5 Tips for Getting a Permit to Drive a School Bus?

Since a state can have stricter guidelines than the federal guidelines required by all states when obtaining a CDL license, you must check the requirements for your specific state.  The process of obtaining a license to drive a school bus is more involved than simply taking a class to learn how to drive a bus because there are written exams, a road skills tests, medical requirements, and depending on your state, there could be other requirements. The CDL manual in your state will have this information in one of the chapters.

1. Talk to the School District

Some school districts offer a training class to study to become a school bus driver.  You may even be able to get paid for this training while getting hands-on learning and information straight from qualified instructors.  You'll still need to go to the DMV for your tests, and to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for a physical exam.

Ask Questions:

  • If you offer a training class is it paid?
  • Will I be given study materials such as a manual with the class?
  • Should I go get a physical exam before, during, or after the training class?
  • Which additional endorsements do I need to add to my CDL license to drive the school bus?
  • What dates/times is the class offered, and how many times per year?

2. Know the License Type

If you're working towards a permit to drive a school bus, you are working towards a class B license. It's important to know what license type and endorsements you need so that you do not spend unnecessary time or money studying for or taking the wrong tests.

  • Class B CDL License: The class B license is the type of license that a school bus falls under.  Before you can add any endorsements, you need to work towards the CDL license itself.  Once that is obtained, you can add specific endorsements for that class of vehicle.

3. Understand License Endorsements

  • Class S: The school bus is a class S endorsement that requires a specific skills test (on the road) in addition to the written test for the general license. 
  • Class P:  The class P endorsement is driving any vehicle with 16 or more passengers.  You will need to check with your specific state and also with the school district to confirm which endorsements you will need to add to your class B license.

4. Study a CDL Manual

You will need to obtain a CDL manual from your DMV.  Check the DMV website to download a copy, pick up a paper copy or obtain one from a CDL training class.  Follow the steps and take the "General Knowledge" test first.  Do not simply skim through the manual; read all of the necessary chapters.  Use a pen or pencil to jot down notes on the side of the pages as you read. The CDL manual will have chapters about written tests that you must take, but it will also be of assistance to you before you take the required road skills test.

5. Take a Free Practice Test

Instead of showing up at the DMV and giving it a go, take a practice test: search for your state here.  The DMV also offers a free practice test online to prepare for the school bus endorsement test. For assistance, talk to a professional like Center For Transportation Safety.