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.
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.
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
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!