district job listings
Many school districts will require you to undergo further training covering subjects like emergencies, district policies, driver and student relations, as well as first aid. This additional training is essential to ensure the school district (your employer) that you are both trustworthy and safety conscious.
As a new school bus driver, you can expect to receive a rate of between $11.00 and $16.00. That said, the more experience you gain, the more your prospective employers are willing to pay. So, if you are willing to put in the time and the work you will reap what you sow.
To read more on topics like this, check out the education category.