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Bus Driver

Bus drivers transport passengers from place to place along prescribed, scheduled routes and on charter services and tours. They may operate transit buses, motor coaches or school buses.

Also Known As:Driver, Light Rail Transit Operator, LRT Operator, Motor Coach Driver, School Bus Driver, Subway Train Operator, Transit Operator
NOC Number(s):7412.1
Minimum Education:Education/training requirements vary
Employment Outlook:Job openings: turnover plus new jobs due to below average growth in occupation in Alberta 2013-2017
Interests:O M S

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Bus Driver


Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

Bus drivers' duties and responsibilities vary depending on the type of vehicle they operate and the type of service. However, in general, bus drivers:

  • operate vehicles in a safe and courteous manner
  • follow established routes and time schedules or drive to charter destinations
  • inspect vehicles before and after trips
  • submit simple reports at the end of each shift
  • submit collision reports when necessary.

Transit bus drivers also issue transfers, check bus passes and monitor fares, and answer questions about bus routes, schedules and specific buildings.

Community service bus drivers operate small sized passenger buses with low ridership (for example, from seniors residents to local shopping malls).

Motor coach drivers also issue transfers, check bus passes and collect fares, and may drive from city to city or operate local tour buses. In addition to driving, tour bus operators may greet sightseers and provide commentary during tours and charter trips.

School bus drivers transport students to and from schools. Their routes may be along busy city streets or over rural roads.


Working Conditions

All drivers must deal with difficult passengers and the hazards associated with driving in bad weather conditions, on poor driving surfaces and in heavy traffic. They often work shifts including evenings, weekends and holidays.

School bus drivers work weekdays before and after school hours but also may drive students on field trips (during or outside of school hours). Drivers who transport special needs students must load and unload mobility aids and lift children into seats.

Transit bus drivers and motor coach drivers often work changing shifts for several years before they get regular routes and regular shifts. Many transit bus drivers work part time or split shifts.

Drivers employed by long distance bus lines and tour companies may be required to load and unload luggage and parcels weighing up to 45 kilograms.


Personal Characteristics

Bus drivers need the following characteristics:

  • good health and vision
  • good communication skills
  • the ability to be diplomatic and courteous in dealing with the public, from the first passenger to the last passenger each day
  • the ability to remain alert and maintain a high level of concentration
  • good judgment and the ability to react quickly in emergency situations.

They should enjoy driving, taking a methodical approach to recording information and inspecting vehicles, and talking to people.


Educational Requirements

There are no standard education requirements for bus drivers. However, individual employers may require applicants to:

  • be able to read maps
  • have knowledge of basic traffic laws and regulations pertaining to local bylaws and the Traffic Safety Act
  • have Grade 11 or an equivalent combination of training and experience
  • be at least 21 years of age and have at least five years of driving experience
  • pass a criminal record check and a vulnerable sector search
  • pass a pre-employment medical or physical demands check (drivers must be physically able to do inspection checks, perform minor maintenance duties and be able to do shoulder checks when driving)
  • be able to enter the United States (for motor coach drivers). 

Employers prefer to hire bus drivers who have:

  • good customer service skills
  • experience dealing with the public
  • experience driving larger vehicles
  • emergency first aid certification
  • a clear driving record.

In Alberta, a system of Classified Driver Licensing sets medical standards (including drug screening) and licensing requirements for handling specific types vehicles. Employers may provide the training required to allow newly hired bus drivers to upgrade their Alberta Class 5 operator's license to the required Class 2 level. Depending on the type of bus, an air brakes endorsement may be required as well. Some bus lines require motor coach drivers to have a Class 1 license.

Many bus line and transit companies provide training programs (three to six weeks long) for new bus drivers. The training covers defensive driving skills and traffic laws, bus schedule information, and customer service training.

In Alberta, Class 2 School Bus driving programs are offered by:

  • some public colleges
  • private vocational schools.

Program length, costs and admission requirements vary. Applicants are generally required to be at least 18 years of age and have a valid Alberta Class 5 driver's licence. A clear driving record or minimum number of demerits and/or a medical examination and drug screening also may be required.

Before enrolling in a program, prospective students should discuss their training and employment options with experienced bus drivers and potential employers.


Employment and Advancement

Bus drivers are employed by:

  • municipal transit systems
  • school bus companies
  • long distance and tour bus lines
  • charter bus services.

Most positions are part time or seasonal. Large transit systems and motor coach companies may use video based selection tools and written tests to screen job applicants.

With experience and initiative, some drivers move into positions in related areas such as dispatching, office management, safety, training or vehicle maintenance.

Bus drivers are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 7412: Bus Drivers and Subway and Other Transit Operators. In Alberta, 81 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the Transportation and Warehousing industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Transportation and Warehousing industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 11,400 Albertans are employed in the Bus Drivers and Subway and Other Transit Operators occupational group which is not expected to grow from 2013 to 2017 in Alberta.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013

Salary

Bus drivers' earnings vary considerably depending on location and employer. Motor coach drivers may earn hourly wages or flat fees on a contract basis for tours and special charters. Long distance drivers may be paid by the mile. School bus drivers work about 180 days a year and are paid on a daily or flat rate basis.

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Bus Drivers and Subway and Other Transit Operators occupational group earned on average from $17.79 to $22.90 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $20.11 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Careers in Transportation website: www.transpocity.ca


Related Occupational Profiles
Chauffeur
Driving Instructor
Taxi Driver
Truck Driver

Related High School Subjects
Trades, Manufacturing and Transportation (Logistics; and Mechanics)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Driver Training

Produced February 2010
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services