What are the qualifications, requirements to become a school bus driver?

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – News 2 looked into the qualifications of area school bus drivers after the deadly crash in Chattanooga.

We found out Wilson County bus drivers operate 180 buses that run 140 routes daily. In order to drive a school bus, you must be at least 21 years old.

Drivers also go through extensive training. As part of their certification, they complete 30 hours of classroom training, get finger printed, and are required to pass a background check.

As bus driver trainer Sean Kennedy explained, they have an important job.

Sean Kennedy, bus driver trainer (Photo: WKRN)
Sean Kennedy, bus driver trainer (Photo: WKRN)

“Drivers know number one is safety. The kids’ lives, their lives, the link that we are in the community,” said Kennedy.

The school district provides training for the applicants Certified Driver’s License (CDL) and then the Department of Motor Vehicle will test them for a permit.

Next, behind-the-wheel training begins. A certified bus driver works with an applicant for 30 hours behind the wheel of a school bus.

The bus driver applicant must also go through state testing.

“We have to be honest and we have to be concerned with the lives of the children, and there are times when you have to let someone know this may not be for them,” Kennedy told News 2.

Shane Cook, assistant transportation director and service manager for Wilson County Schools (Photo: WKRN)
Shane Cook, assistant transportation director and service manager for Wilson County Schools (Photo: WKRN)

The Wilson County district has hired about 20 new school bus drivers this year. Kennedy says as many as 70 applicants did not get the job.

Shane Cook is the assistant transportation director and service manager for Wilson County Schools.
He told News 2 that their district recently purchased 12 news buses equipped with state-of-the-art technology to keep children safe.

“Some of the safety features that we have that we incorporated on our new buses is a type of brakes on all four axels that give us a stopping distance of up to 250 at 60 miles per hour,” said Cook.

The new busses are also equipped with 8 cameras that monitor children, and a backup camera inside the rear view mirror.

“We also have a GPS system that we can monitor inside our office that if a bus is speeding our dispatcher will get a flag that the driver is speeding down the highway,” said Cook.

When News 2 asked Cook if he feels school buses are safe for children, he responded, “Absolutely. Even with the tragedy yesterday, buses are still the safest mode of transportation for students.”

Here in Nashville, Metro school buses do not have seat belts as it’s not required in Tennessee, but each driver starts and ends their day with an inspection.

Joe Bass, spokesman for Metro Nashville Public Schools, said drivers also go through intense training courses for four to six weeks prior to hitting the road.

“It’s part of the process when we hire drivers, it’s a thorough background check – for criminal safety reason, and there’s a thorough background check on driving record as well. We take that very seriously,” he said.

Click here for every story on the Chattanooga school bus crash.