Make Sure Church and School Bus and Van Drivers are Up to Licensing Standards 

A valid driver's license for a personal vehicle is not substantial enough to get behind the wheel of your church or school bus or 16 person passenger van. 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.

Commercial Drivers License Requirements

CDL requirements vary by state, so you’ll need to check with your state transportation department for details.

Typically, your drivers will be required to take the following for their CDL:

  • Skills Test - 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.
  • General Knowledge Test
  • Endorsement Test (eg. school bus endorsement, passenger endorsement)
  • Airbrakes Exam (if your vehicle has airbrakes)
  • Vision Test
  • Training Program - in some states this is required before testing.
  • Learning or Practice Permit - in some states this may be required before obtaining the CDL.

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.

Penalties

The penalties for driving a church or school bus, large passenger van, or other commercial vehicle without a CDL can be severe. Your organization or your driver risk the following:

  • 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.

Additional Resources


Updated June 2021

The information provided on this page is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.