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To truly enjoy being a bus driver, it helps to be a “people person.” Stanley Carpenter, a bus driver for DART, a transit system that serves 13 cities in the Dallas area, certainly fits the bill. “Everybody knows me. They don’t have to ring the bell to get off, because I know where they stop. ... I’ve met two generations, almost three, of families riding my bus,” he says.
Relating to people is one of the best components of this profession, Carpenter says, and having this skill also helps drivers manage the mosaic of personalities and commuting problems they may encounter daily. In other words, the impatient and short-fused need not apply. “I just keep an even keel,” he says. “I stay right in the middle. It’s about the way you talk and the sound of your voice [when calming riders]. ... I always try to sympathize with the customer.”
The job’s good days include sunny skies, pleasant riders and light traffic; the flipside is icy roads, traffic jams and amped-up school kids. Good drivers provide safe passage no matter the situation, while still tending to responsibilities such as collecting fare, announcing stops and staying on a strict route schedule. Most drivers must complete light paperwork to record trips, delays and mechanical problems. They also usually fall into one of two categories: intercity drivers, who transport people within metropolitan areas, and school bus drivers, who transport children to and from school-related events.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nearly 10 percent job growth for this profession between 2012 and 2022, which is close to the average pace for all occupations. Several factors should lead to job openings, including an increasing number of children who need transport to and from school and high gas prices, which lead more commuters to rely on public transportation. An additional 16,800 bus driver jobs will need to be filled during the next decade.
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a transit and intercity bus driver was $36,600 in 2012. The best-paid 10 percent made $59,480, while the lowest-paid made approximately $21,320. The highest-paid in the profession work in Olympia, Wash., Seattle and New York City. School bus drivers earn less than transit and intercity bus drivers, with an average salary just over $29,000 per year.
Driver qualifications vary by state. Many employers prefer drivers who are at least 21 years of age and have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Of course, a clean driving record is a prerequisite, and a clean bill of health is also often required to ensure drivers don’t have a medical condition that could interfere with operating a bus. A commercial driver’s license is another prerequisite for landing a position. Once hired, new drivers usually receive one to three months of practical and classroom instruction.
Driving record aside, Carpenter insists that customer service skills set prospective drivers apart from other job candidates. “I believe I could teach a person to drive [a bus], but I can’t teach you how to deal with people,” he says. Other than patience and customer service skills, bus drivers need solid hand-eye coordination, good hearing ability and they must be able to pass vision tests.
|Upward Mobility||poor Below Average|
|Stress Level||poor Above Average|
|Flexibility||good Above Average|
Last updated by Katy Marquardt.