How Do I Become a Transit Operator?

Jeremy Laukkonen

The specific requirements to become a transit operator can differ from one location to another, so you will need to inquire with your local government or transit authority to verify the specifics. Most employers require that potential employees have the equivalent of a high school education, and some also impose a written test on all new hires. A commercial driver's license (CDL) is usually required to become a transit operator, though some employers will provide the necessary training to take and pass the CDL test; licensing requirements may also vary depending on the type of vehicle to be operated. In order to succeed in this job, you will need to be alert, have reasonably good reflexes, and be comfortable with driving for long periods of time.

Many transit operators are employed by urban commuter train lines.
Many transit operators are employed by urban commuter train lines.

Transit operators are individuals who drive buses, streetcars, light rail, and other types of municipal transit. Most transit operators drive buses, which requires the operator to follow a fixed route each day, make predetermined stops at specific times, and sometimes also operate the door for passengers. Transit bus drivers typically need to be comfortable driving large vehicles in heavy traffic and adverse weather conditions. Other forms of transit are more highly automated, in which case the transit operator must also be familiar with all of the computer systems and controls present in the vehicle.

If you want to become a transit operator, you will typically need to graduate from high school or obtain an equivalent degree or certification. Another common requirement is a certain amount of prior driving experience, specifically in high traffic situations. Some employers will not hire you if you have had your license for less than two to five years. If you already possess a commercial driver's license, that may help you stand out when applying for the job. Many employers will provide classroom training though, which is designed to prepare a new employee for the CDL test and to become a transit operator.

There are also a number of skills and qualities that can help you become a transit operator. Since transit operator jobs require you to navigate large vehicles through potentially crowded areas, you must be capable of remaining alert and aware of your surroundings for long periods of time, and maintaining your composure under stress. Good reflexes are typically necessary as well, especially if you plan on driving a large bus through high traffic areas. Some employers also require a background in customer service, since transit operators are often faced with difficult or unruly passengers. This can make it important for transit operators to have the necessary people skills to diffuse difficult situations.

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