|Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|
Busdrivers provide transportation for millions of Americans every day. Intercity busdrivers transport people between regions of a State or of the country; local transit busdrivers, within a metropolitan area or county; and school busdrivers, to and from schools and related events. They follow time schedules and routes over highways and city and suburban streets to provide passengers with an alternative to the automobile and other forms of transportation.
Intercity busdrivers and local transit busdrivers report to their assigned terminal or garage, where they receive tickets and transfers and prepare trip report forms. School busdrivers do not always have to report to an assigned terminal or garage. Instead, school busdrivers often have the choice of taking their bus home, or parking it in another more convenient area. Before beginning their routes, drivers check their vehicle's tires, brakes, windshield wipers, lights, oil, fuel, water, and safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and emergency reflectors.
Drivers pick up and discharge passengers at bus stops or stations, or, in the case of students, at corners or in front of houses. Intercity and local transit busdrivers collect fares; answer questions about schedules, routes, and transfer points; and sometimes announce stops. School busdrivers do not collect fares. Instead, they prepare weekly reports with the number of students, trips or runs, work hours, and miles and the amount of fuel consumption. Time schedules and routes are set by their supervisors.
Busdrivers' days are run by the clock, as they must adhere to schedules. Drivers must operate safely, especially when traffic is heavier than normal. However, they cannot let light traffic put them ahead of schedule so that they miss passengers.
Busdrivers must be alert to prevent accidents, especially in heavy traffic or in bad weather, and to avoid sudden stops or swerves which jar passengers. School busdrivers must exercise particular caution when children are getting on or off the bus. They must know and reinforce the same set of rules used elsewhere in the school system.
Bus routes vary. Local transit busdrivers may make several trips each day over the same city and suburban streets, stopping as frequently as every few blocks. School busdrivers also drive the same routes each day, stopping frequently to pick up pupils in the morning and return them to their homes in the afternoon. School busdrivers may also transport students and teachers on field trips or to sporting events. Intercity busdrivers may make only a single one-way trip to a distant city or a round trip each day, stopping at towns just a few miles apart or only at large cities hundreds of miles apart. Drivers who operate chartered buses pick up groups, take them to their destination, and generally remain with them until they return. Trips frequently last more than 1 day, and if they are assigned to a tour, they may be away for a week or more.
Local transit busdrivers submit daily trip reports with a record of tickets and fares received, trips made, and significant delays in schedule, and report mechanical problems. All busdrivers must be able to fill out accident reports when necessary. Intercity drivers who drive across State or national boundaries must comply with U.S.
Driving a bus through heavy traffic while dealing with passengers is not physically strenuous, but it can be stressful and fatiguing. On the other hand, many drivers enjoy the opportunity to work without direct supervision, with full responsibility for the bus and passengers.
Intercity busdrivers may work nights, weekends, and holidays and often spend nights away from home, where they stay at hotels at company expense. Senior drivers with regular routes have regular weekly work schedules, but others do not have regular schedules and must be prepared to report for work on short notice. They report for work only when called for a charter assignment or to drive extra buses on a regular route. Intercity bus travel and charter work tend to be seasonal. From May through August, drivers may work the maximum number of hours per week that regulations allow. During winter, junior drivers may work infrequently, except for busy holiday travel periods, and may be furloughed for periods of time.
School busdrivers work only when school is in session. Many work 20 hours a week or less, driving one or two routes in the morning and afternoon. Drivers taking field or athletic trips or who also have midday kindergarten routes may work more hours a week.
Regular local transit busdrivers usually have a 5-day workweek; Saturdays and Sundays are considered regular workdays. Some drivers work evenings and 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.
Busdrivers held about 568,000 jobs in 1994. Over 40 percent worked part time. Nearly 3 out of 4 drivers worked for school systems or companies that provide school bus services under contract, as shown in the accompanying chart. Most of the remainder worked for private and local government transit systems; some also worked for intercity and charter buslines.
Busdriver qualifications and standards are established by State and Federal regulations. Federal regulations require drivers who operate vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers to obtain a commercial driver's license from the State in which they live.
In order to be licensed, applicants for a commercial driver's license must take and pass a knowledge test and demonstrate that they have the skills necessary to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely. Applicants are also required to pass a behind-the-wheel road test in the type of vehicle that they will be operating. Trainees must be accompanied by another driver who has a commercial driver's license until they are issued their own commercial license.
Interstate busdrivers must meet additional qualifications. For example, they must be at least 21 years old and pass a physical examination. State agencies and municipalities may also have additional requirements for drivers who operate within their jurisdictions.
Drivers should be in good health and have at least 20/40 vision with or without glasses, good hearing, and normal use of their arms and legs. Many employers prefer high school graduates and require a physical examination and a written test of ability to follow complex bus schedules. Many intercity and public transit bus companies prefer applicants who are at least 24 years of age; some require several years of bus or truck driving experience. Public transit and interstate busdrivers are also required to submit to drug and alcohol screening as a condition of employment. In some States, school busdrivers must pass a background investigation to uncover any criminal record or history of mental problems.
Because busdrivers deal with passengers, they must be courteous. They need an even temperament and emotional stability because driving in heavy, fast-moving, or stop-and-go traffic and dealing with passengers can be stressful.
Most intercity bus companies and local transit systems give driver trainees 2 to 8 weeks of classroom and "behind-the-wheel" instruction. In the classroom, trainees learn U.S. Department of Transportation and company work rules, safety regulations, State and municipal driving regulations, and safe driving practices. They also learn to read schedules, determine fares, keep records, and deal courteously with passengers.
School busdrivers are also required to obtain a commercial driver's license from the State in which they live. Many persons who enter school busdriving have never driven any vehicle larger than an automobile. They receive between 1 and 4 weeks of driving instruction plus classroom training on State and local laws, regulations, and policies of operating school buses; safe driving practices; driver-pupil relations; first aid; disabled student special needs; and emergency evacuation procedures.
During training, busdrivers practice driving on set courses. They practice turns and zigzag maneuvers, back up, and drive in narrow lanes. Then they drive in light traffic and, eventually, on congested highways and city streets. They also make trial runs, without passengers, to improve their driving skills and learn the routes. Local transit trainees memorize and drive each of the runs operating out of their assigned garage. New drivers begin with a "break-in" period. They make regularly scheduled trips with passengers, accompanied by an experienced driver who gives helpful tips, answers questions, and evaluates the new driver's performance.
New intercity and local transit drivers usually are placed on an "extra" list to drive charter runs, extra buses on regular runs, and special runs (for example, during morning and evening rush hours and to sports events). They also substitute for regular drivers who are ill or on vacation. New drivers remain on the extra list, and may work only part time, perhaps for several years, until they have enough seniority to get a regular run.
Senior drivers may bid for runs they prefer, such as those with more work hours, lighter traffic, weekends off, or, in the case of intercity busdrivers, higher earnings or fewer workdays per week.
Opportunities for promotion generally are limited. However, experienced drivers may become supervisors or dispatchers, who assign buses to drivers, check whether drivers are on schedule, reroute buses to avoid blocked streets or other problems, and dispatch extra vehicles and service crews to scenes of accidents and breakdowns. In transit agencies with rail systems, drivers may become train operators or station attendants. A few drivers become managers. Promotion in publicly owned bus systems is often by competitive civil service examination.
Persons seeking jobs as busdrivers over the 1994-2005 period should encounter good opportunities. Opportunities should be best for individuals with good driving records who are willing to start on a part-time or irregular schedule, as well as for those seeking jobs as school busdrivers in metropolitan areas that are growing rapidly. Those seeking higher paying intercity and public transit busdriver positions may encounter competition.
Employment of busdrivers is expected to increase about as fast as average for all occupations through the year 2005, primarily to meet the transportation needs of a growing school-age population. Thousands of additional job openings are expected to occur each year because of the need to replace workers who take jobs in other occupations, retire or leave the occupation for other reasons.
School busdriving jobs should be easiest to get because most of these positions are part time and often have high turnover. The number of school busdrivers is expected to increase as a result of growth in elementary and secondary school enrollments. In addition, as more of the Nation's population is concentrated in suburban areaswhere students generally ride school busesand less in the central citieswhere transportation is not provided for most pupilsmore school busdrivers will be needed.
Employment of local transit and intercity drivers will grow as bus ridership increases. Local and intercity travel is expected to increase as the population and labor force grow and incomes rise, but most growth in intercity drivers will probably be in group charter travel, rather than scheduled intercity bus services, as more individual travelers opt to travel by airplane or automobile rather than by bus. There may continue to be competition for local transit and intercity busdriver jobs in some areas since many of these positions offer relatively high wages and attractive benefits. The most competitive positions will be those that offer regular hours and steady driving routes.
Full-time busdrivers are rarely laid off during recessions. However, hours of part-time local transit and intercity busdrivers may be reduced if bus ridership decreases, because fewer extra buses would be needed. Seasonal layoffs are common. Many intercity busdrivers with little seniority, for example, are furloughed during the winter when regular schedule and charter business falls off; school busdrivers seldom work during the summer or school holidays.
Median weekly earnings of busdrivers who worked full time were $401 in 1994. The middle 50 percent earned between about $291 and $610 a week. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $227 a week, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $758 a week.
In 1994, according to the American Public Transit Association, local transit busdrivers in metropolitan areas with more than 2 million inhabitants were paid a median top hourly wage rate of $16.74 by companies with over 1,000 employees, and $14.39 by those with fewer than 1,000 employees. In smaller metropolitan areas, they had a median top hourly wage rate of $12.65 in areas with between 250,000 and 500,000 residents, and $10.96 in areas with populations below 50,000. Generally, drivers could reach the top rate in 3 or 4 years.
Earnings of intercity busdrivers depend primarily on the number of miles they drive. According to limited information, in 1994 beginning intercity drivers worked about 6 months out of the year and earned about $22,000 while many senior drivers who worked year round earned more than $48,000.
According to a survey by the Educational Research Service, the average rate for school busdrivers employed by public school systems was $10.35 an hour during the 1993-94 school year. Lowest hourly rates averaged $9.04 while highest hourly rate averaged $11.94.
The fringe benefits that busdrivers receive from their employers vary greatly. Most intercity and local transit busdrivers receive paid health and life insurance, sick leave, and free bus rides on any of the regular routes of their line or system. Drivers who work full time also get as much as 4 weeks of vacation annually. Most local transit busdrivers are also covered by dental insurance and pension plans. School busdrivers get sick leave, and many are covered by health and life insurance and pension plans, but because they generally do not work when school is not in session, they do not get vacation leave. In a number of States, local transit and school busdrivers who are employed by local governments are covered by a State-wide public employee pension system.
Most intercity and many local transit busdrivers are members of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Local transit busdrivers in New York and several other large cities belong to the Transport Workers Union of America. Some drivers belong to the United Transportation Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Other workers who drive vehicles on highways and city streets are taxi drivers, truckdrivers, and chauffeurs.
For further information on employment opportunities, contact local transit systems, intercity buslines, school systems, or the local offices of the State employment service.
Information on school busdriving is available from:
National School Transportation Association, P.O. Box 2639, Springfield, VA 22152.
General information on local transit busdriving is available from:
American Public Transit Association, 1201 New York Ave. NW., Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005.
|Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|