What It's Like To Be a Driver
As a bus or taxi driver, you will find yourself operating a vehicle in all kinds of traffic and weather conditions. You are responsible for the safety of your passengers and others. You need to keep alert to prevent accidents and try not to stop or swerve suddenly.
Bus drivers usually follow a fixed route and time schedule. Local transit bus drivers work 5 days a week. Many work split shifts where they drive in the morning, have several hours off, and drive again in the late after-noon to accommodate commuters. Intercity bus drivers may work almost any time of the day or night. Unlike bus drivers, taxi drivers do not follow a fixed schedule. They usually try to design their workday around the times that people need rides, like rush hours.
Let's Find Out What Happens On the Job
Bus drivers usually begin their day by picking up their buses at garages or terminals. Before start-ing a route, drivers carefully inspect the bus. They check things like the bus' tires, brakes, safety equipment, lights, fuel, oil, and water. Beside picking up and dropping off passengers, drivers usually have to collect fares and may have to handle luggage. And of course, they also must answer their passengers' questions. At the end of the day, they complete reports. If you are a taxi driver, you will get your passengers from dispatchers, cab stands, or places where passengers are likely to be.
The Pleasures and Pressures of the Job
One of the main pleasures of the job is being able to do something you truly enjoy-driving. You will meet a lot of different people and experience changing scenery during your workday. If you like being independent, it can be a great joy to have responsibility for your vehicle and its passengers, as well as working unsupervised most of the time.
On the other hand, bad traffic and/or weather conditions can make driving very stressful. You may feel pressured to hurry as a bus driver because you are falling behind schedule or as a taxi driver because a passenger wants to get somewhere quickly. At times, passengers may be difficult or distracting. Also, there is the possibility of the bus or taxi being robbed.
The Rewards, the Pay, and the Perks
Local transit and school bus drivers receive hourly wages; however, intercity bus drivers are usually paid by the number of miles driven, not hours. Generally, bus drivers will get health and life insurance, sick and vacation leave, and free bus rides, but school bus drivers to not get vacation leave. Also, many bus drivers become members of a union, which affects their pay and benefits.
Taxi drivers' earnings depend on such things as how long they work, how they get paid, and what season it is. Many taxi drivers are paid a percentage of their total fares collected. They also receive tips from passengers.
To be a bus driver you will have to meet many federal, state, and local requirements dealing with personal and professional qualifications and standards. Federal regulations demand that you obtain a commercial driver's license for the state in which you live if you operate a vehicle that carries 16 or more passengers. Most employers prefer their bus drivers to have a high school education and good reading and writing skills.
To be a taxi driver, usually you will need to have a taxicab operator's license and a chauffeur's license. To obtain these licenses, you will probably have to pass written and driving tests. Most employers prefer their taxi drivers to have at least an eighth-grade education.
Climbing the Career Ladder
After successful completion of the training program, new intercity and local transit bus drivers may be placed on an extra list and drive only when full-time drivers can't. Full-time drivers can negotiate for more desirable routes and pay. There are not a lot of opportunities for advancement. Intercity and local transit bus drivers may become supervisors, dispatchers, or managers. School bus drivers may become fleet supervisors or driving instructors.
There are not many advancement possibilities for taxi drivers. They may be promoted to dispatcher, road supervisor, or garage superintendent. Some taxi drivers advance by buying their own cabs and going into business for themselves.
Now decide if driving a bus or taxi is right for you.
To be a driver, you must be in good physical health, have 20/40 vision with or without correction, have good hearing, and be able to read, write, and speak English. Now, think about your answers to these questions carefully. How truly interested are you in driving? Would you like to spend your workday behind the wheel of a vehicle? Can you follow complex schedules and routes or find the best route to get somewhere? If you are not really excited about driving, then you might want to look at other chapters in this book that do not involve so much driving.
You and Driving a Bus or Taxi
If you have not recently taken a ride on the type of vehicle you are interested in driving, now is the time to do so. As you ride, pay close attention to the driver and the work environment. Think about whether that driver's job is one that you would like to have. After you ride, make up a list of what you observed. Be sure to include things like what the driver did, what challenges the driver faced, what rewards the driver received, and what kind of environment the driver worked in. Next, evaluate your list against what appeals to you in a career. If there is a good match, you could be on your way to a career as a driver.
See how you respond to these questions on the qualities of a successful driver:
- Do you like driving?
- Are you a good and safe driver in all types of weather?
- Do you have steady nerves in tense situations?
- Do you enjoy working with people?
- Do you like to work alone, without direct supervision?
Find Out More about Driving a Bus or Taxi
Through riding in buses and taxis, you will learn a great deal about a career driving these vehicles. Be sure to ask questions of these drivers when it is appropriate and safe to do so. Also, you will want to contact these organizations for more career information.
National School Transportation Association
American Public Transit Association
International Brotherhood of Teamsters