Have you ever wanted to travel, go to places and see things that you thought you would never be able to see, and meet interesting people? And get paid for doing it! If the answer is yes, then let me tell you about what life is like as a professional tour bus driver.
Before we get to the good stuff, let me tell you how you can get started. There are some hoops you must jump through before your adventure begins.
You must be 21 years of age, (I don’t think this will be a problem for most of our readers), and have a Commercial Drivers Licenses, (CDL), in the state in which you reside. Here’s where the hoops start.
The first hoop you must jump through is to pass a CDL physical exam and drug screen. The exam is usually good for two years. However you will be subjected to random drug screening test with your employer.
The driver’s license must have certain endorsements, for a tour bus driver you must have what is called a “P” endorsement, which is for passengers, and pass the air brake qualifications portion on your CDL written test. This test is in several sections, and takes 30-45 minutes. After passing the test you must then pass a driving test in the type vehicle you will be driving. This test is comprised of various skills, and is followed by a 15-20 mile driving test.
The next step is probably the hardest. You must gain experience driving a bus. There are several routes you can take. One, school districts are usually looking for school bus drivers, and second, many metropolitan transit companies are looking for drivers. Unless you have prior experience driving the big rigs (18 wheelers), or you can find a small tour bus company that will hire and train you at the same time, the first two options may be your best opportunity.
I chose the second, driving for a metropolitan bus company, and I did have some big rig experience, prior to CDL’s, when I was much younger.
Now the adventure begins. The picture you see is similar to the type tour-bus that I drove for approximately five years, part-time/full-time.
How’s the pay you ask? You are not going to get rich driving a tour-bus, however there are some pretty cool perks. The pay ranges all over the books. Some motor coach carriers pay by the mile, some pay by the hour, some pay by the trip, and others have combinations of all the above. Most all pay a per-diem for meals, and pay for you’re sleeping accommodations when on overnight, or multi-night stays. The company I worked for paid mileage rate or an hourly rate, whichever was the greater. And there was an 8 hour minimum pay if you were called to work, regardless of how few hours you drove or miles you drove.
The cool perks were that I got to go to places I had never been, and see and do things I had always wanted to do, like:
- Seeing shows in Branson, MO.
- Going to major league baseball games in Atlanta, GA, and St. Louis, MO
- Touring major civil war battlefields at Gettysburg, PA and Shiloh, in Tennessee
- Touring Washington, DC and seeing all the history that our Nation’s Capital affords. Even if we don’t always agree with what goes on concerning our government, the visit to the Smithsonian is worth the visit.
- Touring homes such as Washington’s- Mount Vernon, and Jefferson’s- Montpelier
- Going to places like Disney World in Orlando, FL, and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.
There were so many experiences and places; there is not enough time or space to list them all. The really cool perk was: I got paid to do it, and in most instances, the driver is comped, in other words, I never had to pay to see and do all these things.
However, there are a few drawbacks. You probably have guessed a few by now.
- The first is being away from home and your spouse, for those of us married.
- You drive some really weird hours, a lot of very early mornings, and late nights.
- The one thing that surprised me the most was the amount of night driving you had to do. You will often be called to work on short notice.
There are others, but like every job, if it were perfect, everyone would be doing it. Driving a tour-bus may not be for everyone, but I can honestly say I enjoyed my time behind the wheel, and it did help supplement our income. I still have an active CDL, and current CDL physical.