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Old 11-30-2016, 10:56 PM   #1
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Largish number of passengers in conversion (15 total people)

Hi all,
First, I'm a new member and this is my first post. I tried the search first to see if anyone had posted something similar, but I didn't find a perfect match. But I'm sure I'm not the only one with these thoughts. Anyhow, thanks to a fortuitous job situation (relatively few hours, and all internet-based work), and thanks to the fact that we homeschool our kids, I got to thinking that it's about time to do a cross-country road trip. However, with 5 kids, our minivan - which works fine around town - gets a tad cramped for longer trips - and in addition to the 5 kids, I have a handful of other family members in the area, so we frequently find ourselves fulling packing 2 minivans as a group.

So, all that to say, I'm considering various big-vehicle options for a road trip, and a school bus conversion seems like it to be a neat idea. However, for maximum flexibility, I'd like to leave in as many seats as I can without getting a CDL. The limit for normal vehicles is 15 people in a car. However, most RVs seem to have far fewer seats, since most of the space is dedicated to living, rather than sitting. So
a) Is it legal to have an RV conversion with seating for 15 people? Or are there some laws that limit the number of seats in an RV or RV conversion to some lower number? If so what's that number?
b) Any problems getting insurance with a higher number of passenger seats?
c) Has anyone else on this board done that before?
d) What's the essence of registering something as an RV? At what point does something cease being a bus and become an RV? (It seems that there are advantageous laws for registering RV's vs other large vehicles - however, I'd prefer not to install, say, a fancy kitchen if I don't have to.)

At the moment, I've spotted an inexpensive 35-foot Blue Bird. So, I'd leave in the driver seat, and then have 3 rows of 4 seats, and one row of 2 seats, and then have the back ~15 feet or so set aside for sleeping and sanitation. (And probably have some rows of seats pop out to use as additional sleeping space.)

Thanks for the help and comments in advance!
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Old 11-30-2016, 11:23 PM   #2
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If you're pretty good with tools you could fabricate some couches that would fold down into beds for some of your seating while leaving a row or two of bus seats, and build in some bunk beds and/or hammock framing for the rest of the sleeping arrangement.

Friend of mine had a bunk type futon setup that was a twin bunk on top, with a couch/full size futon beneath. Maybe replicate that setup x 3 or 4, whatever you need. (5 of them would sleep 15)



As long as you keep the number of passengers to 15 or less you avoid the CDL requirement, though if titled/registered as RV, passenger vehicle, what have you (dependent on whatever state you're in) that should not really matter.
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Old 12-01-2016, 03:50 AM   #3
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Actually the number 15 is supposed to include the driver.

15 or more plus the driver will require your RV to be licensed as a bus, it will require a CDL with passenger endorsement and air brakes if it has air brakes, and in some states in order to renew the license on your bus you will need to get a USDOT number. Once you get a USDOT number you will then have to comply with all of the minutiae of living and working under USDOT/FMSCA compliance regulations. Things like duty hours, IFTA, driver records, vehicle records, drug testing policy, pre-employment drug tests, random drug testing, and all other manner of aggravations become the norm.

I know others on this forum have had different experiences. What I am sharing is specific to WA state. Here in WA state it doesn't matter how you use your bus but how your bus is licensed. Even if the bus is used for personal use only and you never plan to charge anyone to ride on your bus it will still be considered a commercial vehicle and subject to all of the USDOT, FMSCA, and WUTC rules and regulations. Church buses, private schools, YMCA's, farmers, etc here in WA all have to comply if they own and operate any vehicle that can transport more than 14 passengers.

Once you gravitate out of the realm of RV insurance and fall into commercial bus insurance the cost of your insurance will go up exponentially. If you can find anyone who will write coverage for you.

As far as getting your vehicle licensed and titled as an RV, every state has different requirements. Going to three different licensing agents could get you five or more different answers as to what you will need.

Almost every state requires the majority of the seats removed, all of the stop arm/crossing arm, overhead warning lights removed or inoperative, some sort of sleeping arrangement (an air mattress thrown on the floor usually passes that inspection), some sort of kitchen (a Coleman stove and an ice box will usually suffice), and some sort of toilet and wash up ability is required (a porta-potti or a toilet seat on a 5-gallon bucket with kitty litter in the bucket has been know to pass this hurdle) is usually all you need to pass inspection. It will help greatly if the bus is no longer National School Bus Chrome Yellow with black stripes.

If you need to transport more than 14 passengers you will still need to take more than one vehicle.

Good luck and happy trails to you.
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Old 12-01-2016, 04:09 AM   #4
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Part 383 of the FMCSA regs states that operators of recreational vehicles do NOT have to have a CDL as long as the vehicle is used strictly for non-business activities.

See question 3:
https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/part/383
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Old 12-01-2016, 04:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlleyCat67 View Post
Part 383 of the FMCSA regs states that operators of recreational vehicles do NOT have to have a CDL as long as the vehicle is used strictly for non-business activities.

See question 3:
https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/part/383

But, scroll down to question 9.
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Old 12-01-2016, 05:01 AM   #6
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Jerks.

I can see an anal state like NY, NJ or CA doing that. They like to over-regulate everything.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:18 AM   #7
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in OHIO there is no stipulations to how many people a MotorHome can carry... if you re-title and register your bus as a motorhome in ohio.. it simply has to have some type of bed, a frig or icebox, and some type of cooking apparatus.. (microwave complies).. the regs do not state anything about weight, air brakes, number of seats, plumbing, etc... nor does it state that there needs to be ab ed for every person on the bus.. nor does it state that a bed cant be a fold-down seat.. other than it says these things must be permanently installed... so the minute you bolt a couple screws to an angle bracket to the side of a cube frig with a mic on top you have your frig and cooking.. and then install a fold-down van seat as a bed you are clear...

there are TONS of tailgate busses in columbus ohio reigstered as MotorHomes and have lots of seating in them.. and of course a frig for the "soda" and a microwave to reheat the cold Tommy's Pizza! and at least one of the seats that folds into a bed...

I dont know about your home state... insuring a converted bus can be tricky... theres lots of threads about it...

big issue is every state is different..

NOW, that said.. in ohio a BUS can be a NON CDL BUS! if it is set up to seat 15 or less including the driver and is less than 26,000 lbs GVWR... since it is registered as simply a bus, your tag rate is a little higher but no DOT number, log books, etc are required... Ohio goes on FITTED capacity.. some states go on DESIGN capacity.. since you are not registering as a school bus you can use ADULT capacity vs chold capacity.. the 2 are different...

in my latest bus it is real easy because it has seatbelts.. and there are 13 seatbelts plus the driver's.. so capacity is easy to argue on it...

-Christopher
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:38 AM   #8
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I think you need to reassess your needs a little, 8ft wide x 15ft long (more like 12 ft probably) x 6 ft tall is not enough room for 15 peoples luggage for a road trip and sleeping arrangements
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Old 12-01-2016, 11:54 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by AlleyCat67 View Post
Jerks.

I can see an anal state like NY, NJ or CA doing that. They like to over-regulate everything.
New Jersey is a non-CDL/non air endorsement for RVs. I've already checked with the state MVC.
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Old 12-01-2016, 03:57 PM   #10
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For our uses, we don't need CDL's, as our buses are not used for commercial purposes (most of us, anyway). Now, some states do issue non-CDL's for Class A, Class B, air brake, and Passenger endorsements, which you may need (a very good likelihood if you ever go to Canada). I believe in Georgia it's simply a knowledge test (they may have switched to a skills and road test since I last checked).

Having the Class B, Air Brake (if needed) and Passenger endorsements will cover you quite nicely ... if your state requires them or visiting Canada.

Some of you may be asking "Isn't a Class B with endorsements the same thing as a CDL?" Yes, and no. As far as the knowledge and skills go, yes, it's mostly the same thing. When you get into medical cards, driver qualifications, and all the other legal stuff, it gets murky, which is the primary reason for differentiating CDL and Non-CDL in the first place.
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