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Is a CDL Required to Operate a School Bus within the US?

There are some necessary rules and regulations, safety measures, and requirements for operating commercial vehicles like heavy vehicles and school buses in the United States. There are important elements that decide the eligibility criteria to operate any vehicle such as knowledge tests, CDL class and training, and some other endorsements. 

The requirement of a Commercial driving license ( CDL) depends on various factors including the type of vehicle, vehicle weight rating, and whether you are carrying passengers or not. Different states like Washington state may have different standards like endorsement of hazardous materials, passenger endorsement, and some kind of additional training, which may enhance the complexities of bus drivers in acquiring the school bus driver certificate or CDL.

This comprehensive article is based on all the important basic vehicle controls, rules, and regulations to ensure school bus safety and ultimately the safety of our school-going children. Let’s dive into this

Understanding the Role of a School Bus Driver

Before setting up on the journey of the licensing requirements, it is necessary to know about the important role of a school bus driver. These skilled persons commute our school children to and from school by also presenting their school bus safety services. Besides mastering the roads, they are also responsible for dealing with the different situations wisely.

Licensing Requirements for School Bus Drivers

CDL Requirement

CDL eligibility requirements and rules vary according to different states but all of them have made the CDL mandatory for operating any commercially operated vehicles, specifically school buses, safely. This specific license is the proof of the professional drivers that they have gone through certain skills tests, and knowledge tests, have attended the CDL classes, and have acquired school bus certificates to safely operate the large vehicles, especially the school buses.

Endorsements required for driving a school bus

There are two types of endorsements included in your CDL that are needed to drive a school bus. These endorsements are very pivotal to ensuring the skillfulness of drivers for the sake of school children's safety. Depending on the rules of each state, the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is there to help you with the right information.

a. The Passenger Endorsement (P), is for managing and driving vehicles that can carry 16 or more numbers of passengers along with the bus driver, placing the school buses in the same category. 

b. The School Bus Endorsement (S), ensures the safe and sound transportation of school children traveling through that specific school bus. It also needs some extra testing to the knowledge and skills of the drivers such as loading unloading and emergency protocols, etc.

Background Checks and Training

The safety of the children is always the top priority of the schools and parents. License requirements also focus on making sure that the school bus drivers they hired, haven’t any criminal record and have a good driving record. There are also some additional training or additional tests such as defensive driving and first aid awareness in case of any possible adverse situations. These all-important rules and regulations are designed to maximize the safety of students.


Some specific departments are presenting the necessary information to acquire the license for school bus drivers. These departments include the State Departments of Motor Vehicles and the Departments of Transportation. On the other hand, some local schools at the district level also offer training programs for school bus drivers.


Once you have acquired all the basic information, it’s time to know about the application procedure. In the application process, you have to submit your driving record, background checks, and other related documents like driving school certificates.

But this registration process may vary from state to state and it’s wise to contact the local authorities for clear instructions.


School bus safety is the supreme priority for the protection of students and other people using the roads. So to ensure a safe school bus environment, the drivers have to undergo defensive driving techniques, student management, and training to handle adverse situations efficiently. This will also help them in managing students in their outdoor school events.


Staying up to date with the state and federal guidelines and being well informed with the best practices in school bus handling, is pivotal for ambitious drivers. Because these latest advancements related to driving training and school bus safety techniques are very crucial for efficient school bus drivers.


Some certain requirements and criteria make someone eligible to acquire a school bus driver’s license. This eligibility criteria may include your good physical health, age, and also your driving experience. But it is always good to have detailed information from the local authorities.


Let’s have a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about licensing of school bus drivers.

What type of license do you need to drive a school bus?

Usually, the majority of the states demand a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and a school bus endorsement to manage a school bus. However, some states also require some additional certificates such as passenger endorsement and school bus certificates.

What is the procedure to Get a School Bus Driver’s License?

To get a school bus driver’s license, you have to undergo a certain application process, some background record checks, and attend some training programs, depending on your state.

In case of driver shortages, what training do school bus drivers need?

Due to the shortage of drivers, various school districts are enforcing training programs to get the attention of qualified and experienced school bus drivers. In these training programs, these aspiring drivers are trained in safety protocols, emergencies, and also student management, because these yellow school bus drivers are responsible for the safe and sound commuting of our school children.


The requirements of obtaining a CDL may vary from state to state but a CDL is always mandatory for running a school bus within the United States. There are some important regulations such as driver background checks, criminal records, and specific training. Staying updated with the latest trends and research related to rules and regulations of licensing, also helps professional drivers to carry on their duties more efficiently and more confidently.

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