To drive a bus on a public road in New Zealand you will need the correct class of licence plus a P endorsement, which you can apply for through NZTA.
Licence classes are organised by maximum vehicle weight and the number of axles.
For minibuses with 11 passengers or fewer, you can use a car licence. These will most likely be vans that have been fitted with seats. You’ll need to have had a clean full licence for two years.
For two-axle buses, you will need a class 2 licence. These include small coaches, larger minibuses and urban buses.
For 3-axle buses, bendi-buses, large coaches and those over 18 tonnes (some double-decker buses), you’ll need a class 4 licence.
Which licence class should you get?
Once you have a class 2 licence, the class 4 licence is the easiest of all the licences, especially if you do it immediately after you are eligible (3 months if you are aged 25 or older, or 6 months if you are under 25). This means that you won’t have to repeat unit standard 24089 (logbooks and work time). The pre-study is minimal and the test drive will take around two hours.
A class 4 licence gives you the most flexibility and opens your job up to the better-paying work which tends to be in the tourist and long-distance markets. However, don’t expect to get rich driving buses unless you own your own company.
Bus and coach drivers get paid more in Europe than they do in New Zealand. Most bus driving jobs start fairly near minimum wage unless they are for specific purposes and markets or in difficult locations.
With training, you will move up to driving the best quality coaches and perhaps doing commentary drives for tourists. Having a second language can help for this market.
What other tests will you need?
You’ll need to pass a medical and eyesight test (this is part of your class 2 licence) and have a background check to prove you are a ‘fit and proper person‘.
There are jobs driving buses ‘airside’ or on airport property. It’s best to contact the companies that operate these as there is limited scope in New Zealand (only Auckland), but much more scope overseas.