This training is provided by a number of different governmental, association and employer entities, and when completed provide school bus drivers with a comprehensive education for school bus safe operations.
STEP 1 – Michigan Secretary of State (SOS)
A school bus driver is also a “commercial driver” – meaning they operate a commercial vehicle (i.e., School Bus). In order to become a commercial driver, a person must hold a valid Commercial Driver License (CDL). A person interested in beginning training to become a commercial school bus driver, must first successfully complete a number of permit exams at the Michigan Secretary of State. The following permits are required before a person can begin training for a CDL school bus driver position:
- Obtain a Chauffeur license upgrade – 20 question knowledge test
- CDL Group B – 50 question knowledge test
- (P) Passenger Endorsement – 20 question knowledge test
- (S) School Bus Endorsement – 50 question knowledge test
- Air Brake Endorsement – 25 question knowledge test (recommended)
These exams each have a small fee and can all be taken on the same day at the SOS offices. However, you can only take each test once a day, so if you do not pass a test, you must come back the following day to retake it. Once you have completed these tests you will receive you Commercial Learners Permit (CLP).
For more information on obtaining a CDL in Michigan, please review the information from the Michigan Secretary of State website HERE.
STEP 2 – Complete a CDL Training Course
A CDL training course combines classroom and behind-the-wheel training in order to fully prepare a student to pass the State CDL exam and begin their new commercial driver position. This training is provided by many different providers, such as: truck driving schools, trade schools, state/county work programs, and by employers themselves. The training course will contain information that can be used when operating any commercial vehicle, but keep in mind you want to complete this training with a provider that will trains you on the specific commercial vehicle type you will be operating in your new job.
So if you are becoming a school bus driver, you will want to complete a CDL training course that is taught with a school bus vehicle. The only way to receive your (S) school bus endorsement from the Michigan SOS is to complete your State road test exam using a school bus.
In order to ensure a new commercial driver student has received the proper amount of training, and student must wait 14 days from the date they received their CLP before taking their State road text exam. This is usually okay, as most new commercial driver students will need 14-21 days of classroom and behind-the-wheel training before feeling comfortable and skilled enough to complete the State road test exam.
STEP 3 – Pass the Michigan Commercial Road Test Exam
Once a driver has completed their CDL training course and is ready to take their State road test exam, their school/trainer will contact a certified state commercial road test examiner to schedule an exam appointment. The student will go to the exam with their trainer in a school bus, and during the exam the student will be required to complete the following:
- Vehicle pre-trip safety inspection
- Basic controls skills test
- An on-the-raod driving test
All three tests are conducted during the same testing session, in the order listed above. Each test must be passed before continuing on to the next test. A failure of any one of the skills tests terminates testing. You will receive credit for any segment you passed, but the credit expires on the date your CLP expires. Once you pass all of the segments, you will receive a completion certificate to take back to the SOS to complete you CDL upgrade.
For more information on CDL testing in Michigan, please review the information from the Michigan Secretary of State website HERE.
STEP 4 – Beginning School Bus Driver Training
The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) requires that all drivers transporting pupils on school buses in Michigan must complete the beginning school bus driver course. This course is offered monthly through most counties local intermediate school district or regional educational authority. Your new employer will typically assist in scheduling you for the next available class once you receive your CDL. This training is a 3-4 full day (depending on length of day) classroom course, which covers:
- Driver Role and Responsibility
- Vehicle Familiarization
- Vehicle Operations
- Loading and Unloading
In order to pass the course a student MUST attend all days without missing a day or being late. If a student is late or misses a day, they must retake the entire course again. If a student does not complete their scheduled course and their temporary education class card expires, they can no longer transport pupils until they retake and complete the course.
State Department of Education Card
Every school bus driver that transports pupils in the state of Michigan is required to carry with them at all times their State of Michigan Department of Educations Certificate Card showing they have completed the Michigan school bus driver education course. There are three colors for these cards:
- WHITE – this is a temporary card given to first-time enrollees of the Beginning School Bus Driver course. These cards are only valid for a maximum of 90 days.
- YELLOW – after completing the beginning school bus driver course, graduates receive a yellow card which is valid until the current 2-year cycle ends.
- GREEN – the Michigan school bus driver continuing education course operates on a 2-year cycle. When a driver completes this course they receive a green card valid for 2 years (until the end of the current cycle). They will receive a new green card upon completion of each following cycle. If a driver does not attend a continuing education class and their card expires, they must retake the entire beginning driver class again.
STEP 5 – On-The-Job Training
Once you have completed all of the steps above, your new employer will also provide you additional training as well. This can be additional training courses to further expand on the information learned in previous teachings, or to relay other best practices and policies in regard to school bus transportation and safety.
There will also be on-the-job training, where you actually perform your new role with an employee trainer to not only teach you the companies work policies and procedures, but to ensure you are comfortable and adequately trained to perform the job correctly and safely.