Prior to obtaining a position driving a school bus, federal and state laws require that the driver obtain a specific type driver’s license that requires specialized training and knowledge. Since the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act was passed in 1986, the performance and training of commercial drivers like bus drivers has been under greater scrutiny. In 1992, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued new licensing and testing standards for commercial drivers, including those who drive school buses.
School Bus Driver Requirements
Anyone driving a school bus is now required to possess a CDL with a school bus endorsement, which obligates bus drivers to receive training and have knowledge beyond what is needed to drive a non-commercial vehicle. Minimally, you must be 21 years or older to drive a school bus interstate; however, you can be as young as 18 to drive a school bus intrastate. Age requirements are usually issued by the state in which your license is issued. To obtain a Class C CDL to drive a school bus, you must pass a written exam, driving test and supplemental testing that enables you to be issued an “endorsement” for driving a school bus.
You will also have to pass a drug test and physical exam administered by a state-approved facility, along with a background check. A “clean” driving record is mandatory to drive a school bus. Some requirements include that you have never had your license suspended, never had more than one license at a time and not had any major disqualifying offenses. Many who aspire to obtain a Class C school bus CDL often attend a driving school that is certified by the state to perform school bus driving tests.
Each state administers its own CDL testing at designated state or state-approved locations. First, you must pass the general knowledge exam and driver’s test using the vehicle type you will be driving. You also have to pass the written and road test for the school bus endorsement to drive a school bus. There are three sections to the CDL road testing, to include the pre-trip inspection, a basic motor vehicle control test and performance driving on the road.
Classes and Endorsements
Three classes apply to a CDL. Class A and B are for driving a vehicle that weighs over 26,000 pounds loaded while towing either in excess or under 10,000 pounds, respectively. Class C is designated for school buses. It is distinct from Classes A and B as it involves transporting in excess of 15 passengers, including the driver. Six endorsements are available for a CDL including “H” for hazardous materials, “T” for double and triple semi-trailers, “N” for tank trucks, “X” for tank trucks that haul hazardous materials, “P” for passenger vehicles and "S" for school buses.
If you want to be fully prepared to meet all Class C school bus endorsement requirements, you may want to enroll in a school bus driver’s training school. Many are certified by the state to provide not only training, but testing, too. Find out if the school has a high percentage of graduates who passed the CDL and school bus endorsement testing. Ask if the bus driving school trainers have any industry-respected certifications.
Obtaining and maintaining a Class C CDL school bus endorsement may sound much easier than it is. There are definite behaviors you must avoid and guidelines you must follow, or you could be disqualified or even suspended from driving a school bus. Some reasons for disciplinary action are driving under the influence (DUI) convictions, offenses for illicit behavior, using bodily force or convictions displaying bad moral judgment. You could also be disqualified based on medical findings like a heart condition, diabetes, inability to meet vision requirements or any condition that can cause you to lose consciousness.