Bus Driver Qualifications & School Bus Safety

Roughing It contracts with First Student Educational Services to provide buses and professionally trained drivers for ALL transportation to and from camp. First Student drivers have extensive experience in handling large vehicles and drive for school districts during the year. All vehicles are Type A school buses (not passenger vans) with 3-point lap and shoulder belts.

All drivers are highly trained, tested by the California Highway Patrol for both written knowledge and driving skill. The training program for school bus drivers is mandated by law to be a minimum of 40 hours. Most drivers spend 60-80 hours in the course. In contrast, a camp or recreation driving course is usually 15-20 hours long.

Training is not limited to the handling of a vehicle; professional drivers must master how to properly handle emergency situations. In addition, they are CPR/First Aid certified.

Continual enrollment in drug and alcohol testing programs is also a requirement for professional bus drivers. They are enrolled in the DMV pull-notice program, providing employers with immediate notification of any action on a driver’s DMV or criminal record.  See more details on Bus Driver Training Requirements below.

School Bus Safety

Each year, some 440,000 public school buses travel more than 4.3 billion miles, transporting 24 million children to and from schools and school-related activities (an estimated 10 billion student rides annually.)

In contrast, the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that every year more than 800 school-aged children are killed as passengers in other motor vehicles during “normal school transportation hours.” Most of these deaths could have been prevented if children rode in school buses.  Fatal crashes involving occupants are rare events.

Whether driving themselves, traveling with parents, bicycling or walking to school, risk of injury or fatal accident to a child increases 100 times compared to those children on school buses. Of the nearly 7,500 student deaths from 1991-1999, over 99% occurred when children were not safely inside a school bus, but rather involved in another method of transportation.

Bus Driver Training Requirements

Below is an outline of the curriculum school bus drivers must study and master, as required by law, in order to work for a school district. The course is divided up into two parts: classroom study and “behind the wheel” practice.

Classroom Curriculum for School Bus Drivers

Original License – minimum of 20 hours by law (most instructors take 25 to 30 hours to teach this curriculum)
Unit I Commercial Driver’s Handbook, DMV Regulations 2 hours
Unit II Driver’s License and Special Certificate Requirements

License types, special certificates

Training requirements

Record keeping requirements

Medical examinations
3 hours
Unit III Bus Operation, Bus Use, Laws and Regulations

Bus and vehicle types

Inspections by CHP and carrier

Unlawful operation

Hours on duty for drivers

Driver condition

Vehicle condition

Transportation of property

Transportation of passengers

Fueling restrictions and procedures

Driving proficiency

Vehicle inspection and maintenance

Entrances and exits on buses

Driving infractions

Commercial Driver’s license standards

Requirements and penalties
3 hours
Unit IV Vehicle Components

Engine, Gas and Diesel

Clutch / Transmission operation

Air Brake Systems

Steering, Tires

Radios and PA systems
2 to 3 hours
Unit V General Defensive Driving Techniques

Perception Factor

Conditioning, Repetition

Sensor Devices

Conditioned Responses

Principles of Defensive Driving

Safety Circle

Driver mental and physical condition

Following distrance

Vehicle mechanical condition

Visual lead time

Reaction time and stopping distance

Space cushion

Stopping and turning


Curves and Hills



Traffic symbols, signals, and signs

Nonverbal communication with other drivers, eye contact

Accident reviews

Railroad grade crossings
3 to 4 hours
Unit VI Specialized Defensive Driving Techniques

Adverse weather conditions

Winter driving

Tire chains

Light conditions

Night driving procedures

Tire blowout

Skid control

Unexpected hazards

Freeway driving
2 hours
Unit VII Passenger Loading and Unloading

Regulated and approved school bus stops

Prohibited stopping, standing, and parking

Unlawful passing of school bus

Passenger loading techniques

Use of amber and red light when loading and unloading

School site loading/unloading zones
2 hours
Unit VIII Emergency Procedures

Required emergency equipment

Fire extinguisher use and types

Classification of fires

First aid kids

Red emergency reflectors

Mechanical breakdown procedures

Driver responsibilities during accidents

Accident procedures

Vehicle evacuation regulations and procedures

Safe riding practices

Hijacking and kidnapping

Special problems

Emergency procedures for hazardous materials
2 to 3 hours
Unit IX Passenger Management

Behavior curve

Characteristics of group behavior

Elements of group behavior

Techniques of group control

Establishing a mutually respectful relationship

Specific behavior problems

Bus safety rules

Do’s and Don’t’s of Pupil Management


Authority of Driver

Denial of transportation

Pupil responsibilities
2 to 3 hours
Unit X Activity Trips

Extended driving hours

Preparations for out of town travel

Communications with parents and school officials

Transportation of extra equipment

Responsibilities on arrival and return trip

Rest, food, and fueling stops
1 to 2 hours
Unit XI The Special Needs Passenger

Types of programs

Special education terminology


Behavior patterns

Legal context of transporting handicapped students

Confidentiality of pupil’s records

Bus evacuation for special education pupils

Wheelchair handling
2 to 3 hours
Unit XII Public and Community Relations

Importance of driver in public relations

Driver attitude

Passengers’ feelings
1 hour
Behind-the-wheel Curriculum for Original Drivers

minimum 20 hours (most instructors average 30 to 35 hours before sending a driver to CHP for testing)
Skill Level

Basic Vehicle Familiarization and Movement

Vehicle selection for training

Site selection for training

Positioning of driver

Use of mirrors

Use of brakes

Vehicle movement – auto transmission

Vehicle movement – manual transmission
4 hours
Skill Level

Precision Training in Vehicle Movement and Driving Fundamentals

Use of hazard lights

Precision backing

Specific backing procedures

Use of turn signals

Operational use of mirrors

Precision turning

Turning points and precision turning

Parallel parking procedures
3 to 4 hours
Skill Level

Transmission Control and Shifting Procedures

Throttle control


Establishing shifting points

Tachometer use in shifting

Shifting procedures for manual transmissions

Shifting procedures for automatic transmissions

Shifting a 2-speed rear axle

Shifting graphs and charts
3 hours
Skill Level

General Defensive Driving Techniques

Introduction to defensive driving

Residential defensive driving techniques

Urban defensive driving techniques

Railroad grade crossings
2 hours
Skill Level

Specialized Defensive Driving Techniques

Night driving

Adverse operating conditions



Tire blowout and rapid air loss

Skid control

Unexpected hazards
3 to 4 hours
Skill Level

Passenger Loading and Unloading Procedures

School bus stops

Use of turn signals

Use of mirrors


Passenger loading, securing of vehicle

Passenger unloading, securing of vehicle

Red-light crossovers

Hazardous loading and unloading conditions
2 hours
Skill Level

Emergency Procedures

Emergency hazard flashers

Placement of emergency reflectors

Use of fire extinguishers

Mechanic breakdown

Accident procedures

Bus evacuation instruction
2 hours
Skill Level

Final Appraisal of Driver Skills 1 hour

California School Bus Transportation Facts:

Number of buses operating in California: 26,291

Miles traveled by school buses annually: 367,893,624

Total Number of fatalities (California) per 100 million passenger miles:

Passenger autos 0.86

Buses (other than school bus) 0.05

Railroad passenger trains 0.03

School buses 0.00