To drive a bus, you’ll first need to have a category D heavy vehicle licence. However, there are some rules and exceptions related to your age, driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) and whether you have passed your Passenger Carrying Vehicle driving test.
You might already have a category D licence or the ability to drive a heavy vehicle through acquired rights – you can check here. Acquired rights means that you passed an equivalent licence or gained enough experience prior to the current regime. – but if not, here’s the process.
In general, you need to have a full car licence, be over 18 and have a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence to be a lorry, bus or coach driver. The Driver CPC is mandatory if you drive a lorry, bus or coach as the main part of your job.
When don’t you need to do full Driver CPC?
You won’t need full Driver CPC:
- If you don’t want to drive for a living, e.g. you’re carrying passengers or goods in a bus non-commercially or for a hobby
- If you’re driving the bus to an MOT check
- If driving a bus is incidental to your job, e.g. you’re just carrying tools in it
- When driving within 100km/62 miles of your regular base (as long as you’re not carrying passengers or goods and driving a lorry, bus or coach isn’t your main job
- If you’re using the bus to maintain public order and the vehicle is being used or controlled by a local authority
- If you are on a rescue mission or it’s a state of emergency
- If the bus is limited to a top speed of 28mph
- when the bus is being used or controlled by the armed forces, police, fire and rescue, prison services or people running a prison or young offender institution.
You will need to have passed part 1 (theory) and part 3 (driving ability) tests.
How to apply to be a bus driver
You must fill out forms D2 and D4 from DVLA and send them to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BR. There’s no application fee. You can order the forms here.
You will receive your driving licence within 3 weeks of DVLA receiving your application.
How to get and maintain your Driver CPC
- Apply for a provisional lorry or bus licence using forms D2 and D4
- Pass the four Driver CPC tests
- Take 35 hours of periodic training every 5 years to stay qualified
- Renew your licence every 5 years until age 65, then every year after that.
Part 1 is the theory test. You can do this as soon as you have your provisional licence. It’s made up of two parts: multiple choice and hazard perception. You must book both parts separately, but you can take them both on the same day. You must pass both of them without two years of each other to get your theory test certificate.
The test is 1 hour 55 minutes and you must get at least 85 correct out of 100 questions.
In the hazard perception videos, there are 19 videos with 20 developing hazards to spot. You can’t review your answers and the pass mark is 67 out of 100. If you pass, you can book part 3 (it must be completed within two years of passing part 1).
Part 2 consists of case studies. You can do this before you do part 1. You’ll work through seven case studies which are short stories based on situations you’re likely to come across while working. Each case study has 6-8 multiple-choice questions and the whole test lasts for 1 hour 15 minutes. You must get at least 40 out of 50 correct. Now you can book part 4.
Once you have part 1 completed, you can book the driving ability test. You must provide a bus or coach that meets the rules. The test is 1 hour 30 minutes and you’ll do practical road driving, off-road exercises and will be asked vehicle safety questions.
Practical road driving test
The examiner will be checking for how you:
- use the vehicle’s controls
- move away at an angle, uphill and downhill
- do a controlled stop
- use the mirrors
- give appropriate signals
- show awareness and anticipation of other road users’ intentions
- manage your progress and control your vehicle speed
- deal with hazards
- select a safe place to stop
There will also be 10 minutes of independent driving, designed to test your ability to drive safely while making independent decisions.
The off-road exercises will include:
- an ‘S’ shaped reverse into a bay
- showing the uncoupling and recoupling procedure if you’re taking a test with a trailer
You will pass if you’ve made 15 or fewer driving faults and no serious or dangerous faults. You must wait at least three clear working days before you can take the test again if you fail.
You must have passed part 2. You’ll be tested on five topics from the Driver CPC syllabus and must score at least 15 out of 20 in each topic area for a minimum overall score of at least 80 out of 100.
You’ll be tested on safe loading, stopping trafficking in illegal immigrants, assessing emergency situations, reducing physical risks to yourself and others and how to do a walkaround pre-start check.
Once you have finished parts 3 and 4 you will be sent a Driver CPC card (sometimes called a DQC or driver qualification card) and you must carry this at all times while driving in a lorry, bus or coach professionally.
Is there a way of working as a bus driver without doing full Driver CPC?
Yes. If you are doing a National Vocational Training (NVT) course, you can drive professionally for up to 12 months without taking the Driver CPC part 2 and part 4 tests.
Driving a bus at age 17
The only way you can drive a bus when you’re 17 is if you’re a member of the armed forces.
Driving a bus at age 18
The only ways you can drive a bus when you’re 18 are if you’re learning to either:
- get your Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)
- take your Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) driving test
Driving a minibus or other category D1 vehicle
You can drive a category D1 vehicle if you’ve passed your PCV driving test and have one of the following:
- a Driver CPC
- a bus operator’s licence
- a minibus permit
- a community bus permit
As well as that, you can only drive this type of vehicle if:
- you’re not carrying any passengers
- or you are carrying passengers, but driving on a regular route that’s less than 31 miles
- or you don’t drive the vehicle abroad.
Driving a bus at 20
If you’ve passed your PCV driving test and got your Driver CPC you can drive a bus in the UK at age 20. You can’t drive a bus abroad.
Driving a bus at 21
If you’ve passed your PCV driving test and got your Driver CPC, you can drive a bus in the UK and abroad.
You can also drive a bus in the UK when you’re 21 if the bus is either:
- being used by the fire service or by the police to maintain public order
- being road tested after it’s been repaired or serviced
Once you have your bus licence, you can begin to work as a bus driver.