Bus Drivers: Obtaining Commercial License

What are the usual processes by which regional transit bus drivers obtain their commercial license? I’ve read the information at the California DMV; that’s not what I’m asking. I want to know if a Regional Transit is likely to provide training to get someone a commercial license. If not, is there some other organization that usually does this (commercial driving school, public school system, shuttle company, Greyhound)?

On the California DMV site they explain that there are two ways of obtaining the class B license: 1. get tested by DMV and bring your own vehicle of the type you will be driving, or 2. get tested by a certified organization and bring in the paperwork. I’m guessing that 2. is more common. Which organizations are certified?

They also say that while you have your Class B permit, when driving you must be accompanied at all times by a driver with a Class B license. I’m thinking it would be impractical for a bus driver to learn on the job then. Am I correct?

Bonus points for:

  1. Details pertaining to the state of California
  2. Details pertaining to a regional transit serving a metro with 100,000 or less.
  3. Information pertaining to Santa Cruz, CA


Well, it’s been almost an hour since your post, so I’ll take a crack at it. I am a school teacher in Texas who also happens to drive a school bus on occassion. I have a Texas Class B CDL with passenger endorsement and school bus endorsement. To drive a school bus in Texas, one must also obtain a permit from the Texas Education Agency.

Some of my experience may apply to you because CDL’s, while issued by the several states, are regulated by the US Dept. of Transportation. The Class B allows me to drive single-unit vehicles in excess of 26000 pounds. A Class C (regular operator’s) license restricts drivers to under 26K. I cannot, however, drive articulated vehicles like 18-wheelers. The passenger endorsement allows me to have in excess of fifteen passengers (incl. driver) and the school bus endorsement is specific to school buses. The TEA card is a state thing, so it doesn’t apply to you.

To get the license, I took a class offered by my school district. The class was open to anyone who wanted to take it. Employees of neighboring districts also took the class. I don’t know how much the class is because my district paid for it (and paid me to take it). The class was twenty hours long and including tooling around the parking lot in a bus. After the class, I took the licensing tests at the local Department of Public Safety (DPS) office. The written tests took several hours and included things that had nothing to do with buses (including stuff like how to attach a semi-trailer, even though that had no application to my license). After the written test, I took a driving test around town in a school bus with a civilian DPS employee. This summer, I had to take another written test to get the school bus endorsement (this is a new federal law, so I didn’t take that test during the initial battery of tests).

With all of this, I could go into any metro transit authority in Texas and legally drive their equipment. However, each agency probably has training specific to its own equipment. Therefore, I would suggest that you call the transit company you want to drive for and ask how to make it happen. You could also call your local school, since they are probably always looking for drivers. That’s probably the cheapest and quickest way to get a license. Just remember that school bus drivers are driving the most precious and most dangerous cargo on the highway. Don’t drive a school bus just because you feel like it. Drive because you intend to offer safe transportation. I have friends who drive all sort of hazardous materials (yet another permit), but won’t touch what I drive. They’re not that brave. :cool:

Thanks for the info Drum God! That’s the sort of info I’m looking for. I will take your suggestion and talk to some regional transit people. I wanted to see if I could get anywhere while I’m twiddling my thumbs here at work. I’m planning a novel about a bus driver in Santa Cruz, and although I will eventually go down there and hang out, I wanted to see if the Straight Dope could deliver! Not too bad!

I was a school bus driver for a few years and had to get a class B CDL for the job. Before starting the training at one of the bus compounds I took a two evenings a week for a month or so CDL prep class offered by our community college. It was very inexpensive but informative.
When the school training started I already knew most of the material except for things specific to school busses. Thru the school training I got the learner’s permit that let me drive busses on the road during training. After successful completion of training I got my six-year CDL.
Some of the students that took the prep class were in the school class but quit as soon as they got their CDLs; they weren’t there to become school bus drivers but to get the B CDL.
It was a good job except for the kids. They won and I no longer have to put up with them.

Hello Jawdirk,
I was a BTW Driver-Trainer for a major company and this is how they work:
A newly hired person gets a “training wage” while reading the manual for the company, learning Ca laws to pass the written test, and behind the wheel training (BTW) learning how to drive the vehicle. When the trainer is confident the person can pass the driving test, an appointment is made for DMV and the trainer goes with them to take their driving test. Assuming they pass they are now legally able to drive passengers.
A pay raise happens as soon as the trainee can drive alone and then again in one year increments.
Hope this helps.

I’ve worked for a couple of cities as a bus driver. Initially, for several years while I was in college in WI, and then for a small CA city for almost a year when I was between jobs.

Usually, the agency prefers to train its drivers according to its own standards, and one or more of its supervisors and/or managers will be state certified CDL testers.

So an experienced over the road trucker with a Class A CDL will still have to go through the same city bus training that an off the street rookie would. The trainers will tell them, “Sure you drove truck, you drove bus in another city, you drove tanks in the Army, but now you’re going to learn things our way.”

You can get your learners permit just by passing the written exam. I was able to do that in WI and CA just by reading the books, but there are also places that offer courses. Then, when you get hired by the city bus company, they will train you and test you themselves.

Sometimes smaller agencies prefer to take experienced drivers who have already been trained by larger agencies. If that’s the case, then you will have to apply to places where they do their training in house as most agencies do.