How Do You Become a Bus Operator?

Jan 10, 2019

There are lots of reasons why people drive for TriMet. 

Some are attracted by the pay and others by the great benefits. For many, it’s a stable job with opportunities to grow. More still don’t want to be cooped up in an office all day and would rather see the city and interact with people. For most, it’s a combination of all these.

No matter what the motivation, the process of becoming a TriMet bus operator is the same. Here’s what you can expect.


Several times per week, Operations Recruiter Chartisha Roberts reviews online applications. While a consistent work history is important, two things make an application stand out. First is a professional driving history. This is valued but not a requirement. Second is a background in customer service. It’s easier to teach somebody how to drive a bus than it is how to interact with people in a professional and respectful manner.

If your application passes the initial review, Chartisha orders your driving records — a safe driving history is a must — and asks for verification of your high school diploma or GED. About half our operators have a college degree, even though it’s not required for the role, estimates Chartisha. 

Orientation and Group Interview

If your education and driving history check out, you’re invited to an orientation and testing session that’s offered twice a week. For the first hour, Chartisha will walk you through the role. Then you’ll have three pre-employment tests to complete. Two of them are video tests featuring scenarios that could happen on a bus; we want people who are helpful and aware of their surroundings. The third test is a personality assessment that helps us identify safety-minded people with the right disposition for operating a bus in a busy city.

You could get this far in the process within a week of applying

Each orientation is attended by 5 and 12 applicants. Sometimes everybody passes and moves on, but usually we’ll lose a couple people. Those who do pass are invited back to a group panel interview. These interviews happen every Thursday and take about 90 minutes. If an applicant is motivated, they could get this far in the process within a week of applying.

Background check and CDL permit

Those who pass the group interview are invited back to complete paperwork and get fingerprinted for a background check. You’ll also need to go to the DMV to get your CDL learner’s permit (if you don’t already have a one, or a CDL) and visit our doctor to make sure you’re medically fit for the job. We’ll also check your references — three from supervisors and two from co-workers — and conduct drug screenings. Even though we have tolerant laws and attitudes towards many substances in Oregon, you must be able to pass a drug test to be hired as a bus operator.


If everything checks out — congrats! You’ve got an offer to drive for us. You’ll now join a class of 22 new hires for paid training — $15.16 an hour. Five days a week for the next six weeks you’ll be in the classroom, a simulator and (primarily) on the road learning how to be a bus operator. 

After the six weeks of training, you’ll need to pass the CDL test with the DMV. We’ll pay for your test and you have two chances to pass. Training completed and license in hand, you’ll become a part-time bus operator working 30 hours per week. You’ll get an immediate raise to $17.16 an hour, with guaranteed raises every four months for the next three years.

After training, you’ll get an immediate raise to $17.16 an hour

During your 6 month probationary period, your training class will meet monthly. Expect a welcoming environment, a benefit of our hiring friendly people with strong social skills.

Want to work full-time?

Every operator starts part-time with TriMet, but you should have the opportunity to go full time after a month or two. And if you want to become a rail operator, you can apply as soon as your probationary period is over.

It takes some effort, but in the end you’ll have a job you can stay this about:

Sound interesting?

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