How to Get a Bus Driver CDL License?

December 2, 2022

How To Get A Bus Driver CDL License

In the United States and other locations worldwide, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required to drive large, heavy, or hazardous material vehicles for commercial purposes. The CDL is a non-negotiable to operate any vehicle commercially; however, a driver might have to get additional endorsement depending on the type of operation. That said, we examine how to get a bus driver CDL license before operating commercially.

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What Is A Bus Driver License?

A bus driver’s license is a legal permit that allows you to operate a large passenger vehicle commercially. Vehicles consider under a bus driver’s license include school buses, public buses, and tour buses.

As with every other commercial vehicle operation, a commercial driver’s license is the first step to becoming a bus driver. However, additional permits are required for driving large passenger vehicles, including a school bus “S” endorsement and a passenger “P” endorsement.

Across the United States, different states issue CDLs and other additional endorsements. As such, these permits’ requirements may differ slightly from state to state. However, they all feature similar pathways. For instance, a driver needs the “S” endorsement to commercially operate a bus with a seating capacity of 16 or more adults, including the driver. It also applies to a school bus with a gross vehicle weight rating of over 26,000 lbs.

On the other hand, a “P” endorsement is an essential permit for drivers looking to transport passengers for hire or reward. A “P” endorsement is also needed even if you’re not paid for your service. However, this endorsement has some exemptions, such as volunteer drivers.

Smiling school bus driver sitting in bus

What Are The Classes Of CDL

A commercial driver’s license empowers you to legally operate a wide range of large vehicles, such as trucks, cargo trucks, pickup vans, and passenger buses. Therefore, depending on a vehicle’s gross weight, CDLs come in three classes, all of which specify the vehicle you’re permitted to drive.

  • Class A: A Class A commercial driver’s license is required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. With a class A CDL and other appropriate endorsements, a driver can operate a tractor-trailer, a truck and trailer combination, tank vehicles, livestock carriers, and flatbeds.
  • Class B: A Class B commercial driver’s license is needed to drive a single vehicle with a combined weight rating of 26,001 lbs or more. A class B CDL is also required to tow a vehicle with a gross weight under 10,000 lbs. With this permit, you can operate straight trucks, large passenger trucks, box trucks, tractor-trailers, segmented buses, and dump trucks with small trailers.
  • Class C: Drivers must obtain a class C commercial driver’s license if they wish to transport 16 or more occupants or transport materials classified as hazardous under federal law. A class C CDL, along with other endorsements, allows a driver to operate small HazMat vehicles, passenger vans, and other combination vehicles not covered by class A or B.

Evidently, a bus driver CDL is categorized under class B or C. Obtaining this permit demands a significant amount of knowledge and proficiency, as these large vehicles require higher safety measures and riskier navigation than the regular vehicle.

Qualifications And Requirements For A Bus Driver’s CDL

The significant difference between a bus driver’s CDL and other permits is in the qualifications and requirements. For instance, a class A license, usually reserved for truckers, automatically permits drivers to engage in interstate operations. On the other hand, class B CDLs grant drivers the ability to operate vehicles within state lines. Bus drivers, therefore, have to comply with the local rules and regulations.

For a bus driver’s license, a driver must be at least 18 years old to drive within the state and 21 years old for interstate operation. Having reached the age limit, a class B commercial driver’s license is the next step to operating a bus commercially. This requires a written exam, driving test, background test, physical examination, and drug test. 

How To Get A Bus Driver CDL License

As we stated earlier, each state has minor changes and additional requirements as regards a bus driver’s license. However, some general guidelines are peculiar to every state in the US. Hence, here are some necessary steps to take in obtaining a bus driver’s CDL.

Apply For A Commercial License Permit

Before obtaining a bus driver’s CDL, a driver must have a license permit for about two weeks. Applying for a CLP vary based on the state, and a fee may be required. With the CLP, a driver must engage in and master different maneuvers, which would be essential in a skill test.

Aside from the requirements, some states also feature a training course where drivers can practice maneuvers. You should check the local requirements and facilities offered by the state before filing for a commercial license permit. Typically, CLPs have a validity period of about six months, and applicants must take a skill test within this period

Enroll For A General CDL Skill Test

A skill test is a demonstration of behind-the-wheel driving that measures an applicant’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle on the roadways without endangering the public or property. In the United States, an applicant must complete three sections in a CDL skill test – vehicle inspection, essential control, and driving.

The vehicle inspection section evaluates an applicant’s ability to conduct internal and external inspections. This section will test your capacity to recognize and monitor warning signs, assess braking systems, and perform operational checks of all devices. The basic controls section offers the chance to exhibit basic competency in starting, stopping, and moving a car.

The actual driving test evaluates your driving. This involves correctly using turn signals, basic maneuvers, controlling vehicle speed, and making correct decisions on the road. For a bus driver’s license, all tests are carried out on a bus. 

Pass A Knowledge Exam

Before engaging in a skill test, applicants must engage in a general knowledge test. The CDL general knowledge test is a requirement for all individuals who wish to get their CDL. The test also features similar questions regardless of which state you are taking the exam.

Commercially operating a bus also requires additional recommendations such as the “S” and “P” endorsements. All bus driver applicants take a passenger’s transport test. However, other tests, such as the school bus test, can only be taken by applicants that intend to drive a school bus.

Submit Necessary Documentation

Having completed all examinations and skill tests, you may take all necessary documents and endorsements to any driver’s license office present in the state. Some necessary documentations include;

  • Identity and social security number verification
  • Proof of state and US residency
  • Completed medical examination report form and medical examiner’s certificate form
  • Proof of completed knowledge exam
  • If you’ve previously had a driver’s license, you should submit a 10-year record check.

Complete A Background Check

Some states require an extensive background check for a bus driver’s CDL. As such, applicants must undergo a full criminal background check through a federal or state investigative institution. Federal and state laws also mandate a drug and alcohol test before employment.

As a bus driver, a commercial driver’s license is the only way to show how competent you are in operating a bus. And for a critical profession like driving, the best roles and advancement opportunities are reserved for professionals with a CDL. Hence, it would be best if you looked to obtain one as soon as possible. Furthermore, check with your local CDL issuer and ensure you complete all necessary qualifications and requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is On The CDL Test?

The CDL test features several questions incorporating aspects of vehicle inspection, communication with other drivers, road safety, accident procedures, alertness, and driving capabilities.

What Percentage Do You Need To Pass The CDL Test?

To successfully pass a CDL general knowledge test, an applicant must achieve a score of at least 80%

Can You Operate A Bus With A Class A CDL?

No, a driver can only operate a bus commercially with a class B or class C license, a “P” endorsement, and an “S” endorsement if required.

About the author

I’m Luis Uribe, author of this website. I am the owner and head publisher for Trucker Daily and a freight brokerage Total Connection Logistics. I have been in and around the trucking industry for over 15 years. It is my mission with Trucker daily to equip truck drivers, with the latest in industry updates, news, and helpful tips to help further your trucking career and life. Whether you are a truck driving veteran, or beginner, you will find information on this site to save you a lot of time in your driving journey.

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