Occupational entry requirements vary for different types of passenger vehicle drivers. In addition to education, training, and licensing requirements, some drivers must meet additional standards.
Drivers usually need to have a clean driving record and may be required to pass a background check; they also might need to meet physical, hearing, and vision requirements.
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Bus drivers typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Other types of passenger vehicle drivers typically do not need any formal education; however, many of these drivers have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Bus drivers typically get 1 to 3 months of on-the-job training, but those who already have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) may have a shorter training period. For part of the training, drivers may practice various maneuvers with a bus on a driving course. They then begin to drive in light traffic and eventually make practice runs on the type of route that they expect to drive. New drivers make regularly scheduled trips with passengers while accompanied by an experienced driver who gives tips, answers questions, and evaluates the new driver’s performance.
Most taxi and limousine companies provide new drivers with a short period of on-the-job training. This training usually takes from 1 day to 2 weeks, depending on the company and the location. Some cities require the training, which typically covers local traffic laws, driver safety, and street layout. Taxi drivers also get training in operating the taximeter and communications equipment.
Ride-hailing drivers receive little to no training beyond how to work the electronic hailing app so they can pick up customers.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All bus drivers must have a CDL. Some new bus drivers can earn their CDL during on-the-job training. Qualifications vary by state but generally include passing both knowledge and driving tests. States have the right not to issue a license to someone who has had a CDL suspended in another state.
Drivers can get endorsements for a CDL that reflect their ability to drive a special type of vehicle. All bus drivers must have a passenger (P) endorsement, and school bus drivers must also have a school bus (S) endorsement. Getting the P and S endorsements requires additional knowledge, which is assessed through passing a driving test administered by a certified examiner.
Many states require all bus drivers to be at least 18 years old and those who drive across state lines to be at least 21 years old. Most bus drivers must undergo a background check before they are hired.
Federal regulations require interstate bus drivers to pass a physical exam every 2 years and to submit to random drug or alcohol testing. Most states impose similar regulations. Bus drivers may have their CDL suspended if they are convicted of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle or of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Actions such as excessive speeding or reckless driving also may result in a suspension.
Other types of passenger vehicle drivers must have a regular automobile driver’s license. States and local municipalities set additional requirements; many require taxi drivers and chauffeurs to get a taxi or limousine license. This normally requires passing a background check, testing free of drugs, and passing a written exam about regulations and local geography.
Regulations for ride-hailing drivers vary by state and city. Check with your local area for more information.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires limousine drivers who transport 16 or more passengers to hold a CDL with a passenger (P) endorsement.
Some taxi drivers start their own cab service by purchasing a taxi rather than leasing one through a dispatch company. Chauffeurs may advance with increased responsibilities or experiences, such as driving high-profile clients or different types of cars.
Customer-service skills. Drivers regularly interact with passengers and must be courteous and helpful.
Dependability. Customers rely on passenger vehicle drivers to pick them up on time and safely transport them to their destination.
Hand-eye coordination. Drivers must watch their surroundings and avoid obstacles and other hazards while operating a vehicle. Federal regulations require bus drivers to have normal use of their arms and legs.
Hearing ability. Passenger vehicle drivers need good hearing. Federal regulations require bus drivers to have the ability to hear a forced whisper in one ear at 5 feet, with or without the use of a hearing aid.
Patience. Drivers must remain calm and composed when driving through heavy traffic and congestion or when dealing with rude passengers.
Physical health. Some medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy, may interfere with the safe operation of passenger vehicles.
Visual ability. Passenger vehicle drivers must be able to pass vision tests. Federal regulations require bus drivers to have at least 20/40 vision with a 70-degree field of vision in each eye and the ability to distinguish colors on a traffic light.
The median annual wage for bus drivers, transit and intercity was $43,030 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,810.
The median annual wage for passenger vehicle drivers, except bus drivers, transit and intercity was $31,340 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,320, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $49,500.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for bus drivers, transit and intercity in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||$53,370|
|Interurban and rural bus transportation||39,900|
|Urban transit systems||39,860|
|Charter bus industry||33,340|
In May 2019, the median annual wages for passenger vehicle drivers, except bus drivers, transit and intercity in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|School and employee bus transportation||$36,530|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||34,520|
|Elementary and secondary schools; local||32,420|
|Other transit and ground passenger transportation||29,340|
Most passenger vehicle drivers work full time, but part-time work is common. Drivers’ schedules may vary, and some work weekends, evenings, or early mornings.
School bus drivers work only when school is in session, so their work hours are often limited. Some make multiple runs if schools in their district open and close at different times or if students need transportation to other activities.
Chauffeurs’ work hours are based on client needs. Some chauffeurs must be ready to drive their clients at a moment’s notice, so they remain on call throughout the day.
Taxi drivers’ and ride-hailing drivers’ work schedules are often flexible. They can take breaks for a meal or rest whenever they do not have a passenger.
Intercity bus drivers may work all hours of the day, including weekends and holidays. Some spend nights away from home because of long-distance routes. Others make a round trip and go home at the end of each shift.
Some passenger vehicle drivers receive tips. Those who provide good customer service are more likely to receive good tips than those whose customer-service skills are poor.
What Bus and Passenger Vehicle Drivers Do
Passenger vehicle drivers transport people, sometimes across state and national borders. Some drive regular routes, while others’ destinations vary daily. They operate a range of vehicles, from small cars with limited seating to 60-foot articulated buses (with two connected sections) that can carry more than 100 passengers.
Passenger vehicle drivers typically do the following:
- Pick up and drop off passengers at designated locations
- Follow a planned route or drive to a requested destination
- Help passengers, including those with disabilities, get into and out of the vehicle
- Obey traffic laws and state and federal transit regulations
- Follow procedures to ensure passenger safety
- Keep passengers informed of possible delays
- Maintain vehicle by checking tires, lights, and oil
- Keep the vehicle clean and presentable
- Help passengers load and unload belongings
Passenger vehicle drivers must stay alert to ensure their passengers’ safety, especially in heavy traffic or bad weather.
The following are examples of types of passenger vehicle drivers:
School bus drivers transport students to and from school and other activities, such as field trips and sporting events, when the academic term is in session. School bus drivers also maintain order on the school bus and report disciplinary problems to the school district or parents.
Shuttle drivers and chauffeurs take passengers on planned trips. Shuttle drivers often drive large vans between airports or train stations and hotels or other destinations. Chauffeurs drive limousines, vans, or private cars and are hired to transport clients either for single trips or on a regular basis. Some chauffeurs do the duties of executive assistants, acting as driver, secretary, and itinerary planner.
Taxi and ride-hailing drivers pick up and drop off passengers, for a fare, on an unplanned basis. Both are summoned, taxi drivers—also called cabdrivers or cabbies—via a central dispatcher or at a designated pickup location and ride-hailing drivers through a smartphone app. Taxi drivers use a meter to calculate the fare; ride-hailing drivers are paid by a credit card that is linked to the app that passengers use.
Transit and intercity bus drivers usually follow a daily schedule to transport people on regular routes. They ensure that passengers pay the required fare, either by managing the fare box or collecting tickets, and answer questions about schedules and routes. Drivers of local transit buses travel city or suburban streets and may stop frequently. Drivers of intercity buses travel between cities or towns, sometimes crossing state lines. Motor coachdrivers transport passengers on chartered trips or sightseeing tours and sometimes act as tour guides.