WHAT DOES IT TAKE ?
WHAT DOES IT TAKE
Many of you may have read my ramblings on being a Rookie School Bus Driver but now time to stand
back and review all the qualifications that go with it. So what is required ? First up the CDL with
airbrake and passenger endorsements and then the S endorsement for the school bus along with the
DOT medical. So far so good, but now in order to get to drive one you have to find an opening.
You would have thought that as nearly all the school bus drivers you see are seniors that these
positions would come open on a fairly regular basis. Not so my friends, these covetted positions
have enormous longevity with people driving 20 tons of Bluebird way into their 70’s.
Should you be lucky enough to find an opening it will doubtless be for a Sub position as generally
speaking these posts are very much dead men’s or women’s shoes and the current sub has moved
up to take a regular route.
Once the application is in progress then with credentials on the table the next round of drug testing, fingerprints, and CBI background checks all come into play as we don’t want any freaky weirdo child molesters loose with a bus load of young children. When all that is completed, along with referees endorsement, it all goes before the school board for a final yea or ney.
So now if you are lucky you will be offered a Sub position and further training and testing begins. For Colorado we need a few more written tests on Winter driving and adverse weather driving in the
mountains and also take a first aid knowledge exam with a 100% pass mark. Now the route learning
begins and perhaps the morning runs are somewhat easier as passengers and parents are standing
by their stops or waiting in cars beside the road. The afternoon run is a bit more problematic as many children don’t ride the bus in the afternoon as they may be on other activities, sport, or have been
picked up by their parents at the school. Then there are the others who have multiple destinations of
either Dad’s, Mum’s, the shop, or Granny’s ! On top of that some of the afternoon runs go in a different direction so very easy to miss a stop especially when you don’t know all the “riders” on your Sub route.
Now we come to the passengers and how to handle them ? They come in a variety of sizes from
diddly squat 4 year olds up to full size running backs and wanna be Miss Americas!, all with their own problems, agendas and needs. Some are sullen, some button pushing aggresive, others noisey and
wound up on a sugar or fun day high, and others are of course normal happy go lucky children. All
need different treatment and all respond in different ways. How do you deal with all this mayhem and confusion while trying to keep 20 tons of machinery and 60+ passengers on the road and out of the
They tell us there are many ways to retain control, and to date I have seen several including some
that would have frightened me! IMOHO, genuine friendly persuasion will achieve much more than
shouting and threats. It does seem to me, with near on 40 years of instructional experience in a wide
variety of tasks, there are different techniques that can be applied to get the required results. Perhaps
getting into the child’s mind is the key as all children are naturally curious and are constantly begging
the question WHY ? Give them the right answer, usually safety, and you will get compliance. Not really
a lot different to running a trials school when you find someone struggling with the very basics……. and
of course a ton of encouragement when they do it right.
Boys becoming young men, horseplay, fighting No…… a simple firm word
should stop this while they are still smiling
Today there will be a little reading of the riot act as it seems some of the Rat Bus occupants have
been misbehaving over the last week and whatever they have been up to needs to be nipped in the
bud. All safety issues as I understand it, running round while the bus is moving, standing up, a little horseplay, and moving forward while the bus is slowing for a stop. On top of that some tend to forget
some safety basics when the bus stops or arrives, including running across the road in front of the
bus without checking for the driver’s signal…… now that one really scares me!!
This one has clearly gone too far.
In summary it is perhaps not a job for everyone but it is very rewarding nonetheless and you are
molding the nations future one way or another, whether they know it or not, as you impart a level of
discipline essential for all civilised society. If nothing else, punctuality, politeness, rules, and an
acceptance of social standards are all keys in growing up. From a driver’s viewpoint you need your
wishes to be complied with without argument or discussion while exercising compassion and understanding. As you will be spending up to 4 hours daily with your charges, and 5 days a week,
you WILL become their “locum” Grandparent and 2 way communication will become the norm as
they come to you with all their minor gripes and stories of fun days.
Share and enjoy as they will remember you.
TONY DOWN (locum) Grandad