Bus Driver Requirements

Did you know that your school bus drivers are family, friends or neighbors in your community? They are not strangers driving children, but people that live right next to you. Once students get on the bus; the bus driver is responsible for their safety—to and from school.

Do you know the requirements to become a school bus driver in New York state? There is a lot more to it than just applying for the job. Drivers must have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), class B, with a passenger (PS) endorsement. How does a driver get this special job and license? It just might surprise you. A potential school bus driver:

1)  Must be 21 years of age and already have a valid driver’s license for three or more years.

2) Study all the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) rules and regulations.

3) Pass a written exam to acquire a permit. (Fee involved)

4) Take lessons from a 19A* certified instructor behind the wheel for as long as it takes to operate and maneuver the bus safely.

5) Make an appointment and pass a road test with DMV. The driver pays for the license, which costs more than a normal license.

6) Pass a physical examination with a form stating they are fit from their doctor. A potential driver has to report any medications they are taking, even over-the-counter medication.

7) Pass a drug, alcohol and controlled substance test.

8) Provide three personal references. (The district will call and check references)

9) Have the DMV conduct a search of the driver’s past driving record.

10) Provide fingerprints for background checks conducted by the New York State Police Department. Prints are also sent to the FBI and Department of Criminal Justice where they are kept on file.

11) Take and pass a 30-hour safety course to get a certificate within the first year.

After reading these steps you might be thinking this sounds about right. School bus drivers are responsible for very special cargo – our children. But, wait, there’s more… Once a bus driver has their license there’s a never-ending process the driver must go through to keep it, including:

1) A bus driver’s license is checked every year with DMV. All accidents or tickets must be reported to their employer. Yes, what drivers do in their private vehicle counts too.

2) A driver has to pass a physical examination every year with a form stating they are fit from their doctor. A driver has to report any medications they are taking, even over the counter medication.

3) A driver has to go to a minimum of four hours of safety classes every year. This is to keep up with all the new rules and regulation that change all the time. In the past few years there has been a mainstreaming of children with special needs. All drivers need to know how to balance this successfully.

4) A driver is required to submit to unannounced drug, alcohol and controlled substance testing whenever asked. Right there on the spot. The tests are done randomly several times a year. If they already had something else planned or an appointment already made, it doesn’t matter.

5) A driver is taken out in a school bus to have defensive driving and performance checked by a 19A instructor. This is done at least once a year and must be passed in order to drive a school bus.

6) A driver must pass a written test bi-annually in order to drive a school bus.

7) A driver must pass a physical performance test bi-annually in order to drive a school bus.

8) A driver has to perform emergency evacuation drills three times a year with all their students.

9) A driver has to pre-trip and post-trip the school bus every time they drive. They have to report to a mechanic if they find anything wrong and make sure it is corrected. There is a work sheet called a DVIR they use to keep an accurate account of this information.

10) A driver has create and maintain a current list of their student passengers and directions for each of their routes every year.

11) Now, think about this… A big bus driver can have kindergarten through twelfth-grade students on their bus. Some drivers have more than an A.M. & P.M. run. On average there could be as many as 50 students on one school bus. Bus drivers learn all of their children’s names. A driver pays attention and learns to recognize family and caregivers. When they drop off the little ones they know someone is there. If no one is home the bus driver will bring the child back to the bus garage and stay with them until a parent or guardian picks them up. This is just one more aspect of a driver’s job.

*19A Certified Instructor: Most schools have a 19A instructor. They have additional training and testing to become 19A certified. They have to continually update every year to maintain this qualification. They are there to instruct, retest, and stay up-to-date on the current bus drivers every year