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Old 08-27-2017, 07:32 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Conneaut, Ohio
Posts: 180
Year: 2004
Chassis: International CE 300
Engine: DT466E
Rated Cap: 71 passenger / 12 window
COMPLETE NEWBIE here, with some basic questions

Well, let's get the basic stuff out of the way first, shall we?

1) Do you need a CDL to drive a school bus if you are not going to be hauling more than 15 passengers?

2) What is the standard amperage rating of the alternator on a bus engine? (Figure a Cummins engine, because that seems to be the one that gets the most love.)

3) Is it relatively easy to find front-engine buses with the Cummins straight-6 diesel engine? (My mother-in-law, a bus driver for 15 years, said that the Cummins engine is the best and she has always preferred front-engine "conventional" buses because they feel safer.)

4) What is the standard floor-to-ceiling height inside a bus?

5) If I wanted to do a "roof raise", which I've read about, exactly how much could I expect to pay to have it done at a shop and would it compromise the safety of the bus in a rollover?

6) Can buses be outfitted with under-the-body storage such as compartments, water tanks, a place for a generator, etc? (If "yes", is there any disadvantage to doing so?)
RomaniGypsy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-27-2017, 07:50 AM   #2
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: iowa
Posts: 238
Year: 1998
Coachwork: bluebird
Chassis: chevy
Engine: 3116 catapillar
Rated Cap: formerly 71 now 2 or 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
Well, let's get the basic stuff out of the way first, shall we?

1) Do you need a CDL to drive a school bus if you are not going to be hauling more than 15 passengers?

2) What is the standard amperage rating of the alternator on a bus engine? (Figure a Cummins engine, because that seems to be the one that gets the most love.)

3) Is it relatively easy to find front-engine buses with the Cummins straight-6 diesel engine? (My mother-in-law, a bus driver for 15 years, said that the Cummins engine is the best and she has always preferred front-engine "conventional" buses because they feel safer.)

4) What is the standard floor-to-ceiling height inside a bus?

5) If I wanted to do a "roof raise", which I've read about, exactly how much could I expect to pay to have it done at a shop and would it compromise the safety of the bus in a rollover?

6) Can buses be outfitted with under-the-body storage such as compartments, water tanks, a place for a generator, etc? (If "yes", is there any disadvantage to doing so?)
1 cdl stands for commercial drivers licence so if you are not using the bus for profit or being paid to operate it is mostly no if you have air brakes you may need a air brake endorsement (as Canada does) but check your state dmv
2 usually 100 to 150 amps
3 check with local schools and personally i dont like using my feet as a front bumper (old old vw joke )
4 6 to 6.5 feet
5 most of us are doing our own so cost is a guess $450.00 in steel my labor still better than sticks and staples (who coined that phrase? sooo good)
6 yes under storage is a must just remember NEVER drill or weld a frame flange (the flat top and bottom) if you drill the side thats ok just keep it to a minimum. more on this at any truck dealer
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Old 08-27-2017, 09:37 AM   #3
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 1,362
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
Well, let's get the basic stuff out of the way first, shall we?

1) Do you need a CDL to drive a school bus if you are not going to be hauling more than 15 passengers?

2) What is the standard amperage rating of the alternator on a bus engine? (Figure a Cummins engine, because that seems to be the one that gets the most love.)

3) Is it relatively easy to find front-engine buses with the Cummins straight-6 diesel engine? (My mother-in-law, a bus driver for 15 years, said that the Cummins engine is the best and she has always preferred front-engine "conventional" buses because they feel safer.)

4) What is the standard floor-to-ceiling height inside a bus?

5) If I wanted to do a "roof raise", which I've read about, exactly how much could I expect to pay to have it done at a shop and would it compromise the safety of the bus in a rollover?

6) Can buses be outfitted with under-the-body storage such as compartments, water tanks, a place for a generator, etc? (If "yes", is there any disadvantage to doing so?)
1. Yes, when using it as a "bus", and with more than 15 passengers you'll also need a Passenger endorsement. If it's a private coach and you're taking a few friends to the game or races (and you know them all by name), you are not using it in any way, shape, form, or fashion as a business endeavor, then you may exempt the CDL and Passenger endorsement. It becomes the same as hauling them in an RV (since, for all intents and purposes, it's virtually the same thing).

2. Typically 150-200 amps. Depends on how the bus was spec'ed from the factory. 185 amp is a fairly typical requirement.

3. Yes. The 5.9 Cummins is more common than the 8.3 and, as might be expected, generates less power. Most folks with a full length bus and the 5.9 feel it is merely "adequate" power-wise and it will not ascend any hills quickly. Towing with one, while possible, will be woefully underpowered. IH also made fine engines, the T444 and DT466 which are very popular in buses and both have excellent reputations. The DT466 and Cummins 8.3 are highly preferable especially if one plans to do much towing or running in the mountains.

4. 6 feet is usually the "standard" but some buses are 6'6" inside.

5. Not many shops will do a roof raise because of liability issues. If, God forbid, that bus rolls and someone gets hurt, the lawyers will get involved and next thing you know, that shop is getting dragged into some huge lawsuit. Even if you do find a shop willing to do the work, it's fairly labor intensive and the hourly rate is likely to be fairly expensive. It is for these reasons owners often do their own roof raises. You might have good luck hiring out the actual welding work, however. If done correctly, the bus will be reasonably close to "factory standards" for safety; it sort of depends how much you raise the roof.

6. Yes. As Mr. Moore mentioned, *DO NOT* cut, drill, or weld the frame flanges under any circumstances. Make holes in the sides, as the factory did. As for liquid tanks, my preferred method is to salvage fuel tanks off a road tractor and use the brackets for 'em, since the engineering is already done for you. Aluminum isn't hard to weld if you know what you're doing, most competent shops can do it. For storage boxes and pretty much everything else, just keep in mind your ground clearance. On a long wheelbase bus, you'll have to enter parking lots, cross RR tracks, and the like so you don't want to "high-center" on them.
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Old 08-27-2017, 06:42 PM   #4
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Conneaut, Ohio
Posts: 180
Year: 2004
Chassis: International CE 300
Engine: DT466E
Rated Cap: 71 passenger / 12 window
I can say that the RV insurance company didn't declare my RV to be used for commercial purposes, even though I was using it as transportation to get to musical performances. They said that since I wasn't using it as an office where clients could visit, and because I wasn't transporting any paying clients in it, it was classified non-commercial.

Not that I'd mind getting a CDL if it were relatively inexpensive... I know nothing about them though.

I'm not worried about engine power... if the 5.9 Cummins were more reliable than the 8.3, I would take the 5.9 no matter what its power. When I had my RV, it was a 7.3 Power Stroke ("T444E"?), and though it had enough power, I always babied it on hills for the purpose of not overtaxing the transmission. I rarely put it up above 55 mph for that reason as well.

I'd need a 6'6" bus. Which makes / models are 6'6" floor to ceiling?

I'm not going to do my own "roof raise". I don't know how to weld and I'd probably screw it up badly. If I get a 6'6" bus, that's enough height. A roof raise would just make it handle worse in crosswinds, give it worse fuel mileage, and cause me to consume more energy or fuel for heating and cooling purposes.

With a 185 amp alternator, times 12 volts you get 2,220 watts maximum output. What is the strongest inverter that any of y'all would recommend I run off of an alternator of that strength?

I don't know if I would get a long wheelbase bus. I won't be doing a short bus, but I'm thinking I'd like to get a mid-size (perhaps 7 or 8 window) bus with a wheelchair lift (to make loading and unloading our musical equipment easy). I could compromise the wheelchair lift and load / unload from the rear door, but where we tend to go, it was hard enough finding parking for our 29' class C RV. I don't think it'd be any easier parking a 40' full-length bus.
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Old 08-27-2017, 07:44 PM   #5
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 1,362
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
I can say that the RV insurance company didn't declare my RV to be used for commercial purposes, even though I was using it as transportation to get to musical performances. They said that since I wasn't using it as an office where clients could visit, and because I wasn't transporting any paying clients in it, it was classified non-commercial.

Not that I'd mind getting a CDL if it were relatively inexpensive... I know nothing about them though.

I'm not worried about engine power... if the 5.9 Cummins were more reliable than the 8.3, I would take the 5.9 no matter what its power. When I had my RV, it was a 7.3 Power Stroke ("T444E"?), and though it had enough power, I always babied it on hills for the purpose of not overtaxing the transmission. I rarely put it up above 55 mph for that reason as well.

I'd need a 6'6" bus. Which makes / models are 6'6" floor to ceiling?

I'm not going to do my own "roof raise". I don't know how to weld and I'd probably screw it up badly. If I get a 6'6" bus, that's enough height. A roof raise would just make it handle worse in crosswinds, give it worse fuel mileage, and cause me to consume more energy or fuel for heating and cooling purposes.

With a 185 amp alternator, times 12 volts you get 2,220 watts maximum output. What is the strongest inverter that any of y'all would recommend I run off of an alternator of that strength?

I don't know if I would get a long wheelbase bus. I won't be doing a short bus, but I'm thinking I'd like to get a mid-size (perhaps 7 or 8 window) bus with a wheelchair lift (to make loading and unloading our musical equipment easy). I could compromise the wheelchair lift and load / unload from the rear door, but where we tend to go, it was hard enough finding parking for our 29' class C RV. I don't think it'd be any easier parking a 40' full-length bus.
1. A CDL doesn't have to be hard to get. Typically pass the "written"/knowledge test (most are on computers these days). After that, go with the examiner for a pre-trip, parking lot, and road test. School is *NOT* required.

2. The 5.9 is a reasonably reliable and well known engine. It *CANNOT* be rebuilt "In-frame" so if/when it needs a rebuild, it has to come out. The same is true for the 7.3/T444 engines (which are virtually the same thing, there are a few minor differences). Be advised there were a few years and models of the Cummins 5.9 that had issues (The KDP, from 1988-1998; this can be corrected if done prior to failure, and a later "53 block" problem affecting some '99-'02 models. The 53 Block failure can only be corrected with a new engine block. *THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO ALL '99-'02 MODELS*; only those with the "53" block casting number.) I would suggest considering IH engines prior to about 2007 (or whenever the MaxxForce designation came out; the emissions hardware and controls were a nightmare). The DT360, DT408, DT466, DT530 and Cummins 8.3 engines are all "sleeved"; they can be rebuilt "in frame" and all have excellent reputations for reliability.

You may occasionally see an IH 9.0L engine which was discontinued at the end of 1987. These all-mechanical engines had mixed reputations, my understanding is they were *extremely* reliable (in later years, once the head gasket issues were corrected), as long as operators didn't turn up the engines for higher speed and power, and didn't let them overheat. They're long out of production now, so be aware that parts are becoming scarce and some are already virtually impossible to find.

3. All makes and models (well, most of them) are available in both 6' and 6'6" headroom versions. School buses aren't Toyotas and aren't mass produced with "option packages" like a Corolla might be. States (and much more commonly, individual school districts) will order a batch of buses built to meet state spec's, local spec's (if any), whatever needs they have, and budget. If a county gives the bus barn "Here's $10 mil to buy 50 new buses", they can spend it all and load 'em up with as many options as that money will buy. Extra headroom, bigger engines, front & rear A/C, air ride suspensions, fancy radios, you name it. A smaller, poorer county might say "we need some new buses, get some bids and we'll go with the best one", so for those, they get smaller engines, no A/C, lower headroom ... you get the idea.

For your 6'6" of headroom, you're going to have to check each prospective bus. *Photos will be extremely helpful!* Members here are very knowledgeable and usually someone can tell you "That's a low headroom bus" based on simple photographic clues, or "I see [this clue] which usually indicates 78" headroom". I believe some Thomas models list the headroom as part of the "body designation" when you run the VIN.

4. I would not run a 2K watt inverter under constant load off of a 185 amp alternator. Simply driving the bus is going to use 20 amps or more of power just for the basic systems - gauges, ignition, solenoids, indicator lights, sensors, and whatnot. Put on the turn signals, or turning on the lights after dark, and your current draw goes up another 20 ... 40 ... or more amps. Cool night? Turn on some heat and your load goes up another 10 amps ... per heater. Wait, was that some mist on the windshield? Wipers add some more load. See where I'm going with this? You're up to somewhere between 50-100 amps just for the factory systems. You haven't even turned on the radio yet, or accounted for the 8-way flashers (you shouldn't be using these unless you are an actual school bus, picking up or dropping off kids). Trying to add another 150+ amp load from an inverter is going to be drawing from the batteries, and will likely greatly shorten the life of the alternator.

The inverter will be fine for smaller loads and short periods of time.

5. Sounds like you have already made one decision on what will serve you best. Now look for mid length buses that fit the other criteria you have selected ... or, in your case, still have yet to select.

I do have a shorty with a wheelchair lift and already it has come in immensely handy. I can foresee it getting a fair amount of use, and this is just for my own personal needs. If I were in your position, this is something I would not compromise on. Wheelchair lift buses are somewhat plentiful and not difficult to find. (Most exporters don't want them). I don't know what equipment you will need to haul, but I do know some musicians have some rather tall equipment so you'll want to account for this (if appropriate); some wheelchair buses have taller doors than others.
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