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School Bus Drivers: Qualifications - Hiring & Training

When an individual applies for a position as a school bus driver with RCS and Durham School Services, there is a long list of items that must be completed before the individual gets behind the wheel to begin training.  There are many administrative procedures that must be followed but the most important one is the background check.  Each applicant submits her/his fingerprints so that a check can be done for any criminal convictions as well as traffic convictions.  The results of those inquiries are strictly scrutinized by not only Durham School Services, but by the district Human Resources department as well.

Once the applicant is given the approval to proceed, training at Durham School Services begins.  The trainee is assigned to one of several driver-trainers to begin training.  Most of the time that trainee will remain with the same trainer throughout the process.  But even before that happens,  the applicant must appear at a Secretary of State's office to obtain a commercial learner's permit (C.L.P.).  That in itself is not an easy process.  There are three areas that the applicant must be proficient in before they can get behind the wheel to train.  Durham offers a training class to assist the applicants so they can be successful with the testing conducted by the Michigan Secretary of State.

Once the applicant has earned their "CLP", they will eventually complete the driver's instruction course and then be tested by a State of Michigan certified tester.  In addition to road training, Durham continues with more classroom training that includes videos and conversations with the in-house school bus trainers.

The trainee is then introduced to the school bus.  It is very intimidating at first but after a week or two the trainee becomes familiar and comfortable with the systems and operation of the bus. Training that takes place during the school year includes the trainee riding with the trainer as an observer while the trainer drives her/his morning and afternoon bus routes.  The trainee is simply an observer.  NEVER is a trainee allowed to drive a school bus with passengers until after they have successfully been tested, certified and licensed by the State of Michigan.

After several weeks,  a road exam is scheduled with a State certified examiner.  Before demonstrating their driving skills for the examiner, the trainee must do a complete "pre-trip" inspection, explaining the school bus systems in detail.  That is followed by a "skills test", requiring the trainee to demonstrate backing skills and other course driving requirements.  The trainee must demonstrate the proper 17-step procedure for making a legal school bus stop.

Once the exam has been successfully completed the trainee is able to return to the Secretary of State's office and obtain the required commercial driver license.  Each driver will have a B, P and S endorsement on their commercial driver's license.  Those endorsements are for "BUS, PASSENGERS and SCHOOL BUS.  Drivers must also pass a physical exam and remain current during the time parameters of their medical certificate.    Those exams are completed by a Department of Transportation certified physician.

With the C.D.L. in hand, the driver will continue to work with the trainer driving the morning and afternoon bus routes.  They will learn about driving a particular route and how important it is to drive the route in a timely, consistent manner.  There is a lot to learn about driving a school bus.  It is not an easy job but It is a very rewarding experience.  Many of our drivers have been working for the Rochester district for a number of years.

School bus drivers are subject to random drug/alcohol screenings.  The drivers continue training throughout their careers.  Durham School Services requires drivers to attend monthly Safety meetings.  There are other State requirements in which drivers must remain current.  Each summer there are classes at Oakland Schools to update drivers with the latest laws and trends that are applicable to them.  

Please feel free to contact the Transportation Department if you have any questions about your bus driver and their ability to safely drive the school bus.