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Old 08-25-2016, 08:14 AM   #1
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Smile What do you need in order to drive a old converted school bus around America

Hi everyone, new to he whole subject so don't be to harsh. Can someone lay it on me of what I need to get in order to legally drive say a bus in correlation to the seat numbers? I want it small to mid size, I will be ripping out most seats for beds and just leaving about 4-5 seats...do I need seat belts ect...I'm a newb
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Old 08-25-2016, 09:36 AM   #2
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Licensing goes by weight, not by number of seats. If the gross weight of the bus is under 26,001 pounds, and has hydraulic brakes, then a standard driver's license is all that is required. Air brakes, or a weight greater than 26,000 gross pounds, then at the least you will need a class "B" license to legally drive the vehicle according to federal motor law.
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Old 08-25-2016, 10:01 AM   #3
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Licensing goes by weight, not by number of seats. If the gross weight of the bus is under 26,001 pounds, and has hydraulic brakes, then a standard driver's license is all that is required. Air brakes, or a weight greater than 26,000 gross pounds, then at the least you will need a class "B" license to legally drive the vehicle according to federal motor law.
Pretty sure that's a Texas thing even if it's licensed as an RV. Licensing goes by state you live in. If it's licensed as an "RV" or what ever your state calls it, in most states all you need is a regular drivers license.
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Old 08-25-2016, 12:38 PM   #4
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Yep.. It seems that federal law gets to define what's required for operating a commercial vehicle, especially across state lines.... but the states apparently get to decide whether a vehicle really is or isn't commercial. That then determines whether (or not) a commercial operator's license will be required.

In most states if a vehicle is for private use, not for hire, not in commerce, etc etc then even though it looks like a commercial vehicle, they'll grant operator privilege for it to a person with a "normal" driver license. When traveling through other states local operating rules like speed limit, vehicle length, lanes of travel based on vehicle weight or length, etc apply. Driver privileges such as the type of vehicle one may operate should be determined by the state issuing the license (not the state being visited). Just don't stick around too long or do anything else that would cause the visited state to say you've taken up residency and are subject to their driver licensing rules!
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Old 08-29-2016, 08:43 AM   #5
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Sorry for late reply, thanks for the info! I look at working with those limits then as I don't want to have to get a special license, as I have you here I may aswell ask...I look at road tripping around America over a couple of months I'm hoping to get a charity involved and a few friends. I'm a carpenter so I will do a quick fix up myself...what should I be looking for as vehicle types ect? I want to sleep up to 4 but sometimes will just be myself so I will be keeping it snug! Aha what would be my ball park on cost for bus and all...thanks! P.s my budget is about $5000 total
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Old 08-29-2016, 12:31 PM   #6
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for you it seems a cutaway style short bus is the way to go.. im not sure how you license and own it without a USA address? (Arent you coming from australia?)..

the cutaway vans are often under the CDL requirements even when commercial so you would have no issues with regulations.. many states you could just register it as a van like a club-wagon or an E-350 cargo van..

-Christopher
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Old 08-30-2016, 02:05 PM   #7
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The law varies by state. In Colorado, for example, a CDL is not required for an RV. I believe that I will keep a copy of the statute with me just in case.
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Old 08-30-2016, 06:24 PM   #8
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A lot of the U.S. Follows the rules of the state you are registered and licensed in. Until you are licensed as a commercial vehicle that's when you fall into the federal mess.
In NC I am still the Jolly Roger is registered, insured as a bus,has air brakes and because it's tag rating is 25,999 A normal license allows anyone to drive it.
The schools bus drivers that fill it to the gills with loud mouth kids every morning From 4-am to 7-am and repeat every afternoon for 10$ an hour is only required to have a standard license??? And pay attention to crazy drivers??
To me that requires a special license!!!
Why is anyone that is doing less with the same state owned vehicle required to do a lot more than they are required to do to haul 70-children around daily?
I know.
One is a way for them to save money and one is a way for them to make money?
Keep our roads safe but we can't require the school bus drivers to have a commercial license cause we won't have any drivers at 10$ an hour?
Sorry for my little rant.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:31 AM   #9
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School bus drivers have to have a commercial license because the vehicle is being used for commercial purposes and carries more than 16 individuals.

In many states, if you're using the same vehicle for non-commercial purposes, it isn't considered a commercial vehicle.
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Old 12-01-2016, 11:23 AM   #10
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Coming from the land down under and using an international drivers license could be interesting

because you are not tied to a single state overall, which also means you have to follow each states DMV rules and regulations in reqard to license requirments for what you are operating

A typical car is already defined and will be the same state to state (not baring any real crazy crap) you could drive anywhere

Now an RV,Bus etc is governed by each state...I can drive my bus anywhere in the Great USA with my normal everyday TN DL

If I was in TX I would need a special license, with that I can drive my Bus in any state with my TX DL

Since you will not have a state issued license....not sure what to say

best bet may be to come over and buy(if legal)/lease/rent a class C motorhome and travel, sell it when you head home


ETA since you are a visiting foreigner, you may be covered under an umbrella diplomatic amnesty law or something...ask your embassy if your license will cover driving a 40 or 45 foot motorhome with air brakes in all 49 states (yes I know there are 57 of them ) I don't see you driving it in Hawaii ...if embassy responds with yes ;you are good to go, print off the letterhead email and keep it with you...and drive on...stay on the right...urgh...correct side of the road good luck and have fun
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Old 12-01-2016, 12:47 PM   #11
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depends where the vehicle is REGISTERED - how it's registered.

An RV is a type of REGISTRATION (as is car, motorcycle, trailer, truck, etc).
Some states let you register it by USE, others have requriements such as inspection - so a bus full of seats can't be registered as an RV - to be an RV is must have sleeping, eating/cooking, bathroom, sometimes running water, etc.

Across almost all states is a passenger limit - 14 or 15 is the limit - to go above that (seating capacity) you need a CDL with P (passenger) endorsement.

An RV can usually have air brakes with no additional licensing. but ALL trucks/commercial air brake equipped vehicles need air brake endorsement.

Many type a school buses (van front, bus back) exceed 14/15 passengers.

and that 14/15 maybe be 10/11 now..I know 2 or so years ago it was being considered. Too many college and otehr 15 passenger conventional vans having accidents.
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Old 12-01-2016, 02:02 PM   #12
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Utah offers a "driver privilege" card as an alternative to a driver license. The difference is that the driver license implies verified USA citizenship, is an official government ID, and indicates driver education/certification, whereas the driver privilege card represents only the latter. Because it isn't an official ID its documentation requirements are much simpler. Though this driver privilege card evolved out of the illegal immigration situation, I wonder whether it might also provide some advantage to a legal visitor from abroad who simply wants to avoid the state-to-state hassles bansil described.
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Old 12-01-2016, 02:40 PM   #13
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What is most important in all of this is: What does your state require?

When you meet your home state's requirements other states honor it. Many states do not require anything other than a standard license to operate an RV. If your state is similar and your bus is registered as an RV then you are fine.

I registered my 40' Eagle (almost 40k lbs & air brakes) in Oregon as an RV and drove 40+ states with no issue.

Check your states laws regarding licensing requirements for RV's and if they are unfavorable, get a new state. If you are going "Gypsy" it is not too hard to establish residency in a state that suits your needs better.
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Old 12-01-2016, 02:42 PM   #14
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if going gypsy that might help getting a new address for insurance too... seems that certain states are cheaper / easier to insure converted and non-converted skoolies than others.

-Christopher
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Old 12-01-2016, 02:59 PM   #15
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Ya'll missed the key point!

They are not citizens, hence my comment
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Old 12-01-2016, 03:05 PM   #16
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In my defense: I caught that point. But maybe I prattled on too long and didn't directly mention this piece: Utah might not be the first stop on the itinerary, and might not be on the itinerary at all. But maybe another state that is on the plan also offers a non-citizen driver privilege card that could side-step the international driver licensing and "which rules apply now??" questions. Such a maneuver might allow a foreign visitor to associate himself to a state whose license rules/privileges are favorable, or at least are known and understood, and eliminate concerns about how other states' rules may differ.
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Old 12-01-2016, 03:37 PM   #17
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Family wagon I didn't know that, can they get insurance and everything with one of those?

Can you imagining asking DMV this type of question when a normal one throws them for a loop

I figured that they would have to use the international one since they were not applying for citizenship

Should be a killer trip, would love to do a loop and side to side down under in a group of 60's rovers, camp every night where you break down...eat drink and fix truck. repeat next day
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Old 12-01-2016, 04:51 PM   #18
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Yeah, I didn't follow the process very closely but the thought that propelled the "Driving Privilege Card" forward was essentially that illegal immigration is a real thing and although we can't "fix" it, we can at least do something to mitigate some of its negative effects. One of the effects was that there's this class of people who can't get a driver license and therefore can't get car insurance, but they're going to be driving anyway because that's just how life is here. Inevitably sometimes they'll be involved in car wrecks like anybody else, and it would be better for us all if they were able to buy insurance. So the state legislature created the "driving privilege card" concept so that these people could have access to buy car insurance.

Upon looking closer at the requirements, it may not work so well for a visitor. One has to show residency by showing two items such as a utility bill, credit card bill, rent or mortgage papers, school paperwork, vehicle title/registration, etc. When the application is accepted a temporary paper receipt is given and the real card arrives by mail several weeks later. Oh well...
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Old 12-01-2016, 05:27 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
if going gypsy that might help getting a new address for insurance too... seems that certain states are cheaper / easier to insure converted and non-converted skoolies than others.

-Christopher
I have two "homes". One is in a location with higher insurance, taxes and has emissions testing. The other cheaper & no emissions testing.

Where do you think I register my vehicles??
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Old 12-01-2016, 06:21 PM   #20
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In most jurisdictions if it is yellow with black stripes, has overhead flashing lights, and it has as stop paddle you are required to have a CDL with a school bus endorsement. It doesn't matter if it is a bus that has seating for two wheelchairs or 97 students. The only difference is some buses do not have air brakes so they do not require an air brake endorsement.

In most jurisdictions if it is an RV all you need is a regular drivers license no matter how big the RV is or if it has air brakes.

In Canada and British Columbia in particular you have to have an air brake endorsement on your license if your vehicle has air brakes. They are not kidding about that requirement. Most of the Ports of Entry have the all RV's most stop for inspection sign out most of the time. And if you don't have an air brake endorsement you will be red tagged and not allowed to move it until a driver shows up that has an air brake endorsement.

In WA state, if the vehicle has seating for more than 14 passengers and the driver it will be titled as a bus. Which then will require a CDL to drive it, a USDOT number in order to get a license renewal every year, and will require the owner of the vehicle to maintain all FMSCA driver and vehicle reports to the same level as Greyhound.

In WA state the number of seating positions determines how the bus will be licensed. It has nothing to do with the GVWR of the vehicle. There are a lot of buses registered in WA that don't come close to a GVWR of 26,000 lbs.
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