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Old 12-30-2014, 05:09 PM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 13
Skoolie conversion for DOT legal 5th wheel hauler?

I'm a tech at a Dodge dealership where I often see 5th wheel Haulers who haul for a living. But the price tag for these rigs are pricey, and still no sleeper space!

Enter a skoolie conversion. This is one of those ideas swirling around in my head that will probably never happen, but definitely food for thought.

Since I don't own a school bus, nor have a hauled, I have some obvious questions. My conversion idea would be to move the back wall up for a small sleeper space, microwave, fridge, maybe a sink.

Would DOT even let this fly? A vehicle not designed for this kind of hauling be legal for commercial use? We know it can handle it but....liability?

Transmission/gearing- I'm assuming this would be a big drawback. In fact to make it worth it, I'm sure some money would need to be spent in this area. What transmission would be advantageous?

Air suspension - When unloaded, I'm sure this will make a big difference in ride. Is air suspension common on school busses?

Deck height - would a 5th wheel mount on a skoolie frame be too high?

When you calculate lower fuel mileage vs. a 3500 truck, conversion costs', transmission change, would it even be worth it?
Thanks in advance...
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Old 12-30-2014, 09:56 PM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 169
Might be able to get away with it if you're doing for private use, but I imagine you're looking for all sorts of problems with hauling commercially. I think your overall length might be too long too unless you're using a shortbus. But I don't really know **** about DOT regulations so I'm pretty much talking out of my ass.
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Old 12-31-2014, 09:04 AM   #3
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Central MN
Posts: 133
Year: 1977
Coachwork: Chevy
Chassis: C/60
Engine: 350 V8
Rated Cap: 54
We used to own a Mid 80's International full size dognose that we cut down and put a 5th wheel plate over the rear axle as well as a pusher axle to help with the weight. Used it to pull a 40' drop deck and hauled everything from straw bales to a pair of Deere 8875 Skid loaders. It worked great but was a little underpowered. The 6.9l had all it could do with a full load of heavy wet alfalfa but the air brakes on the bus and trailer were more than enough to stop it.

The whole rig had farm plates so the DOT sort of looked the other way. We never got stopped but we did get some very odd looks. No idea if it's still on the road or not, I haven't seen it in 5+ years.

I can't see DOT being even remotely OK with the type of modifications needed to a bus to make it able to pull campers and trailers cross-country.

There is an older Ford F350 in my area that has been stretched a bit and had a 6' sleeper attached. He has over a million miles on the rig and pulls everything from a 40' tri-axle cattle trailer to monster toy hauler campers and says he has had no issues with DOT.
Passes everything but gas stations.
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Old 12-31-2014, 03:11 PM   #4
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 13

I guess I should start combing over the DOT websites. There is an AZDOT station not too far from here. I imagine even if everything was square I would still have problems.
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Old 12-31-2014, 04:25 PM   #5
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 169
Ya I think you'll find yourself arguing with some know-it-all DOT or highway patrol even if you are completely within the law. Anything out of the ordinary is going to attract a lot of attention in the commercial hauling world.
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