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How To Legally Drive A Shuttle Bus Or Church Bus

 

If you are wondering what kind of license you need to drive a shuttle bus or church bus you are in the right place. Shuttle buses are not governed by the same laws and regulations as traditional passenger and school buses.

You will need a CDL if your are going to be driving a shuttle bus from one state to another and the shuttle bus is weight rated to transport 26,0001 lbs. or more and/or the shuttle bus is used to transport 16 (15 passengers plus 1 driver) people at one time.

If your shuttle bus is weight rated to transport less than 26,000 lbs and transports less than 16 people you do not need to have a CDL to drive it. This information is from The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the United States (FMCSA).

In this article we will clarify license requirements for driving a shuttle bus so that you can drive one worry free.

Where Are Shuttle Buses Used?

Shuttle buses have a lot of uses in many different industries. They are often used at airport to move around passengers, at hospitals, churches, and at hotels. Hotels will often use shuttle buses to pickup passengers from airports and bring them to their hotel for a vacation stay.

I recently took a trip to Cancun with my family and a shuttle bus picked us up at the airportĀ  and drove us directly to out hotel. Since we were staying at an all inclusive resort there was no need to rent a car since the shuttle bus provided us with transportation from the airport to the hotel and again from the hotel to the airport.

Shuttle buses are commonly used for local tours well. A tour bus that is a shuttle bus is easier to operate than a full size passenger bus and can require less licensing.

What Is A Shuttle Bus?

A shuttle bus is considered a type of minibus. Minibuses are buses that are designed to carry more passengers than a minivan but fewer passengers than a full size bus.

Most people in the United States use the word shuttle bus to refer to minibuses that are smaller
than conventional school buses or transit buses that you see driving around larger cities.

Minibuses can be categorized into three categories with the biggest difference between
each one is the amount of passengers it can hold. Let’s first take a look at the three types of minibuses:

1. Van Conversions

Van conversions are the simplest type of minibus. This minibus can be made by the van manufacturer as sold as a specialty vehicle or it can be creaeted by a van conversion company that specialized in converting vans into minibuses.

These van conversions don’t look a whole lot different than a stock van from the factory but there are some subtle differences. Among the differences are adding business signage, easy entry equipment for passengers to enter easier, and wheel chair lifts. Again, this one is typically not very different from a regular full size van .

2. Body Builds

Body builds are created by putting a specific body (often bus like in appearance) onto a light truck or van chassis. By adding a specific body to the chassis these minibuses can hold more passengers that the van conversion and provides more head and standing room.

The front end of a body build minibus will often look much like a factory build truck or van but the rest of it is quite different. This is the minibus people in the United States often refer to as shuttle buses.

3. Purpose Built

The purpose built minibus is a newer concept that is not very common in the United States.

Note: In this article we will refer to minibuses (both van conversions and body builds) as shuttle buses in order to avoid confusion.

Do I Need A CDL To Drive A Shuttle Bus?

You will need a CDL if your are going to be driving a shuttle bus from one state to another and the shuttle bus weights more than 26,000 lbs and/or the shuttle bus is used to transport 16 (15 passengers plus 1 driver) people at one time.

If your shuttle bus weights less than 26,000 lbs and transports less than 16 people you do not
need to have a CDL to drive it. This information is per The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the United States. Rarely is a shuttle bus more than 26,000 lbs. If you are driving a shuttle bus you probably don’t need a CDL.

This is where the confusion starts. Read carefully please.

Even though you do not need a CDL to drive a shuttle bus you may need to pass a DOT (Department of Transportation) Physical Exam in order to get a Medical Examiner’s Certificate. Let me explain:

If you are going to be transporting passengers from one state to another (interstate travel) and you meet one of the three criteria below you will need to pass the DOT Physical Exam (more about this below) and carry your exam certificate with you:

If the shuttle bus has a gross vehicle weight (GVW), gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combination weight (GCW), or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 or more lbs or more you will have to pass a DOT Physical Exam.

Here are the definitions of GVW, GVWR, GCW, and GCWR so that this information is easier to understand.

What Is Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)

This refers to the total mass of the vehicle including the chassis, interior, and exterior as it was when originally built by the vehicle manufacturer.

What Is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

This refers to the weight value specified by the vehicle manufacturer as the maximum loaded weight.
Gross combination weight (GCW): the weight value specified by the vehicle manufacturer as the maximum loaded weight for the vehicle plus what is being towed.

What Is Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR)

This is the weight value specified by the vehicle manufacturer as the GVWR of the vehicle plus the GVWR of anything being towed.

Confused? To play it safe I recommend you just make sure that the weight of the shuttle bus is less than 10,000 lbs. and the weight of the shuttle bus plus passengers is less than 10,000 lbs so that you don’t have to take the DOT physical exam either.

Summary Of Shuttle Bus Driver License Requirements

To summarize, a driver of a shuttle bus needs to have a CDL if the shuttle bus has a weight of more than 26,000 lbs. or it is transporting 16 or more people in it. Rarely, if ever, will a shuttle bus weight more than 26,000 lbs but some shuttle buses may be used to transport more than 16 passengers.

If this is the case you will need to get a Class C CDL.

The driver of the bus will need a DOT physical if the weight of the shuttle bus is 10,000 lbs or more and it is going to be transporting passengers out of state.

Don’t make the mistake of allowing someone to drive your shuttle bus without knowing the weight of it and the amount of passengers it transports so that you know whether you need a CDL or just a DOT physical exam.

If you are going to purchase a shuttle bus be sure you take the necessary steps to ensure you don’t have any problems with the law. Also, since your shuttle bus is an investment make sure you protect your investment by making sure the driver of the shuttle bus has the proper certifications if needed.

When in doubt you should contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles so that you know exactly what is expected for your specific state.

How To Get DOT Physical Exam

To get a DOT physical exam you will have to go to a certified DOT medical examiner. In this article I tell you everything you need to know about the DOT Physical Exam.

How To Buy A Shuttle Bus

Looking at the shuttle bus weight and number of passengers it can transport shouldn’t be your only concern. You also need to make sure that the shuttle bus is going to be a good investment and give you several years of worry free, dependable service.

This is a list of what you should look for when buying a shuttle bus.

1. Air Conditioning

I know it seems like common sense that you would purchase a shuttle bus with air conditioning but you would be surprised how many people put this at the bottom of their list. A shuttle bus with no air conditioning or air conditioning that is not working properly means you are going to have unhappy passengers when it gets hot outside.

Before you purchase the shuttle bus make sure the air conditioning is in good working order because repairs can be costly.

2. Vehicle History

Has the shuttle bus ever been in an accident or had major mechanical repairs? Is the title clear? This is important information to know before you make a purchase.

Using a service like Carfax is a wise decision to ensure you are getting a shuttle bus that is clear of any accidents and/or major repairs.

3. Age

How old is the shuttle bus? Just like purchasing a car you should try and find one that is not very old. Older shuttle buses mean you are probably going to have to make some repairs sooner than later. Also, it’s always better to pay a little more for a vehicle that has less miles on it.

4. Where Was It Driven?

If the shuttle bus was driven is an area that receives a lot of snow and ice you need to make sure the chassis/frame are in good condition. Stay away from frames that are cracked or showing signs of repairs to it.

5. Interior

The seats and general interior should be free of rips, tears, large scratches, and mismatched paint. If the seats have not been cared for or repaired you should keep looking for another bus.

6. Exterior

How does the body of it look? What is the overall condition? If there are too many scratches, dents, and damaged body panels those are red flags. Again, regardless of the price a shuttle bus that is too damaged on the exterior is not worth investing in.

As you can see there is a lot of information that goes into deciding which shuttle bus is right for you and knowing whether or not you need a CDL to drive it.. Make sure you know whether or no the DOT physical exam is needed for your driver even if a CDL is not needed.

Buying a shuttle bus is as much an investment as purchasing a car, make sure you do your homework so that you are getting one that will give you several years of worry free, reliable service.

Shuttle Bus Driver Job

If you are contemplating a job as a shuttle bus driver I have some additional information for you regarding pay, formal education, and job outlook.

Being a shuttle bus driver is a good job for someone that shows independence, good decision making, good customer service skills, and punctuality. Shuttle bus drivers are often given tips from customers for their service so the better your customer service skills are the more you will likely be tipped.

Shuttle Bus Driver Pay

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median pay for shuttle bus drivers is around $24,000 per year, which is about $11.00 per hour.

Shuttle Bus Driver Education

No formal education is required to she a shuttle bus driver but many employers require at least a high school diploma. Also, most companies will give you some shuttle bus driving training in order to work for them. No degree or certification needs to be acquired.

Shuttle Bus Driver Job Outlook

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to grow 13 percent from 2014 to 2024. This is encouraging news for someone looking to start driving a shuttle bus.

 

 

One thought to “How To Legally Drive A Shuttle Bus Or Church Bus”

  1. I do like how you mentioned that we would need a CDL to drive a bus from one state to another. That is great as I aim to purchase a used bus soon to help with our church’s travels. Hopefully, I could get this license without any complications so that I can drive my local church laymen to the destinations they need to be in with my potential used bus. Thanks!

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