Become a Charter Bus Driver: Career Guide

Find out how to become a charter bus driver. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in the transportation industry.

Do I Want to Be a Charter Bus Driver?

Charter bus drivers, also known as motor coach drivers, transport people on chartered tours or trips. Common duties of charter bus drivers include addressing passenger complaints, keeping the tour on schedule and accounting for all passengers. In some cases, they may also play the role of tour guide. A certain amount of stress may be involved with driving in difficult road conditions or dealing with demanding or unruly passengers.

Job Requirements

A career as a charter bus driver generally begins with at least 1-3 months of training. Most states require a bus driver to be at least 18 years of age; however, drivers who cross state lines must be 21 years of age or older.

Employers typically prefer to hire candidates with a high school diploma or the equivalent, and a commercial driver's license (CDL) is required by law for this position. The following table covers the requirements for becoming a charter bus driver.

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent is generally required*
Licensure and Certification A commercial driver's license (CDL) with the necessary endorsements is required***
Experience Employers typically prefer applicants with 2-5 years of experience**
Key Skills Excellent customer service skills, physical health, patience, good hearing and vision*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job Postings from various employers (August 2012), ***Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association.

Step 1: Meet Minimum Requirements

Prospective charter bus drivers will need to be between 18-21 years of age, which will depend on the requirements of their position. They will also need a 70-degree field of vision in each eye, good hearing and 20/40 corrected or uncorrected vision.

Most states check the driving records of prospective charter bus drivers before considering them for CDLs. Those who have suspended licenses or a history of serious traffic violations may not be eligible for a CDL.

Applicants who can demonstrate a 2-year history of safe driving may be exempt from some of the CDL driving skills testing. Those interested in earning a CDL should check the licensing requirements for the state or states in which she or he will work as a driver.

Step 2: Complete a Training Course for a Charter Bus Driver

The majority of charter bus companies provide driver training that lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Often the new bus driver works with an experienced driver who evaluates their performance, answers questions and provides guidance.

The training may be a combination of classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel practice. Classroom instruction consists of schedule reading, record keeping, passenger courtesy and safety regulations. The U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, safe driving practices and state and federal driving laws are also common topics. Behind-the-wheel instruction will help new drivers learn how to maneuver a bus.

Step 3: Complete Charter Bus Driver Licensure

A charter bus driver must have a CDL issued from the state in which the driver resides. Most employers want charter bus drivers to hold a Class B license, along with the proper endorsements, such as the Passenger endorsement.

Charter bus drivers must pass knowledge and skills tests to receive their CDL. The knowledge test focuses on the rules and regulations learned during the training period, while the skills test is for bus drivers to demonstrate their ability to safely operate a large, passenger vehicle. The skills test must be taken in a bus equivalent to the model a charter bus driver will be driving in their occupation.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare for the knowledge test. Each state develops its own exam for issuing the CDL. The basic knowledge exams must have at least 30 questions in addition to air brake testing. Applicants will need to receive a score of 80% or above to pass. Individuals seeking endorsements will need to spend additional time preparing for these exams.

Step 4: Gain Work Experience

Most companies seek charter bus drivers who have some amount of experience driving a bus. Charter bus drivers may gain experience by completing training and working as a school bus or commercial driver. Additional work experience may be gained through similar occupations such as couriers or recreation guides.

Success Tip:

  • Consider advancement. Advancement opportunities for charter bus drivers are generally limited. Bus drivers with extensive experience may be promoted to dispatchers or supervisors. Experienced charter bus drivers may take on the responsibility of instructing new charter bus drivers.

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