Licensing Standards for Church Bus and Van Drivers

Drivers, whether paid or volunteer, must have a commercial driver's license (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. Your ministry or your driver risk:

  • A heavy fine. Your organization also can face fines of up to $5,000 if it allows an individual to drive a commercial vehicle without a CDL or with suspended license.
  • A 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.