The Passenger Endorsement: How to Drive Passengers with Your CDL

by Joshua on January 15, 2014

If you are looking to drive vehicles with the means of transporting fifteen passengers or more, then you will need to obtain a Commercial Drivers License at a registered DMV centre. The DMV operates and standardises all driving tests to ensure that everyone on the road is a safe driver with equal skills. Those who are already in possession of a CDL may submit to have the Passenger (P) endorsement added to their license.

What is the Commercial Drivers License?

Obtaining a Commercial Drivers License is the first step on the road to becoming a legal driver of passenger vehicles. The Department of Motor Vehicles issues a license on completion of a set of tests, both written and practical. In some states, vision tests and medical reports are also required before you can begin to work towards the license. The CDL ensures that you can undertake routine checks of the vehicle understand its dimensions and limitations and can drive safely on the road with other road users. Driving a commercial vehicle necessitates understanding how to make complex maneuvers with what can be a more unwieldy vehicle and therefore the testing is suitably both fair and rigorous. To apply for the CDL, contact your local DMV office to arrange a test.

Who Needs the ‘P’ Endorsement?

You probably now have a Class C Commercial Drivers License, which is designed for anyone either transporting hazardous material, or driving more than fifteen passengers. Please note that the number of passengers may vary by state. To further specialize this Class C license, the ‘P’ endorsement can then be attached to your license.

The ‘P’ endorsement is for anyone potentially driving fifteen passengers or more, so this may include drivers of school buses, service buses, student transport vehicles, airport shuttles and even limousines. For those driving school buses, an ‘S’ endorsement to the license is also required, ensuring you can deal with the particular challenges of driving for children. Most states require that a ‘P’ endorsement is achieved prior to the further specialization of the ‘S’.

Test Remit

The ‘P’ endorsement is tested by both a knowledge and a skills test. Both are designed to ensure drivers have the following key competencies in addition to the standard requirements of the General test of the CDL:

  • Vehicle inspection: Must check emergency exits work and are signaled; aisle and stairwells are clear; floor is safe to walk on and unobstructed; seats are secured in place; if the roof hatch is open, the additional clearance height of the vehicle is understood.
  • Safe loading/unloading of passengers: passengers have time to sit or brace themselves before departure; only allow standing when the bus is designed to allow it; store luggage to cause no obstruction; watch for hazardous materials – Federal law states that all hazardous materials are marked and most cannot be stored on a passenger vehicle.
  • Driving techniques: stopping times and braking procedures; turning so as not to risk injuring passengers; managing the space ahead of the vehicle.
  • Passenger management: enforcing rules such as passengers not reaching out of windows or distracting the driver; dealing with disruptive passengers safely; communicating delays and adverse circumstances.
  • Emergency situations: protecting lives; shepherding evacuations.

As these skill sets will be tested with a range of written questions and a practical test on the road, it is important that those applying for the ‘P’ endorsement of their CDL study the written materials and have practice lessons with a qualified instructor. If your employer does not supply you with a trainer as part of your job training, then the DMV centre may also be able to find you find adequate instruction.

Sample Questions for Knowledge Test

1. In what position should the emergency door be when operating the vehicle?

a) Closed
b) With a red-light on
c) Open to allow passage of fresh air

2. Which of the following is true about curved mirrors?

a) They don’t need to be checked
b) Objects appear further away and smaller in them
c) They are illegal and should be reported.

3. What positions should the wheels be in when preparing to turn left?

a) Right
b) Left
c) Straight

4. Which shape are hazmat labels?

a) Diamond
b) Circular
c) Triangular

5. Can passengers stand?

a) No, never
b) Yes, on certain buses and not before the standee line
c) Yes, whenever there aren’t enough seats

For answers, see end of article.

Obtaining the ‘P’ endorsement for a Commercial Drivers License means studying the particularities of the vehicle you will be driving and understanding the additional duties you have as a driver responsible for ‘precious cargo’ such as people. The ‘P’ endorsement provides evidence of these skills and for those wishing to specialize in driving school buses, it is a necessary and enlightening step prior to the separate ‘S’ endorsement. Laws and specifications do change between states so it is always wise to research the rules within your state boundaries.

  1. Answers:
    1a, 2b, 3c, 4a, 5b.
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