Do you need a CDL to drive a school bus?

by | Oct 18, 2021 | News, Truck Driving School

Every day, millions of children across the country board a bus to go to school. School bus drivers are important in ensuring that children arrive at school and back home safely. 

While the demand for school bus drivers has steadily increased across the country, especially in suburban areas, the current nationwide shortage makes qualified school bus drivers even more in demand. 

School Bus Driver Qualifications: Do you need a CDL? Yes.

In Alabama, to qualify as a school bus driver, you’ll need to be at least 21 and you must obtain a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) issued by the Alabama Department of Public Safety. Additionally, a certification is needed through the Alabama Department of Education. 

3 Steps: How to Obtain Your CDL and Become a School Bus Driver in

Step 1: Obtain Your Commercial Driver’s License

The first step in becoming a school bus driver is obtaining a CDL. Getting this license from a reputable school will set you up for a successful career. The course generally includes a four-week in-person training where you’ll learn theory, vehicle inspection, braking and safe road training. Most reputable schools will train students on manual transmissions so students are not limited to one specific type of vehicle after graduation. 

Following the four-week instruction, you’ll put what you learn to the test with skills tests. The Federal Government also requires all license holders to undergo a DOT physical, a pre-employment drug screen and Medical Certificate. A reputable school will be able to conduct these tests and refer you to a proper physician. 

Step 2: Complete Training with Local School System

After receiving your CDL, you’ll need to complete a minimum of four hours of training from local school system transportation officials. This step is completed after obtaining your license, but before you enroll in the State Department of Education School Bus Driver Certification Course. You’ll need to produce a signed certificate from completing this training before you are scheduled for a performance test. 

Step 3: Attend the State Department of Education Bus Driver Certification class

Next, you’ll need to attend a 12-hour new State Department of Education Bus Driver Certification class. This class is taught over the course of three days with a portion of the fourth day dedicated to performance testing. At the end of the three-day course, a written exam is given. A score of at least 80% is needed to pass. 

The school bus driver performance test covers three areas:

#1 Pre-trip inspection of bus

#2 Basic skills control test. This covers straight-backing, off-set backing and alley docking

#3 Road test with at least 80% mastery

All bus driver certificates expire annually on December 31. 

In order to keep your license, and be recertified for the next year, you’ll need to attend a four-hour recertification class. All school systems schedule these courses, and they take place between January 1 and November 15. It’s a good idea to ensure you complete this course, because if not, you’ll have to repeat the new driver training. 

Ready to Take the First Step to Become a School Bus Driver?

If you are interested in starting the process of becoming a school bus driver, attending a reputable truck driving school is the first step. CDL of Alabama has years of experience and qualified instructors ready to help you succeed. If cost is a concern, many of our students pay nothing out of pocket. One popular option for our students is the Income Share Agreement, where students agree to pay small portions based on their income. If you’re ready to advance your career, fill out our form online or call us at 251-989-0740.