Passenger & School Bus Endorsements

Drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) with passengers are required to possess the proper endorsement according to the regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Below is information about the passenger and school bus endorsements needed to operate these types of vehicles. For information on other kinds of endorsements for commercial driver's licenses, visit our CDL Endorsements & Restrictions page.

Passenger vs. School Bus Endorsements

While the endorsements for carrying passengers versus driving a school bus seem very similar, the FMCSA notes specific distinctions for each.

Passenger Endorsement

Passenger “P" endorsements are required to drive passenger vehicles that can carry at least 16 passengers (to include the driver). You must know how to load/unload your passengers, respond to emergencies, handle troublesome passengers, and other tasks specific to carrying passengers of all ages.

School Bus Endorsement

To earn a school bus “S" endorsement, you must FIRST qualify for a passenger “P" endorsement. This means you must pass the “P" endorsement test prior to taking the “S" endorsement test.

A school bus endorsement requires you to be able to load and unload children, properly operate the lights, stop signs, and other warning devices on the school bus, and other needs specific to transporting children on a pre-determined bus route to and from their homes and their school.

Applying for a “P" or “S" Endorsement

The process for application for endorsement S or P will vary according to your state. In general, you can expect to:

  • Pass a written examination.
  • Apply for a commercial learner's permit (CLP) with the P and/or S endorsements.
    • A 10 Year History Record check is required as part of the application to ensure a history of safe driving.
    • You may be required to hold a CLP for a specific amount of time before you can test for your CDL endorsement.
      • With a CLP, you may only drive a commercial passenger vehicle with a supervising driver (without passengers).
  • Complete a medical assessment.
    • Most states require a physical examination that will determine whether or not you are physically able to operate a vehicle with children or passengers.
  • Pass a road driving skills test.
    • This test must be taken in the same type of vehicle you intend to operate.
      • Failure to do so may result in one or more CDL restrictions.
  • Apply for a new CDL with P and/or S endorsements.
  • Pay the associated fees.

Some school districts may also require a separate background checks prior to employment as a school bus driver in that district.

Passing the Examinations

To obtain an S or P endorsement, you will be required to take a written knowledge test and a road skills driving test. Though tests and format may differ slightly according to your state, here's what you can expect from the testing process:

Knowledge Tests

The information on the examination for your P and S endorsements will be taken directly from the associated sections of your state's Commercial Driver's License manual.

Remember that to obtain an “S" endorsement as a school bus driver, you must FIRST pass the knowledge test for the “P" passenger endorsement.

Passenger Endorsement Exam

For the P endorsement, you can expect questions pertaining to:

  • Safely unloading and loading passengers into the vehicle.
  • Operating emergency exits, and specifically push-out windows.
  • Emergency situations, such as:
    • Accidents.
    • Fires.
    • Dealing with hostile or unruly passengers.
  • Safe operation and defensive driving practices on roadways.
  • Braking procedures.
  • Proper procedures for railroad crossings and drawbridges.

School Bus Endorsement Exam

For the S endorsement, you can expect questions relating to:

  • How to safely load and unload children from a school bus.
  • Operation of safety devices, such as:
    • Stop signals.
    • External mirrors.
    • Flashing lights.
    • Warning devices.
    • Other vehicle safety devices.
  • Standard procedures for use of:
    • Emergency exits.
    • Evacuations.
    • Railroad crossings.
  • How to handle emergency situations.
  • Safe operation of the vehicle and defensive driving techniques on the road.

If you want to be fully prepared to pass the test, consider studying with an online CDL practice test.

Road Skills Test

For the road skills examination, you will be tested in each of the following areas:

  • Pre-trip inspection.
  • Vehicle control.
  • On-road driving.

In order to avoid certain restrictions on your CDL, you must take the test in the same type of vehicle for which you are applying to be licensed.

Job Opportunities for Passenger Drivers

Once you have obtained endorsement P and/or S on your CDL, you may be eligible for many new job opportunities, including:

  • School bus driver.
  • Airport shuttle driver.
  • Tour bus driver.
  • City bus driver.
  • Large taxi driver.
  • Courtesy bus driver (hotels).

For information on other types of endorsements you can obtain, check out our CDL Endorsements & Restrictions page.

Also be sure to visit our state-specific CDL guides for the requirements to earn a commercial driver's license in your state, as well as our page on CDL classifications.

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