Working as a Tour Bus Driver
Driving a tour bus isn’t exactly a luxurious job but it’s very appealing to some – especially as a seasonal job that pays reasonably well, offers the opportunity to travel, and to meet people.
If you have considered getting into the travel and tourism industry now is a good time to do it. Drivers are needed in tourism hotspots throughout the world.
As a tour bus driver you will be on the road constantly, so you will have to be comfortable with not being in one place for long, and not being in an office environment. The bus will be your office, which is why you will also be required to look after the inside of the bus as you drive. You will need to make sure that the bus is clean for your passengers. Most of the time, the driver is also the tour guide. It will be your duty to make sure that the passengers are kept entertained and informed at all times, so provide interesting facts and anecdotes throughout the trip.
However, you need to be able to tell when you should stop talking and let them just take in the scenery. This is especially true on longer tours like the extended country tours that can stretch on for days. These can be emotionally draining for you, as the tour bus driver too, as you will need to be on constant alert, not only watching the road, but on what is happening around you inside as well. It is said that a bus driver needs to be able to hear a faint whisper as he or she drives, and that takes concentration.
For city tours and some long distance tours, a step-on guide or dedicated tour guide or director will be hired to provide the narration and plan the route, leaving you to simply concentrate on driving.
Even though you are driving the entire time, it is exciting work as you travel to new places and your work environment changes all the time. There is no boss looking over your shoulder all the time, but you do work for a company, so you will have to be on your best behavior, and you will have to report to your dispatcher every now and again or the tour director in charge. You will also need to be able to follow a strict schedule and know how to read time tables. It is a bit of a juggling act as you have to watch the traffic, watch the passengers and keep them informed at the same time.
Did You Know? Tour bus drivers are essentially their own boss when they are on the road.
Most employers require a minimum of a high school degree and a written test to get a job as a tour bus driver. However, you will also have to be armed with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). One of the first things that you will be asked is if you know all the road signs and the rules of the road. Some employers require the candidate to be over the age of 24 years, and you will need to be familiar with road rules in many different states, as they may differ from state to state.
The main requirement for a tour bus driver is to be a people’s person. Your main focus is the passenger, so you need to be friendly and make them feel at home with you. The next thing that most employers look at is your management skills and coordination. As you will be in charge of large numbers of groups, your employer will need to know if you will be able to handle some sort of crowd control if a problem arises or in the event of an emergency. You will also be in charge of running route management on the go.
Even if you possess the raw skills mentioned above most employers will require you to refine them by completing an in-house training course. Most training courses run for as little as 2 weeks to as long as 8 weeks before you are allowed on the road.
The first part of the course is written work. Here you will do a refresher on the road signs and learn the rules of the company you are going to be working for. You will learn about the state and municipal road regulations and what to do in emergency situations, as well as learn about passenger safety issues.
Once you are through the theory you are put to the test practically through a series of driving tests. You will be starting these tests with empty buses, in empty lots, but will eventually move to lightly congested roads and then eventually to heavily congested roads, learning how to maneuver the large vehicle in traffic. The final part of the test is in the form of timed runs, where you will be timed to drive through busy roads to make it to your destination on time, all the while providing narration and making your passengers feel at ease.
Aside from your CDL, in order to drive a motor coach, you will require an endorsement to carry passengers issued by State Motor Vehicle Administrations and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Salary & Benefits
As with any job in any industry the wage paid for any position depends on the country, the state and the company you are going to be working for.
A new tour bus driver can earn as little as $9 per hour, and work for long hours, while a veteran in the industry can earn up to $26 per hour and be able to choose the runs they make and when they make them. Apart from that, you get free food, you get to meet new people and see exciting things, as well as get free or discounted bus rides on company tours.
Although it can be stressful and tiring being a tour bus driver, getting the chance to drive cross country and visit local city sights, as well as meeting new people, is a real selling point for most drivers.
- Tour bus drivers are usually required to have a CDL or equivalent
- Driving tour buses can be very lucrative, with earnings reaching $70,000 a year
- It is beneficial to take a narration or public speaking course