Transit and intercity bus drivers take passengers around metro areas, across states, or on chartered excursions. School bus drivers take children from home to school and back.
Bus drivers must adhere to strict time schedules while observing safety precautions at all times. Running behind or ahead of schedule may cause them to miss passengers. Bus drivers operate vehicles with fifteen passengers to buses with more than one hundred passengers.
There are three categories of transit and intercity bus drivers: those who work for local transportation companies, those who drive on regularly scheduled intercity routes, and those who operate motor coaches.
Intercity drivers may travel long distances or to stops just a few miles apart. Local bus drivers usually drive the same route every day, stopping at designated stops. Motor coach operators take passengers on sightseeing tours and chartered trips, working at the convenience of the groups they transport. These drivers may spend extended periods away from home. School bus drivers usually drive the same routes every day. Like all bus drivers, they must prepare reports of number of passengers, miles, etc.
All bus drivers need to be alert, especially in inclement weather or heavy traffic, to prevent accidents as well as sudden stops or swerves. School bus drivers must maintain order and enforce school standards of safety and student conduct. Difficult driving while also dealing with passengers can be stressful and fatiguing. Transit and intercity bus drivers are often at high risk, as they work alone and may occasionally encounter dangerous passengers. These drivers have a work-related injury and illness rate above the national average.
About 35 percent of all bus drivers work part-time. Regular local transit and intercity bus drivers usually have a five or six-day workweek, but they may work at all hours of the day and night, weekends and holidays. They may have split shifts to accommodate commuters. Intercity bus drivers may spend nights away from home. The hours of a motor coach driver are determined by the needs of the chartered tours, so these drivers may work any day and all hours of the day. As with all commercial drivers, their weekly hours must be consistent with Department of Transportation regulations concerning hours of service, so they are required to keep a logbook of their time.
TRAINING AND ADVANCEMENT
Some employers prefer high school graduates, but driving ability and a clean license are more important. Most companies give bus driver trainees two to eight weeks of classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction, including practice on set courses. All bus drivers must obtain commercial driver’s licenses with the proper endorsements.
Applicants must pass a knowledge test and a skills test. There is a national database of all driving violations by CDL holders, and drivers may hold only one license at a time. Every bus driver must have a passenger endorsement (P), but school bus drivers must also have a school bus endorsement (S). These endorsements are earned by passing both a written knowledge test and a hands-on skills test. All drivers must be able to read and speak English well.
Bus drivers must also have good hearing, at least 20/40 vision with or without correction, and a seventy-degree field of vision in each eye. Drivers must have normal blood pressure and normal use of their arms and legs. They may not use any controlled substance, unless medically prescribed. People with epilepsy or diabetes dependent on insulin may not be interstate bus drivers. Federal regulations require testing of drivers for alcohol and drug use before employment and randomly after that. A bus driver may not have been convicted of a felony. Bus drivers must be courteous, with an even temperament and emotional stability, and have strong customer service skills.
New drivers may only work part-time until they earn a regular route, but senior drivers may bid for the runs they prefer. However, opportunities for promotion are limited, and few drivers become managers.
JOB OUTLOOK AND EARNINGS
Because of high gas prices and more concern about the environment, more and more people are using public transportation, so there will be higher employment for local transit drivers in the near future. However, competition from cheaper flights and train services will inhibit the growth of intercity bus travel. Although school enrollment will continue to increase, budget cuts have led to service reductions for school bus drivers.
Nevertheless, there will continue to be good opportunities for bus drivers due to the need to replace those who retire or transfer to other jobs. School bus driver jobs should be plentiful because most are part-time with high turnover. There will likely be competition for higher paying public transit positions. Those who have clean driving records and are willing to work part-time will have the best job prospects.
Recently, median wages for transit and intercity bus drivers were $16.32 per hour, with some earning upwards of $20 per hour. School bus drivers averaged about $12.79 per hour. Bus drivers usually receive good benefits from their employers, and approximately 38 percent of them are members of unions.