Requirements for Head Start Bus Drivers

Criteria are identified to assist Head Start agencies in evaluating candidates for Bus Driver. Local needs must be considered when a program establishes its own transportation services.

Note: This resource is under review.

The following is an excerpt from the Transportation PathFinder.

The Bus Driver is responsible for safely operating the bus or alternative vehicle to transport children to and from their homes and the Head Start centers. In this capacity, the Bus Driver is often the first and the last person that both a parent and a child see each program day.

A Head Start agency must ensure that prospective candidates for a Bus Driver position meet the federal requirements for qualifications in addition to state, local or Tribal requirements according to 45 CFR 1310.16.

  • Prior finalizing the hiring of a Bus Driver, an agency must be sure the applicant:
    1. possess a clean driving record
    2. passes a criminal background check
    3. passes a screening for alcohol and drugs
    4. passes a physical examination and is able to lift 50 pounds
    5. passes a tuberculosis (TB) test
    6. has good hearing and at least 20/40 vision with or without glasses
  • Bus Drivers are REQUIRED to be of legal age and hold a valid Commercial Driver's License (CDL) with an "S" endorsement in those states conferring such licenses.
  • Bus Drivers should have KNOWLEDGE about federal, state, local, or Tribal transportation requirements. Further, they should know the geographic locale and, whenever possible, the language spoken by the families served.
  • Bus Drivers should have SKILLS AND ABILITIES to problem solve and provide leadership whenever an emergency situation occurs.
  • Bus Drivers may have had prior EXPERIENCE with safely transporting children.
  • Bus Drivers who are hired must receive a combination of classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel instruction PRIOR to transporting any children. This training involves the following:
    • operating the vehicle in a safe and efficient manner;
    • safely running a fixed route;
    • administering basic first aid in case of an injury;
    • handling emergency situations, including vehicle evacuation procedures;
    • operating special equipment such as a wheelchair lift; assistance devices or special occupant restraints;
    • conducting routine maintenance and safety checks of the vehicle;
    • orientation on the goals and philosophy of Head Start and how they are implemented by the program.
  • Bus Drivers must maintain accurate records regarding their vehicle and children who are being transported. The record-keeping includes:
    1. Accident reports
    2. Pre- and post-trip inspections for the operation of the vehicle
    3. Regular ongoing maintenance records
    4. Contact information for release of a child to a parent or guardian
    5. Establish written fixed bus routes and if necessary, alternate routes
  • Bus Drivers may escort children to their classroom and convey any messages from parents to the teacher, as well as any incidents on the bus.
  • Bus Drivers need to collaborate with the Bus Monitor to teach children safe riding practices and safety procedures on and off the bus.
  • Bus Drivers need to maintain a safe and clean environment inside and outside the bus through regular cleanings.
  • Bus Drivers need to maintain their assigned vehicle and ensure that appropriate safety inspections have been completed for its operation as required by federal, state, Tribal, or local authorities.
  • Bus Drivers need to attend regular training for reporting child abuse and neglect and topics related to caring for disabled children.
  • Each Bus Driver must have an annual evaluation that includes an on-board observation of their performance while driving a bus route.
  • Bus Drivers need to serve as a role model for children riding the bus and in contacts with parents or guardians.

Note: This tip sheet is intended to assist Head Start agencies with selecting candidates for being the Bus Driver. Local needs must be considered when a program establishes its own transportation services.