Ride along as Live 5 learns what it takes to become a school bus driver

First Student is hiring bus drivers right now for the upcoming school year for Charleston County.
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Students return to school in August. And with Covid-19 restrictions being relaxed, more kids will be riding the bus. That’s why First Student is recruiting drivers right now for the Charleston County School District. And the bus company gave Live 5 News Anchor Ann McGill a chance to get behind the wheel to get a better understanding of what it takes to become a driver.

Training for First Student drivers begins in the classroom. Candidates complete 20 hours of classroom requirements as mandated by the state. Then, they get to head out to the yard.

“Yes, actually being with the buses. We take them on every single bus that we operate which is about 10 to 12 right now including First Student buses. It’s a pretty extensive process,” First Student Location Safety Manager, DeWitt Davis said.

He makes sure that all new drivers are familiar with every part of the machines they’ll be operating.

That means giving the bus a thorough inspection before you climb aboard. Drivers use a tablet to ‘check off’ on all parts of the bus, from tires to mirrors, to ensure everything is in proper working condition.

Although they are equipped with air conditioning and power steering these days, buses still operate a little differently than your personal car. There is no “park” in the transmission shift handle. Instead, you have to press a knob to release the brake, and pull it back out to reset it.

School buses weigh 31,000 pounds, stand 35 feet high and are eight to nine feet wide on average.

Several sets of mirrors help drivers to round corners and navigate tight turns. Numerous precautions are built in to make sure all passengers board and exit the bus safely.

In addition to knowledge of the equipment, punctuality is crucial to becoming a good driver.

“And we emphasize that in training or in the first day of class. Because if you can’t be on time for class, it’s a pretty good indicator to me, you may not be a very good school bus driver,” Davis said.

“We’re graded on whether we’re late, or on time, it’s very important. We want those kids to get to school on time so they can get their education. So we stress that from the very onset.”

Training takes four to five weeks for anyone who has never driven a bus before. CDL drivers don’t require as much training. But all drivers have to possess one important skill.

“Those aren’t your kids, those aren’t my kids, but we try to treat them like that. So having a whole lot of patience between the kids, the administrators and the general public. You have to have a lot of patience,” Davis said.

The starting pay for First Student school bus drivers is $19 an hour, and candidates get paid $15 during training. Click the link if you want to apply.

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