Bus Operator

Bus Driver, Charter Bus Driver, Motor Coach Operator, Transit Bus Driver, Transit Driver  

Bus operators safely navigate large to mid-size buses and motor coaches in urban, suburban, and rural traffic conditions, while following all applicable traffic and safety regulations.

These workers arrive early for their shifts and maintain route schedules. They interact with members of their community and assist all types of passengers, including those who may have special needs. They also answer passenger questions, maintain trip logs, ensure passenger safety, collect fares, and operate lifts. They communicate frequently with dispatchers and bus traffic controllers, and, while they report to a supervisor, may need to act independently to troubleshoot any emergency situations, traffic accidents, or weather-related challenges faced in the course of their shift.

Driving a bus through heavy traffic while dealing with passengers is both physically and mentally stressful. However, many operators enjoy the opportunity to work without direct supervision, with full responsibility for their bus and passengers. Public transportation and inter-city bus operators are sometimes at risk because they work alone and some passengers may be dangerous. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that public transportation and inter-city bus operators experience a work-related injury and illness rate that is higher than the national average for operators. School bus operators, in contrast, have an average rate of non-fatal occupational injuries comparable to all other occupations. To improve working conditions and retain operators, many bus lines provide ergonomically designed seats and controls for operators, scheduled breaks, and on-board communications and security equipment.

Local public transportation and inter-city bus operators usually have a five or six day workweek. Time off is highly structured in advance and assignments usually last three to four months. Operators may have to work one or both weekend days on a regular basis, especially as new employees. Some operators work in the early morning, in the evening, or after midnight. To accommodate commuters, many work "split shifts" (for example 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., with time off in between). Depending on the length of their routes, inter-city bus operators may spend one or more nights away from home at a time. Others may make a round-trip (or several round-trips) during a single day and come home at the end of each shift.

Most bus operators must have a high school diploma or pass the general educational development (GED) exam, and must pass the tests required to obtain the type of commercial driver's license (CDL) required for the job. Qualifications and standards for bus operators are established by state and federal regulations, but public transportation, inter-city, and other motor coach operators must have a passenger vehicle (P) endorsement. Bus operators are responsible for complying with regulations within their own states, as well as those of other states (or countries) where they operate.

To qualify for a CDL, applicants must pass a knowledge test on rules and regulations and then demonstrate in a skills test that they can operate a bus safely. The Department of Transportation keeps a national database of all driving violations incurred by CDL holders, and a state may not issue a license to a person who has already had a license suspended or revoked in another state. Operators may hold only one license at a time, and must surrender all other driver's licenses upon receiving their new CDLs. Information on how to apply for a CDL and each type of endorsement can be obtained from state motor vehicle administrations and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Many industry employers provide on-the-job training, but click on the "get qualified" tab above to see additional resources for job preparation and training.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
6% - Slower than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $29,890 - $51,720    Hourly: $14 - $25

Note:  There may be opportunities for overtime work and overtime pay in this occupation.

Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

- Ability to sit for an extended period of time operating the vehicle with limited breaks

- Physical requirements established by a state's Department of Transportation

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Legal Requirements
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

High School or GED (HS)
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Percent Job Growth:

6% - Slower than average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $29,890 - $51,720

Hourly: $14 - $25