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What do you want to be when you grow up? Most young boys answer with superhero, firefighter or cop. Those who respond with school bus driver are few and far between.
However, this occupation is essential to the safe transportation of kids and integral to the operation of every school district. The hours are drastically different from a typical 9-to-5, and the manner of work is more freeing than a desk job. Do you have what it takes to pull off the life of a bus driver?
For the most part, a bus driver’s schedule has the same start and end times each day. Fluctuations can occur with delays, early dismissals and cancellations. You may also be interested in picking up extra work like driving for field trips or sporting events. Those would change your schedule as well. Otherwise, your typical day in the life of a bus driver would look something like the following.
Rise and Shine
Depending on the school district the bus driver works for, they may have to leave the house around 6 a.m. or even earlier to pick up their bus on time. Count backwards even further to calculate the appropriate wake time based on what it takes to get dressed and ready and have breakfast in the morning before leaving. It isn’t unheard of for bus drivers to wake up earlier than 5 a.m.
Get the Bus
Some bus drivers own their bus and can keep it at home, saving valuable time for extra sleep or a cup of coffee in the morning. However, most drivers must report to a hub to pick up their vehicles daily. They find a space to park their car, clock in and grab the keys for their assigned bus. Each driver will also need to get any necessary paperwork, a radio and any updates to their route.
Perform an Inspection
Bus drivers transport kids daily, so they must frequently inspect their vehicles. Regular maintenance is usually taken care of by a mechanic, but school districts and bus companies typically require the driver to carry out routine inspections each time before driving.
They need to check that each part of the bus is working properly, paying particular attention to the doors, windshield wipers, lights and brakes. They’ll also need to monitor tire pressure and maintain adequate fluid levels.
Run the Route
Once they’ve picked up their bus, gathered everything they need from the hub and inspected their vehicle, it’s time to begin their trip. Each driver will have a route they must follow to pick up all their assigned students.
Kids are often quite spread out in rural school districts, necessitating an earlier start time to navigate all the branching dirt roads. Students live closer together in suburban or urban settings, but traffic may become an issue.
Part of the life of a bus driver is knowing their route like the back of their hand. They need to know what areas tend to get slippery when cold weather hits and when and where the heaviest traffic will be. Bus drivers must get their kids from home to school and back again in the safest manner possible while also maintaining efficiency.
One of the biggest perks of being a bus driver is the considerable period they have to themselves in the afternoon. After completing their route, they return the bus to their house or the hub, depending on their employer.
The rest of the afternoon is theirs until it’s time to pick the kids up from school. Work hours are in two blocks, typically from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. During that time, bus drivers could have another part-time job or carry on a side hustle.
Take Kids Home and Return the Bus
Around 2:15, it’s time for bus drivers to come back and pick up the kids to reverse the route and get everyone home safely. They’ll head first to the hub to get their vehicle and do another round of inspections to ensure it’s still ready for the road.
After they’ve completed the whole route, it’s time to drop the bus off at home or the hub and fill out any necessary paperwork from the day. This is also an excellent time to note if any repairs are needed or make any behavior reports.
Is the Life of a School Bus Driver for You?
Now that you’ve had a brief glimpse into the life of a bus driver, what do you think? Would the hours, flexible afternoons and unconventional workplace make this an ideal job for you? If you have difficulty waking up early or can’t stand the din of a few dozen kids, this probably isn’t your calling. Either way, you can move forward with a newfound appreciation for everything bus drivers do day in and day out.