Your Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Charter Bus Driver in Illinois

Looking for a new career in the transportation industry? Discover how to become a charter bus driver in Illinois with our step-by-step guide.

Are you looking to change careers, or interested in the transportation industry? Have you ever considered becoming a charter bus driver? Driving a charter bus can be a fulfilling and rewarding profession, offering a chance to travel and meet new people while earning a steady income. However, to become a licensed and successful driver, there are specific requirements and steps to follow. This article will guide you through getting started as a charter bus driver in Illinois and help launch your career in this exciting field. As a reminder, it is important you do your own research and preparation before choosing to become a charter bus driver. This article only serves as a rough guide and charter bus driver qualifications may change over time, you should do your own research when embarking on this journey. 

Passenger bus shot at dawn with warm glow reflected in windows. This image is isolated on a white background.

There Are General Requirements to Meet Before You Get Started

Becoming a charter bus driver is pretty straightforward in principle, but each state has its own hoops to jump through. Therefore, it’s best to ensure you meet all the requirements before starting the licensing process. General requirements include: 

  • Age and residency: To become a charter bus driver in Illinois, you must be at least 21. Furthermore, you will need to prove your United States residency. 
  • Driver’s license: You must have a valid Illinois driver’s license to apply for the commercial driver’s license (CDL) necessary to operate a charter bus. Moreover, the expiration date on your license must be at least one year from the time you go through the CDL application process. You should also have a clean driving record with no serious violations or suspensions.
  • Physical and health: Charter bus drivers must meet certain physical and health requirements to perform the job safely. You will need to pass a physical exam and provide documentation of your medical history. 
  • Clean record: To ensure the safety of passengers, most charter companies will demand a background check for prospective hires. 
Coach Bus Driver

The 5 Steps to Becoming a Charter Bus Driver in Illinois

If you meet the basic requirements for charter bus drivers, it’s time to learn about the state- specific steps to getting your licensure in order. The 5 steps to becoming a charter bus driver in Illinois are: 

Step 1: Know your Stuff

You will need to pass several written tests administered by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office on your way to becoming a CDL-holding charter bus driver. Fortunately, there is an official study guide that covers topics such as driving laws and regulations, vehicle inspection, and safe driving practices. If you want to ace the tests, do your homework first!

Step 2: Obtain a commercial Learner's Permit (CLP)

You must get a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) before upgrading to a full CDL. However, you will need a valid Illinois driver’s license and proof of legal residence to get the CLP. Additionally, in most cases, you will need to submit the appropriate medical certification during the CLP application process. The fee for a CLP is $50 (subject to change).

For your CLP, you must pass the General Knowledge written test and the Endorsement Knowledge written test for a Passenger Endorsement (P). This endorsement allows you to drive vehicles with 16 or more passengers. Finally, consider taking the Air Brake Knowledge written test to ensure you can operate buses equipped with them. The official Secretary of State’s website has a facility finder to help you find a convenient test-taking location.

Step 3: Take Entry-Level Training (ELDT)

As of February 7, 2022, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted new regulations requiring those seeking a P endorsement to pass approved driver training. You must complete this step before you can schedule the skills tests for your full CDL. The FMCSA provides a directory of certified training centers nationwide and a helpful slideshow overview of the ELDT program.

Step 4: Complete On-the-Job Training with a Licensed Bus Driver

Before taking the CDL skills test, you should complete on-the-job training with a licensed bus driver. This training typically lasts for several weeks and involves driving a commercial vehicle under the supervision of an experienced driver. Employers who hire future drivers working toward their CDLs will provide this sort of hands-on training; some even pay for CDL prep classes and licensure.

Step 5: Pass a CDL Skills Test and Get a Full CDL

Finally, once you have completed your on-the-job training, finished ELDT, and have a CLP with a P endorsement, you will need to pass the CDL skills test. This test includes a pre-trip vehicle inspection, a basic control skills test, and an on-road driving test. Your skills tests should be on a vehicle representing the type you will drive with your CDL. For example, yours will likely be a large passenger bus that may (or may not) have an air brake system, depending on whether you took the corresponding test.

Again, the Illinois Secretary of State’s website provides a handy checklist to ensure you have everything you need for the CDL tests, and you can book an appointment for yours online. Good luck!

Things to Know when You’re Considering a Career in Charter Buses

While obtaining your CDL is a crucial step in becoming a charter bus driver in Illinois, there are several other vital things to consider when deciding if this is the right career path for you.

  • Charter bus drivers get to travel and meet many interesting and exciting people. However, they typically work long and irregular hours, including weekends and holidays. It’s essential to be flexible and able to work different shifts to get the most out of the opportunities this career offers.
  • According to Glassdoor, the average wage for bus drivers is about $50,000 per year, with an additional $15,000 in potential benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. Where your individual earnings will fall relative to the average is up to you and your work ethic.
  • As a charter bus driver, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers and must comply with federal and state safety regulations. This includes ensuring that your vehicle is properly maintained, conducting pre-trip inspections, and adhering to driving laws and regulations. Conscientiousness is a must!

Welcome Aboard: Driving Charter Buses Is a Fun and Engaging Career

Becoming a charter bus driver can be a fulfilling and rewarding career, offering you the opportunity to travel and meet new people while earning a generous income. Following the steps we’ve outlined above will help you get your CDL and launch your new career in transportation. If you remember to prioritize safety, communication, and good customer service, you’ll surely build a successful and enjoyable tenure as a charter bus driver in Illinois.

Current positions available at United Bus

Job description

Immediate Job Openings: Charter Bus Driver Needed!

Join us and become part of a growing company! We’re actively looking for skilled and proactive bus drivers to fill immediate positions in our team. If you thrive in a dynamic environment and are committed to safety and quality service, we’d love to meet you.

Why Drive With Us?

  • Competitive Pay: Experience is rewarded with top-tier compensation.
  • Flexible Hours: We value work-life balance and offer flexible working hours.
  • Modern Fleet: Enjoy driving modern, well-maintained buses equipped with the latest technology.
  • Supportive Team Environment: Join a family-oriented team that supports its members.


  • Operate buses safely along predetermined routes according to schedule.
  • Deliver excellent customer service, addressing passenger needs and ensuring a pleasant travel experience.
  • Maintain vehicle cleanliness and mechanical integrity.
  • Communicate effectively with passengers and dispatch, ensuring clear and professional interactions.
  • Prioritize passenger safety during all phases of transportation.


  • At least 3 years of experience in driving motor coaches.
  • Valid CDL with Passenger Endorsement and a clean driving record.
  • Proficient in English for effective communication.
  • Basic mechanical knowledge to manage minor vehicle maintenance.
  • Familiarity with driving regulations and committed to adhering to safety protocols.

Additional Requirements:

  • No violations in the past 3 years.
  • Must be 25 years of age or older.
  • Preferably residing within 20 miles of O’Hare Airport.
  • Prefer additional experience driving vans, limousines, or school buses.

How to Apply:

Respond to this job posting! Email us at and tell us about your experience. We’ll take it from there.

Are you ready to start a rewarding journey with us? We are eager to add your expertise to our team!

Job Types: Full-time, Part-time

Pay: $25.00 – $30.00 per hour

Work Location: Des Plaines, Illinois and Chicago, Illinois