Safety Library

Tips, Tutorials, and Checklists to help manage ministry risks

Licensing Standards for Church Bus and Van Drivers

Driving large vehicles may come with extra requirements

Parked red church bus

Drivers, whether paid or volunteer, must have a CDL if they operate a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight greater than 26,000 pounds or a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver.

CDL applicants are required to pass:
  • Comprehensive written tests.
  • A vision test.
  • In some cases, a road skills test in the class or type of vehicle for which they are making application.
General Knowledge Test
  • Most church bus drivers will take a 50-question general knowledge test.
  • A 20-question special knowledge test on transporting passengers is also required.
  • Drivers operating vehicles with air brakes will take a second special knowledge test.
  • Drivers must pass each section of the test with an 80 percent score.
  • Most states will allow an applicant a second and even third try at passing the test.
Examples of possible test questions:
  • On the road, how do you find out how many seconds of following distance space you have?
  • What items should be checked during a pre-trip inspection?
  • Stopping is not always the safest thing to do during an emergency. True or false?
  • What is a standee line?
Skills Test

The skills test takes one to two hours and includes a pre-trip inspection and a road test in the type of vehicle you plan to drive. The driver is responsible to supply his or her own vehicle.

Skills Test Waiver

If you have experience driving a church bus or large passenger van, you may not have to take the skills test. To waive the requirement, you must have a good driving record and document that you have driven the vehicle for a period of at least two years.

Test Fees

Generally, you will pay $10 to $60 for a four-year CDL, depending on your state. Additional fees may be charged for the road skills test.


The penalties for driving a church bus, large passenger van, or other commercial vehicle without a CDL can be severe:

  • A heavy fine (Your organization can also face fines of up to $5,000 if it allows an individual without a CDL, or suspended license, to drive a ministry vehicle classified as commercial.)
  • Suspended license (Leaving the scene of an accident or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will result in a one-year license suspension.)
  • Possible jail time
Reporting Requirements

All states are connected to one computer system that monitors CDL driving records.

  • Volunteers or paid staff must inform you of all driving jobs they have held for the past 10 years if they wish to drive a commercial vehicle for you.
  • A driver must notify the church or ministry within 30 days of a conviction for a traffic violation. This is true no matter what type of vehicle you were driving.
Safety First

Well-trained drivers, teamed with a regular bus maintenance program, greatly reduce the likelihood of a church vehicle accident. Commercial driver's license standards will assist organizations in their efforts to screen and train those responsible for transporting children and adults.

(Adapted from an article in The Deacon's Bench, Volume 3, Issue 2)