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How Much Do Charter Bus Drivers Make?

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Some charter bus drivers have the advantage of traveling to many interesting places as they take passengers on sightseeing tours or drive them to special events. However, charter bus drivers' salaries generally are significantly lower than the wages that city transit drivers receive. Furthermore, driving violations can keep charter bus drivers from working in other states.

Bus Driver Salaries

The transportation industry refers to charter bus drivers as motor coach operators. They drive buses that are used exclusively by companies or groups for trips to special events, sightseeing tours and other activities. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that charter bus drivers earned mean annual salaries of $28,310 in 2009. School bus drivers earned slightly less that year with mean annual wages of $27,370. Bus drivers who work for city transit systems earn significantly more than charter and school bus drivers do. The BLS data show transit system drivers earned about $32,140 in 2009.

Hourly Wages

Charter bus drivers must ensure that tours and bus trips stay on schedule. The trips they handle may take several days to complete, so drivers spend a significant amount of time away from home. Still, BLS data show that the average hourly wage that charter bus drivers receive is only slightly more than what school bus drivers are paid. Charter bus drivers earned a mean hourly wage of $13.61 in 2009, and school bus drivers earned about $13.16 per hour that year. City transit drivers earned a mean hourly wage of $15.45 in 2009.

Top Paying States

Charter bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license. Federal and state regulations outline driver qualifications and standards, and charter bus drivers must comply with regulations in their home state and in other states where they work. New York charter bus drivers and other drivers are among the top earners in the industry. According to the BLS, bus drivers in New York earned a mean annual salary of $47,350 in 2009. Bus drivers in Washington state also earned above average salaries that year, with a mean annual wage of $44,190.

Employment by State

California and New York are among states that have the largest numbers of charter bus drivers and other drivers in related professions. The BLS data show that Calif. had more than 29,500 bus drivers in 2009, and N.Y. had more than 19,500. Drivers also earn above average hourly wages in both states. N.Y. drivers earned a mean hourly wage of $22.77 in 2009, and Calif. drivers earned about $18.99 per hour that year. In any state, charter drivers should avoid driving violations. The U.S. Department of Transportation maintains a national database of violations committed by drivers with commercial licenses. States won’t issue licenses to drivers who have had their licenses suspended or revoked by another state.


Frances Burks has more than 15 years experience in writing positions, including work as a news analyst for executive briefings and as an Associated Press journalist. Burks has banking and business development experience, and she has written numerous articles on consumer issues and home improvement. Burks holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan.

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