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Old 01-15-2016, 04:41 PM   #1
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PA license requirements and titling



I would like to make sure I understand the rules for my state correctly, and haven't found many PA threads. I have seen other forums and articles referring to PA as requiring a CDL for any vehicle with air brakes, but from my read of the rules (and others interpretations as well) this is not the case.

From my understanding, air brakes require an additional certification IF you are driving a vehicle that requires a CDL, but there is no rule for normal licenses and vehicles that fall under 26000 GVR.

I get my information from this sheet from the DOT: http://www.dot.state.pa.us/Public/DV...ets/fs-cdl.pdf

That being said, it seems as though the drive home will still be risky, given the fact that there are punishments of up to $2500 for driving a commercial vehicle without a license, and PA is rather strict on the school bus to RV title transfer rules. Given that the bus I intend to get has air brakes, punishments can be even higher. I was informed that in 'aggravated or extreme' cases jail time is not out of the question, but I am guessing that is for someone doing more than driving an empty school bus home to convert.

Others have apparently been told by the state to have the bus towed to where you want to convert it, convert it, have it towed to a special inspection station, have it towed back home, pay for a special inspector to come and initial photographs, send everything in, then wait for your RV tags before you can legally drive it...

Anyone have any experience in PA? I'm assuming almost everyone just drives it home and hopes for the best, right? I have no other need for a CDL and can't find anywhere local that offers any type of training, so I'd be looking at $500-$1000 to take tests, pay for permits, pay for some type of training to make sure I know the things they test for, and pay for the license addition. And it would take about a month on the short side to get that all done.

Any comments here are welcome!
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Old 01-15-2016, 05:41 PM   #2
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The people to ask are NOT in these forums. You'll get so many answers, you'll be confused even more. The people WITH the answers are located at your local DMV office or State Police barracks or, in the case of Philadelphia, the Highway Patrol.
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Old 01-19-2016, 03:26 PM   #3
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ditto

I am in the same place as you and have the exact same questions and concerns. If you could provide an update with any information you find I would greatly appreciate it.

One other option that came to mind was finding a person with a CDL to do the driving, but unfortunately I have not found that person for myself.
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Old 01-19-2016, 04:08 PM   #4
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I'm going to be doing as CaptSquid suggested and contacting people tomorrow. i'll report back.

I'm also trying to find someone I know to do the drive, but no luck so far.

Let me know if you find out anything as well...
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Old 01-19-2016, 04:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptSquid View Post
The people to ask are NOT in these forums. You'll get so many answers, you'll be confused even more. The people WITH the answers are located at your local DMV office or State Police barracks or, in the case of Philadelphia, the Highway Patrol.
This is the correct answer. Why would you want to get an answer to a question like that here instead of going to the source. If you get pulled over, I can guarantee you that the trooper will not give a hoot that someone on skoolie.net told you differently.

As for a driver, check uShip. you can get quotes for drivers to drive your bus for you. Make sure they have a current CDL and insurance!
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Old 01-19-2016, 05:37 PM   #6
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Also...contacting the "right people" in several different offices will very likely yield several different "right" answers. At least that's what experience here has shown.
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Old 01-19-2016, 06:02 PM   #7
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Well, in the sovereign nation of TEXas, you can always count on DPS for the right answers.
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Old 01-19-2016, 08:05 PM   #8
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Also...contacting the "right people" in several different offices will very likely yield several different "right" answers. At least that's what experience here has shown.
+1 at least on that! *sigh* I had a class B CDL from prior employment but upgraded it to class A because of exactly this phenomenon.

For any who are somewhat inclined to get a CDL "just because" so long as it isn't too difficult, there's a strategy you can use to make it much more accessible. Regular readers will remember I've written about this before. Find somebody who'll lend you a large-ish late-model pickup truck, and also find a heavy trailer. They don't actually have to be all that big. The key is in the GVW of the pickup and trailer. If you can pair a dual rear wheel pickup with 13k GVW with a tandem-axle trailer with 14k GVW (for example), then you've got yourself a combination that when used in commerce requires a class A CDL. That means you can use it for the road test portion of a CDL exam. This is potentially much easier to source, and also easier to quickly learn to drive, than a full tractor-trailer rig. As for the written test part of the CDL.. you probably can get a copy of your state's commercial driver license manual online, read it through once or twice one evening, and go pass the written test in the morning. There's a DOT medical exam required too which is different but comparable to a basic physical exam.

I believe most states (all?) offer a low-cost transport permit you can use to make the vehicle legal to be driven for a few days and thus avoid tow fees. Then you need a driver. If you had a transport permit issued in your personal name, that's probably a good leg to stand on in claiming that you're driving the bus for personal use and so exempt from CDL requirements. It at least shows a good-faith effort on your part to play by the rules.

EDIT: One other thought. Instead of a pickup truck, maybe look for a U-Haul. Their web site says the 20 ft truck has GVW 14,500 and the 26 ft truck has GVW "20,000 max." Get either of those and hook up a trailer with enough GVW to push the combination over 26k and you're set.
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Old 01-19-2016, 11:09 PM   #9
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Appreciate all the advice. family wagon, that is a fantastic idea. I'm going to look into whether or not this will work in PA, but this is the type of thing I was hoping to find, thank you. I have access to all of the things you mentioned with a little bit of planning, and am surprised I didn't think of trying something like this.
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Old 06-09-2016, 09:17 PM   #10
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So what did you come up with, PigPen? I'm in Pittsburgh and also in the market for a Skoolie. Did things work out for you?
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Old 06-10-2016, 12:17 AM   #11
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Hi Pigpen. According to what I found, in PA you need a non-commercial class B to operate a motor home in excess of 26,000 pounds. This is the site Pennsylvania DOT Requirements For Non-Commercial Class "B" Driver's License For Motorhomes Over 26,000 pounds - Laws and legislative action - FMCA Motorhome Forums. I live in Johnstown and I have a class A cdl. I would be happy to help you out if I can. Let me know. Good luck to you.
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Old 06-10-2016, 11:59 AM   #12
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Roadrunner thank you for the quick reply. I've been considering getting a CDL for several years now but my high blood pressure makes it a hassle when obtaining the required medical card.

I'm still in the research phase of a bus purchase so I'm also wondering what all it takes to do the title transfer from "bus" to "motorhome". I've read that some states are more lax than others.

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Old 06-10-2016, 01:46 PM   #13
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I'm planning on doing a full write up of everything I've learned, but I'll share the gist of it all now. For the record, I ended up going with a shortie that doesn't require any type of special license at all. We'll be starting our build thread shortly!

As far as the whole CDL thing goes, its REALLY complicated, to the point that there isn't a straight answer. CDL rules and licensing are actually based on federal standards that are enforced by each state. If you look at the actual wording of the legislation, FMCSA Standard 383, you'll see that the definition of a commercial vehicle includes three qualifications and if any are met, the vehicle counts as needing a license. Read carefully though, because the definition also states that the vehicle must be "used in commerce to transport passengers or property".

By the letter of the law, this means that as Roadrunner was pointing out, a vehicle with over a 26000 GVWR doesn't necessarily need a CDL. In PA, it technically needs a class b non-commercial license, but VERY few people actually get them. To be fully legal, you would need one though.

Heres where things get really complicated. From my understanding, a vehicles registration is basically your statement of intended use. Your options for how you can register a vehicle are connected to how it is titled. If your bus is titled as a bus when you get it, then your option for registering it seems to be as a bus and only as a bus. I'm not sure if you could get away with it being a truck or not. If you are stuck registering it as a bus, then it seems you're stating that you plan on using it as a bus (even though they forced you to choose that option). If you're registered as a bus over 26000 lbs, then you may be in a danger zone as far as what license they expect you to have if you were to be pulled over.

In order to retitle a bus as an RV (and by extension be able to register it as one as well), PA has a set of requirements you must meet. First you have to have at least 4 of the following:

• Cooking appliance

• Refrigerator

• Self-contained toilet

• Heating/Air conditioning

• Portable water supply

• Faucet and sink

• Separate 110/125 or LP gas supply

Once you have that, you have to have a special inspector come and take photographs with initials to verify everything. At that point, you would also need an enhanced vehicle inspection done at a special inspection station.

This is only to complete the RV retitling in PA. If you buy a bus already retitled, then it appears as though you are lucky and get to skip all these steps. Many states have very lax laws and if you declare an intention to use it as an RV, then that is good enough. (Side note: if you find a bus in a state that has easy title change rules, you may want to pay the owner to retitle it before you buy it. Just a thought and please verify that this will work ahead of time. Don't just rely on some random guy on the internet).

If you are buying a bus titled as a bus, then what you need to figure out is how to register it in a way that avoids special licenses. What ends up working for you will depend on who you talk to and what they are willing to do. According to my local notary/tag service, I can declare any GVWR between the one listed in the vehicle and the curb weight. The declared GVWR would become the maximum I'm allowed to use on public roadways and if caught exceeding that weight, hefty fines could ensue. This could be an interesting way to get a vehicle below the 26000 threshold until you complete the conversion and retitle as an RV.

Sorry if thats confusing. Like I said, I'll go back through and try to write a more thorough and thought out account of what I have learned. I spent several weeks discussing the matter with literally every person I could contact within PennDOT. This was essentially everyone, as I got a hold of their internal directory and just called every president, vp, and other bigwig on the list in the various departments. Most people directed me to one of a handful of people who I narrowed my focus to. They did not even know the answers and these are the people that are supposed to be making/enforcing/educating about these laws! What I laid out above is the basic account of what they shared, but when I tried to get more details or specifics it always came back to "I don't know, I'll check and call back tomorrow." Eventually they gave up and stopped calling back

Let me know if you want me to clarify anything!
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Old 07-07-2016, 01:22 PM   #14
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Thought I'd share my experience here in Pa in case it helps....

I just purchased a 72-passenger school bus from a local private school. I thought the biggest problem was going to be the insurance, but while that was a challenge, it was not the BIGGEST challenge (I got a policy through Progressive for about $900/yr). It was the registration. I called multiple tag agencies and PennDOT directly and got different answers each time! The person that actually did the transfer for me registered it as a bus, but only for the number of passengers I was ever going to have....15...rather than the full capacity of the bus (72). This made the registration fees manageable at $160/yr.

She explained that if/when I do all the conversions to qualify it as a motor home, I'd need to see her to fill out the appropriate paperwork to get a modified title & registration. I'd also have to have it inspected at an Enhanced Inspection Station. She made it sound like I didn't need to hurry with doing all of that.

As for the the license, I already have a CDL license for work, so I can't speak to that aspect very much...other than the fact that it is rather easy to get it and not very expensive. Hardest part is finding someone who has the license and will ride with you for the test. I bet if you ask around or post something on line, you could find a CDL driver who is willing to hang out with you for a bit in return for a few dollars or a case of beer.
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Old 07-09-2016, 11:29 PM   #15
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I'm buying a skoolie in a few days. I'm in Bethlehem pa. I'll be going to the dmv this monday. I'll be sure to post anything I find out here!
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Old 08-06-2016, 07:23 PM   #16
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I'm buying a skoolie in a few days. I'm in Bethlehem pa. I'll be going to the dmv this monday. I'll be sure to post anything I find out here!
Any new info on PA? I get scared that this state is gonna screw me. I should drive it to an easy state.
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Old 08-07-2016, 12:22 AM   #17
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I just bought a 29FTR. It came to my mostly converted already.

Once I knew I was going to purchase it I got the VIN and called progressive commercial. Most insurance companies won't touch a converted school bus. I bought this bus for my touring band, we will probably only tour in it 1 to 3 times per year. So I basically said I'd only be using it a few times a year, and the rest of the time it would be stored in a lot. They did ask me if I'd be sleeping in it. I told them no. They ended up insuring it for about $40 a month limited liability.

When I bought it I drove it straight to an auto tag place.It was def a lot of hassle but in the end they registered it as an omni bus. My registration will be the normal $36 a year. At first they registered it by the weight which came out to over $500! I protested a bit, and thats when the questions started. What will I be using it for, is it a motor home, am I positive I won't be transporting children or senior citizens, all that jazz. I basically had to assure them I was not using it as a commercial vehicle. I also had to write a letter to Harrisburg saying that as well. They charge me $9 per seat in the bus. They came out and looked at it. Since most of the seats were already taken out I only paid for 4 seats.

So in the end it all worked out. it's def work to get things going but its worth it and a great learning experience. Next I have to get it inspected which I'm sure will be a whole new set of trouble!!!

TT
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Old 08-16-2017, 09:51 PM   #18
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Hey TyrantTaylor, thank you for your post. Very helpful as I just finally pulled the trigger and purchased a bus today on Ebay. I got a Commercial policy through Progressive and was pleasantly surprised that they got me covered for just $275/year. After reading the insurance forum for a few hours I was really dreading the outcome but it turned out pretty painless.

Nice tip on the "OmniBus" registration, I was scouring PA's website and feared that I would have to register it as a "truck" and pay almost $500/year in registration fees.

I still don't see "OmniBus" on the schedule of fees so I'm hoping that it didn't shoot up from $36 to $78 from last year.
http://www.dot.state.pa.us/Public/DV...rms/mv-700.pdf
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Old 08-17-2017, 01:13 AM   #19
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Congrats !

Quote:
Originally Posted by XBUNCEX View Post
Hey TyrantTaylor, thank you for your post. Very helpful as I just finally pulled the trigger and purchased a bus today on Ebay.
"Cmon, show the goods. We wanna see your bus ! Start your own thread and post some pics.

Sometimes Insurance companies change their mind after granting policy on titled bus. Best of luck !
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Old 08-17-2017, 01:46 PM   #20
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You can register and title a bus in PA as a station wagon! I just did it in march
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