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Coach drivers, also called motor coach operators, drive privately operated buses for tour companies. Drivers may transport passengers for short- or long-haul trips. Most major tourist destination cities worldwide provide intercity coach tours in which drivers also work as guides. The job requires some training and offers a moderate salary.
Motor coach drivers operate charter buses to transport passengers for trips and tours. Drivers must follow predetermined routes to collect and drop off passengers. They may also make unscheduled stops if requested by tour guides or passengers, since drivers serve at the convenience of the tour group. Drivers are responsible for the safety of the passengers and must observe all traffic laws. As employees of a tour company, drivers also serve as customer service representatives and may act as program directors. The job requires drivers to operate vehicles for one or several days, depending on how long the tour is scheduled. Drivers inspect the coach for safety and ensure that maintenance is performed at scheduled intervals. Coach drivers also maintain records and collect fees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Coach drivers need a high school diploma, but no university or college degree. Training for coach drivers lasts up to eight weeks and is usually provided by the employer through a training school.
Coach drivers must have a clean driving record and a commercial driver’s license with the correct state or federal endorsements for coach driving. Drivers must successfully complete a coach driving course that includes zig-zag driving, how to drive on highways and city streets, and backing up. They must be able to handle a 45-foot bus and lift luggage weighing up to 50 lbs.
Drivers operate large vehicles on congested city streets or over long stretches of highway. The job requires physical strength. Fatigue is a major safety factor among all drivers, who must stay alert and aware of their limits. Operators drive in different types of weather, including rain and snow. Drivers may face unruly or intoxicated passengers. Dealing with passenger complaints is common. The job often takes operators away from home for long hours or for days.
The annual starting salary for motor coach operators is about $21,500 as of 2010, according to JobMonkey.com. Experienced drivers can earn as much as $52,300 annually. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, charter bus drivers earned an average salary of $28,310 as of May 2009.
Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.