Public Transportation Operators


Education and Training Requirements

High School

While still in high school, take English and speech classes to improve your communication skills. Math skills may also be needed to calculate fares and make change. Finally, sign up for a driver's education class to learn the rules of the road.

Postsecondary Training

Qualifications and standards for bus drivers 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 license (CDL). In order to receive a CDL, applicants must pass a written exam and a driving test in the type of vehicle they will be operating.

While many states' minimum age requirement for drivers is 18, federal regulations require that interstate bus drivers be at least 21 years old and in good general health. They must pass a physical exam every two years, checking for good hearing, vision, and reflexes. They must also be able to speak, read, and write English well enough to fill out reports, read signs, and talk to passengers. In addition to these minimum requirements, many employers prefer drivers over 24 years old with at least a high school diploma and previous truck or bus driving experience.

Bus companies and local transit systems train their drivers with two to eight weeks of classroom and on-the-road instruction. In the classroom, trainees learn federal and company work policies, state and local driving regulations, and other general safe driving practices. They also learn how to handle the public, read schedules, determine fares, and keep records.

For subway operator jobs, local transit companies prefer applicants 21 years of age or older with at least a high school diploma. As with bus drivers, good vision, hearing, and reflexes are necessary, as well as a clean driving record.

New operators are generally trained both in the classroom and on the job in programs that range from one to six months. Operators must then pass qualifying exams covering operations, troubleshooting, and emergency procedures.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification requirements for public transportation operators. A commercial driver's license is required to work as a bus driver.

Other Requirements

Candidates must meet age, license, and physical requirements for each job. For instance, interstate bus drivers must be at least 21 years old and local transit companies prefer applicants 21 years of age or older. Drivers who operate vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers must have a commercial driver's license and must also meet hearing and vision requirements.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

You will not be able to obtain hands-on experience as a public transportation driver until you receive on-the-job training, but you can hone your driving skills by getting your driver's license and learning the rules of the road.

Bus and rail car drivers must have good reflexes and quick reaction time, and must drive safely under all circumstances. Because operators are required to deal regularly with passengers, it is also important that they be courteous and levelheaded. An even temperament comes in handy when driving in heavy or fast-moving traffic or during bad weather conditions. Drivers should be able to stay alert and attentive to the task at hand. They must be dependable and responsible, because the lives of their passengers are in their hands.