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Old 10-31-2016, 12:55 PM   #1
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Planning - which roads to avoid?

I am going to be loading a long bus with all of our belongings (including a piano) and moving across country (southwest Virginia to western Idaho). My wife thinks we should stop at Yellowstone or Yosemite - or both - and I am reeeeeally wanting to avoid killing ourselves with a horrible grade downhill or killing the bus with a horrible grade uphill. For instance, I don't think it will be wise to go up the Tioga Pass road into Yosemite (some parts are eight-percent).

I will be purchasing in the next year or two. I will avoid an Allison 545. I am praying for a bus with an exhaust brake. Comments welcome.

But I really want to know: which grades should I (as a bus noob) just flat out avoid? I will happily add hundreds of miles to avoid piling it in. All comments welcome, including websites and advice like "bring a handful of five dollar bills with you and visit the local truck stop."
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Old 11-07-2016, 03:04 PM   #2
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Could you perhaps use a Trucker GPS/cell phone app or something? I would imagine they will route around the worst stuff that could cause issues to a bus.
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Old 11-07-2016, 03:41 PM   #3
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I doubt you'll find a school bus with an actual exhaust brake ... you'll likely find them with "retarders" but most of those work on the driveshaft.

Ultimately, though, they serve the same purpose, which is helping control your speed on a steep descent.
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Old 11-07-2016, 06:46 PM   #4
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Unless you are purchasing a bus from CO or one of the newer buses with the ISB the odds of getting an auxiliary braking system is pretty slim.

Any ISB can have an exhaust brake added fairly easy. It is just another prompt code in the computer with a switch on the dash.

Whether you are going to Yosemite or Yellowstone my advice would be to not drive your bus into the parks. Find a nice campground outside and pay to ride a tour bus. During the busy season finding a place to park can be difficult. Finding a place to park a bus is next to impossible.

As far as grades are concerned, if you stay on the Interstate system the grades are never very bad. Secondary highways can get pretty steep.

As far as going up or going down grades, if you take time to make sure your cooling system is working properly you shouldn't overheat going up. If you take the time to make sure your brakes are up to snuff and use the transmission to help hold you back on the downgrade you shouldn't have any problems. Remember, there are very few roads in the United States that don't have a school bus traveling up and down it every morning and afternoon.
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Old 11-13-2016, 01:53 PM   #5
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Our newer buses have exh brakes (button on dash)..is it? Don't know..light pressure on the service brake will engage it, or dis engage w/ light pressure on the accelerator. Seems more of a forced downshift in the trans than a 'jake brake', but it's called/labeled and referred to by my boss and co workers as an exhaust brake.

I get the same results on a hills with a manual downshift. On flatter land just coasting a bit will cause it to kick on/in.

I'm in western and PA and we drive 5-10% grades, up and down, multiple times daily.
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Old 11-13-2016, 02:02 PM   #6
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I use a trucker GPS in my bus.. it seems decent but doesnt mention grades..

someone mentioned here on the forum that getting a copy of the true TRUCKER version of the rand mcnally atlas has all kinds of useful nformation on it... Im going to pick one up when im heading to ohio this week..
-Christopher
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Old 11-13-2016, 02:08 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prof.fate View Post
Our newer buses have exh brakes (button on dash)..is it? Don't know..light pressure on the service brake will engage it, or dis engage w/ light pressure on the accelerator. Seems more of a forced downshift in the trans than a 'jake brake', but it's called/labeled and referred to by my boss and co workers as an exhaust brake.

I get the same results on a hills with a manual downshift. On flatter land just coasting a bit will cause it to kick on/in.

I'm in western and PA and we drive 5-10% grades, up and down, multiple times daily.
When you say, "manual downshift" you mean forcing the automatic transmission down a notch, yes?

I guess the concern I have stems from seeing a semi's trailer's back wheels on fire towards the bottom of the Grapevine in California, along with memories of snapping off bicycle caliper brakes.

Reckon a good inspection every morning and at the top of a hill, plus stab braking and prayer, and I'll be OK...

Thanks for the comments.
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Old 11-13-2016, 02:18 PM   #8
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I believe I read somewhere that when retrofitting an exhaust brake on a Cummins 5.9 (B series) it is necessary to replace the valve springs with stronger ones. Might apply to other engines also. One would want to look into this.

Edit to add:

My Rand McNalley Motor Carriers' Road Atlas does not show hills. My copy is from 2005, so it might have been added since then, but you should find out before buying it.
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Old 11-13-2016, 02:37 PM   #9
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My 2012 edition doesn't call out grades either. You just kind of have to know where they are.

My TND710 GPS does indicate grades but only a short time before you actually get to them... and by then you will have seen roadside signage calling them out so that doesn't help much.
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Old 11-13-2016, 02:52 PM   #10
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The entrance that we used to Yosemite went through a giant boulder with a cutout for vehicles that I do not think would fit a school bus. Perhaps the other entrances might work, but research/call first. Both Yosemite and Yellowstone are pretty flat compared to going over the Rockies. You won't have any problem at those parks. Don't ever visit Death Valley, though, unless you want to scare yourself shirtless on the six mile grade in/out of the park with a 5000 ft elevation change.

We have a DT360 with an AT 545 trans. Worst possible combination, but it has gotten us up and down countless mountains including both the Rockies and Appalachians many times. We do not have anything but our regular air brakes. If you take it slow, gear down, don't ride the brakes, and take pauses to cool down the brakes if needed, you won't have any trouble.

If you get a Good Sam club membership for twenty bucks from Camping World it comes with an online road trip planner that will warn you of bridges/roads/tunnels with height/weight restrictions. We've never had a problem on any general roads or highways, and you shouldn't ever have a problem unless you go to some really back country type places with small bridges.
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Old 11-13-2016, 02:54 PM   #11
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Also, if you go far enough south you can avoid the grades in the Rockies entirely.
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Old 11-13-2016, 03:01 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onenationundergoat View Post
... Don't ever visit Death Valley, though, unless you want to scare yourself shirtless on the six mile grade in/out of the park with a 5000 ft elevation change.

We have a DT360 with an AT 545 trans. Worst possible combination, but it has gotten us up and down countless mountains including both the Rockies and Appalachians many times. We do not have anything but our regular air brakes. If you take it slow, gear down, don't ride the brakes, and take pauses to cool down the brakes if needed, you won't have any trouble.
...
Very, very helpful advice - thanks! Exactly the stuff I need to hear.
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Old 11-13-2016, 03:08 PM   #13
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I havent run the rockies yet.. but I have taken my DT-360 / AT545 over the smokies, appalachains, adirondacks.. even up and down the infamous 'Monteagle' without ever smelling the brakes...

I went really slow so that my AT545 could be shifted into 2 or 3.. maybe since I have a shorter bus I didnt have issues.. it is GVWR 27500.. but the wind resistance in a bus definitely helped... vs what im sure in a semi truck is 2X - 3X the weight per brake to stop versus a bus.. I also dont have a heavy conversion... I had tools and luggage and electronic gear.. but I dont have appliances or water tanks or interior buildouts which would add weight.. im guessing I was less weight than what a bus even 1/2 full of screamin demons wouldve been...

I would Love to go to death valley but I be concerned about the temperatures climbing out if it is even close to summer... granted my DT360 runs much cooler than my t444E but still 120 degrees is hot when climbing a steep grade.. we did death valley multiple times as a kid in our diesel international scout, it did fine.. in our previous gasoline scout I remember dad having to shut off the A/C because the engine wouldnt stay cool on the climb out even downshifted where the fan would spin fast...
I didnt realize the atlas doesnt have grades.. I was told it did.. I'll have to look into good sam.. it would be nice to know a bit ahead ..

wonder if the Disc brakes on my newer bus would be any advantage on grades over the Air drums in the carpenter... discs seem to recover quicker if you do get them hot.. that bus is also lighter.. still has an AT545 (for now)...

-Christopher
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Old 11-13-2016, 03:26 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
vs what im sure in a semi truck is 2X - 3X the weight per brake to stop versus a bus..
Actually not necessarily so..... a semi is 80000 lbs but also has 10 brakes which works out to 8000 lbs per brake.... but a 30000 lb full size skoolie with 4 brakes is 7500 lbs per brake so not a significant difference.

Now if you have a shorty that comes in at a max of 20000 then that would be 5000 lbs per brake which IS a significant reduction.
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Old 11-13-2016, 04:02 PM   #15
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im also only guessing that on a full size bus chassis with 22.5" wheels that the brake size per brake would be the same as a semi.. they may be smaller I dont know...

I need to get both busses weighed.. I only have GVWR's to go on and not real world weight.. which real weight is the number which affects braking, not a tag on the door..
-Christopher
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Old 11-13-2016, 04:26 PM   #16
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This is also true, buses and trucks use the same wheels, usually 22.5 or 24.5... brake components are also pretty much the same.

It is also true that the actual weight does dictate it, but the GVWR does give you the maximum. Less weight = less brake force required per brake = increased braking ability.
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Old 11-13-2016, 05:50 PM   #17
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Yes. CDL and air brake training/procedures say at top of grade to verify service brake operation, downshift transmission and use snub braking.



Mountain Driving Without Engine Brake - Page 1 | TruckingTruth Forum

Now the challenge I face is the bus with engine break will hold teh speed very well (25mph)..downshifting the non-eng-brake bus can cause the engine to exceed 2500 and even 3000 rpm...probably not so good for the engine, right?

Do I care if i do exactly 25? no..EXCEPT people have a tendency to call and complain 'teh school bus was speeding and it was full of kids!!' and this particular hill has a permanent speed sign that displays one's speed for all to see!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dapplecreek View Post
When you say, "manual downshift" you mean forcing the automatic transmission down a notch, yes?

I guess the concern I have stems from seeing a semi's trailer's back wheels on fire towards the bottom of the Grapevine in California, along with memories of snapping off bicycle caliper brakes.

Reckon a good inspection every morning and at the top of a hill, plus stab braking and prayer, and I'll be OK...

Thanks for the comments.
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Old 11-13-2016, 05:54 PM   #18
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If going into Jackson Hole / Yellowstone from the west stay away from 33/22 or otherwise known as Pine Creek Pass I believe, 10% grade that seems to go on forever when you heading down towing a Jeep in a 24 ft Class c in low gear & still doing close to 40 mph.
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Old 11-13-2016, 07:08 PM   #19
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Now... about CLIMBING hard grades:

A couple years ago I installed a toggle switch on the dash for the radiator fan. Normally the fan is controlled by a thermostatic switch, but I wanted to start the fan at the beginning of hard climbs and not wait for engine temperature to rise already. Also, I want to cool the engine in the last mile or two before shutting it off.

But guess what.... I discovered a bonus feature, which may be far more valuable.

Starting the fan at the beginning of a climb PROTECTS THE TRANSMISSION FROM HEAT BUILDUP.
I had not thought of it, but of course it makes perfect sense, since the transmission is cooled by the same water as the engine.
However....

The water temperature in the cylinder head(s) of the engine is controlled by the engine's thermostat. But that's not the water the transmission-cooler sees.
The transmission-cooler sees the water coming out of the bottom radiator outlet -- the cool end of the radiator.

So when heat starts rising in the transmission, the cooler the water from the bottom of the radiator is, the better it cools the transmission. So with the manual switch, I "over-cool" the engine water, for the transmission's benefit.

I see a big difference on the transmission temperature gauge.
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Old 11-13-2016, 07:32 PM   #20
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you can also turn your fan on at the TOP of a grade... if you let your RPMs run up a bit with a lower gear that extra 10-15 HP required to spin the fan at full speed will also help to slow you down... not alot.. but every bit counts...
-Christopher
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