Passenger Endorsement in California

A passenger endorsement is a certification that a person is required to obtain in order to drive a passenger transportation vehicle (such as a bus) in California. A driver gets the endorsement by securing the necessary permits and passing DMV tests.

There are two main types of endorsements in California – P and S. A “P certification” lets a driver operate any vehicle that holds 16 passengers or more. A “S certification” allows a person to drive a school bus.

In addition, some commercial drivers will need to obtain an endorsement if they want to transport passengers in a Class B or Class C vehicle. These endorsements are generally referred to as:

  • a Class B with passenger endorsement, and
  • a Class C with passenger endorsement.

Note that drivers qualified to operate a passenger transportation vehicle are subject to:

Our DMV hearing attorneys will explain the following in this article:

excited man holding certificate
A passenger endorsement is a certification that a person must get to drive a passenger transportation vehicle

1. What is a passenger endorsement?

A passenger endorsement is a certification that a person must get to in order to operate a passenger transportation vehicle in California.1

The California DMV issues the endorsements after a motorist:

  1. passes certain exams, and
  2. obtains requisite permits.2

Examples of a “passenger transportation vehicle” are:

  • a bus,
  • a farm labor vehicle,
  • an airport shuttle, and
  • a general public paratransit vehicle.

Once a person earns a passenger endorsement, he/she can enter such occupations as:

  • school bus driver,
  • airport shuttle chauffeur,
  • tour bus driver, and
  • city bus operator.

Note that California requires drivers to earn passenger endorsements in order to:

  1. safeguard drivers and the general public, and
  2. promote fewer traffic and vehicle accidents.3

2. What is a Passenger P certification?

A Passenger P endorsement allows a person to operate:

  • any vehicle,
  • that transports 16 people or more.

A driver must demonstrate some of the following to earn this certification:

  • proper loading and unloading techniques involving passengers,
  • ability to respond to emergencies, and
  • proper techniques to respond to an unruly passenger.

Drivers must all show that they can transport passengers of:

  • all ages, and
  • all physical abilities.

Note that California does have a 15-passenger van law. This law states that a driver must have a special permit to drive a van that is:

  • designed,
  • used, or
  • maintained to carry 15 persons or less.4

Even if drivers has this permit, they must still acquire a Passenger P certification to transport 16 people or more.

3. What is a Passenger S certification?

A Passenger S endorsement allows a driver to operate a school bus.

A motorist is eligible for this endorsement only if he/she has first received a C certification. This is because a school bus driver must perform all of the same procedures that a C certificate holder can.

In addition, a person has to show that he or she understands the essentials of transporting children along specific bus routes.

school bus
An endorsement is required to drive a school bus

4. Do endorsements apply to other commercial vehicles?

The vehicles discussed above are all commercial vehicles. This means that to operate them, a driver must have both:

  1. a commercial driver's license, and
  2. the applicable endorsement.

In general, there are three main classes of commercial driver's licenses in California – A, B, and C.5

A driver needs one of these to operate that corresponding class of vehicle.

Note, however, that a driver may want to transport passengers with a given commercial vehicle (that is not mentioned above). In these cases, a driver will have to get a passenger endorsement for the class of vehicle he/she drives.

For example, if a driver operates a class B vehicle and wants to transport passengers, then:

  • the driver will be required to obtain,
  • a class B with passenger endorsement.

Similarly, if a driver operates a Class C vehicle and wants to transport passengers, then:

  • the driver will be required to obtain,
  • a class C passenger endorsement.

The process of doing this is sometimes referred to as “adding an endorsement to a California cdl.”

5. What are the exams a driver must pass?

A person can only earn a passenger endorsement if he/she first passes specific DMV tests. These include both:

  • a knowledge test, and
  • a skills test.6

The knowledge test includes questions on:

  • the procedures and tasks drivers are expected to know when driving/working, and
  • the systems and safety features specific to passenger transportation vehicles.7

The skills test is taken “in the field” A driver must:

  1. drive a vehicle like the one he/she intends to operate, and
  2. demonstrate to a DMV employee that he/she has the proper skills to handle the vehicle.

Drivers interested in obtaining a passenger endorsement are encouraged to study the California Commercial Driver Handbook.

Drivers are also encouraged to take a California passenger endorsement practice test.

This is sometimes referred to as a “California cdl passenger endorsement practice test.”

6. What is the process to apply for these endorsements?

To obtain a full certification, a person must complete several steps after passing the exams. Some of these are to:

  1. complete an assessment to earn a Commercial Learner's Permit, and
  2. obtain a medical evaluation.

The evaluation is necessary for the driver to show that:

  • he or she is physically capable of driving a passenger transportation vehicle, and
  • can do so with commuters onboard.

7. What are some laws that impact drivers of passenger transportation vehicles?

Drivers qualified to operate a passenger transportation vehicle are subject to:

  • Vehicle Code 23152d VC, the commercial vehicle DUI law, and
  • Vehicle Code 21702 VC, the law regulating driving hours for bus drivers.

7.1. Vehicle Code 23152d

Vehicle Code 23152d is California's “commercial DUI” law. It makes it a crime for a person to drive a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04% or higher.8

When a driver is driving a non-commercial vehicle (e.g., a car), then:

  1. California's standard legal limit of .08% applies, and
  2. a driver must attend an admin per se hearing if he/she violates it.

Violations of VC 23152d are punishable by:

7.2. Vehicle Code 21702

Vehicle Code 21702 VC is the California statute that limits driving hours for:

  • bus drivers, and
  • truck drivers.10

Under this section, no bus driver may drive:

  • for more than 10 consecutive hours in a day,
  • for more than 10 hours in a 15-hour period, and
  • for more than 10 hours in a day, unless 8 hours of off-duty time.11

A driver that violates VC 21702 is guilty of a misdemeanor.12

The driver will receive a fine. The fine amount is between $100 and $1,000.13

For additional help...

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Legal References:

  1. DMV Website – Transporting Passengers Safely.

  2. See same.

  3. See same.

  4. See same.

  5. California DMV Website – California Driver License Classes.

  6. See same.

  7. See same.

  8. California Vehicle Code 23152d VC.

  9. These are examples of the penalties and sentencing conditions for California Vehicle Code 23152, including VC 23152d. They are a summary of the possible punishments for a defendant's first, second or third California DUI offense, as set forth in Vehicle Code sections 23538, 23540 and 23546.

  10. California Vehicle Code 21702 VC.

  11. California Vehicle Code 21702a VC.

  12. California Vehicle Code 21702e VC.

  13. See same.

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