Public Transportation Operators


Exploring this Job

Any job that requires driving can provide you with important experience for a job as a public transportation operator. Possibilities include a part-time or summer job as a delivery driver.

You may also benefit from talking personally with a bus driver or subway operator. Those already employed with bus or rail companies can give you a good, detailed description of the pros and cons of the position.

The Job

The work of an intercity bus driver commonly begins at the terminal, where he or she prepares a trip report form and inspects the bus. Safety equipment, such as a fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit, as well as the vehicle's brakes, lights, steering, oil, gas, water, and tires are checked. The driver then supervises the loading of baggage, picks up the passengers, collects fares or tickets, and answers questions about schedules and routes.

At the final destination, the intercity driver oversees the unloading of passengers and baggage and then prepares a report on the trip's mileage, fares, and time, as required by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Another report must be completed if an accident or unusual delay occurs.

Intercity bus drivers may make only a single one-way trip to a distant city or a round trip each day, stopping at towns and cities along the route. Drivers who operate chartered buses typically pick up groups, drive them to their destination, and remain with them until it is time for the return trip.

Within a town, city, or extended urban area, local commuter bus drivers run routes with scheduled stops every few blocks. As passengers board the bus, the driver notes passes and discount cards; collects payment; and issues transfers. At the end of the day, drivers of local transit buses turn in trip sheets, which might include records of fares received, the trips made, and any delays or accidents during their shift.

To aid the driver and discourage robbery, local bus drivers in most major cities do not give change. Passengers instead deposit their exact fare or token in a tamper-resistant box; electronic equipment in the box then counts the bills and coins and displays the transaction total. Many public transportation systems now use fare card swipe systems in which a customer pays his or her fare by passing a pre-loaded debit card over an electronic scanner.

School bus drivers run a predetermined route in the mornings and in the afternoons, transporting students to and from school. Occasionally, they drive students and faculty to other events, such as sports competitions or field trips. Though they do not have to collect fares from their passengers, school bus drivers are responsible for maintaining order on the bus. They must be aware of school policies and standards and enforce these rules during the ride.

All bus drivers must operate their vehicles carefully during trips. They are required to follow established schedules, but they must do so within the legal speed limits. Bus drivers are also responsible for regulating the interior lights and the heating and air-conditioning systems.

Drivers of subway, streetcar, and other local railway systems have many of the same duties as bus drivers. Subway/elevated train drivers control trains that transport passengers throughout cities and suburbs. They usually sit in special compartments at the front of the first car, from which they start, slow, and stop the train. Drivers obey traffic signals along routes that run underground, at surface levels, or elevated above ground.

Operators announce stops over the loudspeaker, open and close doors, and make sure passengers get on and off safely. In order to remain on schedule, they control the speed and the amount of time spent at each station. When the train malfunctions or emergencies occur, drivers contact dispatchers for help and may have to instruct passengers on how to evacuate the train cars.

In general, all public transportation operators must make announcements and answer questions from passengers concerning schedules, routes, transfer points, and addresses. They are also required to enforce safety regulations established by the transit company or the government.