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Old 09-16-2018, 11:11 AM   #21
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 23
Smile Thank you!

I have been driving vans and ext truck all my life so 20 foot does not scare me but 40 foot does. Want a 30 foot because after reading the forums, did not think I needed all the extra room and it would be easier while boondocking. This topic is just what i needed! Here in Oregon I want to get a mining claim that will allow to stay for months without moving around, planned to do the same in Arizona so I could rainbird down in the winter. As a disabled service connected vet in Oregon that also gives me a free week of camping with full utilities every month!! Love how good Oregon is to vets! I am a 6 foot female but not young at 64. Hopefully I will get in a bus and drive it home!! Thank you again!


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Old 09-16-2018, 06:02 PM   #22
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A conventional bus takes longer to get comfortable driving but many lady bus drivers have told me they prefer it because there's more protection in an accident.

The flat front buses are the easiest to drive because of the large field of view and knowing exactly where the front end is. A front engine bus is easiest because they have a shorter wheel base but a rear engined bus is still easier to drive than a conventional.

Also on a flat front I advise to get rid of the big mirrors, especially the "bubble" mirror and replace them with a small one down low on either side and install back up and side cameras. The stock mirrors create a huge blind spot pulling out and you will eventually pull out in front of oncoming traffic at some point even if you rock your body back and forth to check for traffic. You're not picking up or dropping off kids so you don't need all the mirrors blocking your vision.

Also as others have mentioned DON'T swing wide. Instead pull up further before you start your turn. You will find that you can turn onto/off roads that you didn't think possible.
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Old 11-08-2018, 09:04 PM   #23
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I have never drove anything bigger than a pickup. And yet I drove my 38 Bus home with no problems. Has air brakes too!! Honestly it drove like a big van. Floaty like a Cadillac. Steering can be done with one finger. Course my bus is a rear engine. So steering is problem lighter.
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Old 11-08-2018, 09:07 PM   #24
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Biggest issue for most new bus drivers seems to be the rear overhang swing. Many buses have as much as 12' behind the rear tires that can sweep a street clean if not kept up with.

Another issue can be with forward control rigs where the driver is in front of the front wheels. You need to go MUCH farther into an intersection before starting a turn.
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Old 11-08-2018, 09:50 PM   #25
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All this is exactly why I want to take a CDL course with some practical learning before I get a bus for myself :'D

Envisioning it is one thing, physically attempting it will be a whole other animal.
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Old 11-09-2018, 03:59 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by dphillips View Post
My lovely 110lb wife wants to know how difficult it is to drive a bus. Neither of us has ever driven a school bus. My assurances that she could handle driving a bus are not very meaningful, so we are seeking expert advice. We do not know any place that has a bus or two to test drive, otherwise we would just put her behind the wheel of one. She is semi-mechanically challenged. She is currently driving a full size Chevy van and has only backed into a post one time. She is very confident with the van.

We are considering a shorter diesel bus for the assumed maneuverability advantage over the longer variety. We would use it about once a week, and she would need to drive it about once a month by herself.

We live in the mountains and see little traffic, but a lot of hills and twisty narrow roads.

So can some one compare cars, trucks, etc to driving a bus?

Other than mechanical condition, length, horsepower, A/C, and a good seat, is there anything else that I should look for when shopping for a bus that would aid in the drivability?

Thanks so much
This is for ALL skoolie owners, NOT just the OP -- I thought some insight from a CDL driver would help here... Many owners forget (or simply aren't aware) that with rare exceptions, their project vehicle required a CDL to drive in its original usage. YES, even some P20/P30 van chassis required a CDL. I cannot stress this point enough. These vehicles are bigger and heavier than what you might be used to driving, and that makes them more dangerous, the reason they required a CDL in their original intended usage. Note - I said DANGEROUS - NOT unsafe. A gun is only unsafe in untrained hands. So it is with a skoolie.

While owners and drivers of RV's and skoolies ARE exempt from requiring a CDL, it is still important to know the basics of CDL requirements, and the reasons why, because it is still a big, heavy vehicle that doesn't turn, stop, or handle well.

Class A - Single vehicle over 26k lbs GVWR (NOT empty/curb weight) and/or tows over 10k lbs.
Class B - Single vehicle over 26k lbs GVWR (NOT empty/curb weight) and/or tows UNDER 10k lbs.
Class C - Single vehicle not requiring Class A/B but can carry 16+ passengers or carries HazMat. If memory serves, Class C drivers cannot drive a vehicle over 26k GVWR.


The smaller ones required a Class C if it sat 16+ passengers.

So, as you can see, technically an F350 Super Duty with a gooseneck trailer rated 10k or more requires a Class A. But if it is not for business use, (farm and certain other use excluded), it is exempt.

First, difficulty depends on the bus. They range from small 16-24 passenger capacities based on the likes of the 3/4 and 1-ton GM, Ford and Dodge van chassis, which aren't much different than driving a similar pickup, all the way to the mammoth 40-foot, 72-passenger rear-engine pushers. Obviously, the bigger the bus, the more of a challenge.

Now, you folks who have never driven bigger than a Honda Civic, Ford Explorer or Dodge Caravan are in for a rough time no matter what, and I highly recommend a CDL course, especially with 2-ton chassis and bigger, and DOUBLY so if it has air brakes. You don't have to actually GET upgraded to a CDL, but it really helps in knowing what you are dealing with, especially with the bigger buses, when it comes to braking and turning. Think "BUT IT HELPS!" If you don't know what I was just saying, Google "But It Helps" - guy is a riot. You'll see what it's all about.

Anyhoo, cheat sheet here, if you are in the Central Virginia area where I live, I would be happy to go over what you need to know with you one-on-one. If not, you'd do well to connect with a local tour/school bus driver who has some spare time and doesn't mind priming you. Also, get a Commercial Driver's Manual from your state's DMV. You can also take CDL practice tests on You'll need to review general knowledge, air brakes, (whether yours is so equipped or not), and Passenger / School Bus endorsement, so you can familiarize yourself with the hazards that come with driving such a vehicle. These are less of a concern with smaller van-based buses, but do not change with the usage, and can get you into trouble quick. I'll list just a few here...

Blind spots
Low overpasses
Weight-restricted roads/bridges
Length-restricted roads/bridges
Overhead utility lines
Utility poles
Traffic control signs and devices
Steep hills and mountains (especially longer ones)
Sharp curves
Improper braking
Rear overhang collisions (aka "swinging @$$")

The most important thing to remember is that the bigger the bus, the more mindful you have to be when turning, braking and parking. Hydraulic and air brakes both present their own special set of problems. Basic principle, brakes work through friction, which produces heat. This heat, if not kept under control, can mean serious injury or death through loss of control on hills and mountains. Brakes can fade to the point they are rendered inoperable, and sometimes even catch fire. In addition to the above, this same heat can actually boil brake fluid in hydraulic systems, also rendering the brakes inoperable -- the reason so many larger buses and trucks have air systems. Air systems have storage tanks that need to be purged occasionally to drain water that accumulates in the system. CDL manual says once a day, but I rather think this can be loosened somewhat for the intended use.

DO NOT RIDE THE BRAKES. This one thing has probably gotten more people killed in this type of vehicle. Using the transmission to control speed when descending steep hills is paramount to safety. Gentle on-and-off application (snub braking) combined with gearing down for engine braking is safer. Let the engine do the work. Turning on engine-driven A/C can help this as well, it puts slightly more load on the engine. Stab braking (a sharp momentary jab on the brakes) is another technique that may become necessary in extreme situations. This method minimizes heat, but is harder on the brakes and has more chance for loss of control if not done properly.

Extra care is needed when turning as well, since most drivers of conventional vehicles are too clueless to give you space to do so. MIRRORS, MIRRORS, MIRRORS -- I can't stress this enough. Not to mention a curve taken too fast or a turn made too quickly can easily land such a bus on its side. You must also be mindful of height restrictions, as most of these buses are easily over 9 feet tall. The average 3+ ton dog-nose Blue Bird or Thomas is 10 feet minimum.

Longer wheelbase = wider turning. Bigger buses offer more safety, rigidity, and usable space, as well as hardier equipment, but they are also more expensive to tow/repair, use more fuel, and are much easier to get into trouble with. Honestly, though, don't let any of this scare you. After you get used to one of those, it's like driving a really long pickup with a huge blind spot. Don't be afraid of the bus, but respect its ability to kill if not properly controlled. My trainer challenged me to parallel park a 70-foot 18-wheeler three weeks out of school. Yes, it's possible. I taught myself to do it a year later.

Anyhoo, having driven a full-size Chevy van, methinks wifey would be most comfortable with the size I mentioned first, and parts are much cheaper/easier to find in breakdown situations. Most have small gas V8s, some diesels, and have hydraulic brakes. Not as expensive to tow or hard to unload from, either.

Comparing driving cars trucks, vans, etc. to driving a bus, there's simply no comparison. The smallest ones are comparable, as they are on basically the same chassis and have the same powertrain as a fullsize van, but that's where the similarity ends. They are heavier, more top-heavy and don't stop or turn as well. And nearly all buses will have a pronounced overhang past the rear axle that can get you into trouble quick if you're not careful.

There's a saying in the trucking industry coined from the plight of a certain hapless mega-carrier whose many improperly trained rookie drivers make numerous mistakes -- "Swing Wide, It's a F---ing Trailer". This basically just means you start turning later than you would with a shorter vehicle. The longer the bus, the more you have to overshoot or 'drift' your turn to make sure your rear axle and overhang don't contact anything. But you have to know when it is necessary, and when it is not. And rule #1 of CDL driving still applies here - never think you know everything. And never assume, when in doubt, get out and look, or have someone spot you. Don't let this scare you, it's not that hard to learn and get used to. But again, for safety, I highly recommend at least some basic CDL instruction, even for a small bus. I would also recommend back-up cameras and a multi-channel vehicle DVR system to protect yourself from liability (false claims from other drivers in the wrong do happen).

An auto trans has been standard on most for a long time. My old B700 had a 4-speed Spicer manual with a hill-crawler low, but that was the first one I'd seen in years. Power steering has also become pretty standard, and unless you're getting a really old bus or buying from a municipality that could barely afford the base model, A/C should be pretty standard too, even if it's not engine driven. You'll probably want to upgrade to an air seat on a bigger one with air brakes. Most have leaf suspension and they don't ride that cushy, with most being at their basics a bus body bolted to a 3-ton medium duty truck chassis. Front-engine flat-nose owners sometimes later find its engine heat and noise objectionable. This can be countered with Dynamat, but for best results with a bigger bus, I would recommend a rear-engine pusher or a dognose.

Just my $0.02, your results may vary... But after driving 18-wheelers and seeing some pretty bad accidents (some fatal) with Class A RVs and such because some don't understand what they are getting into, I highly recommend basic CDL instruction for anyone looking to build a skoolie. It just might save your life or someone else's.

Rule of thumb, it may no longer be a school-owned bus, but it is still the same 12,000 or 22,000-33,000-lb behemoth it was before. It's not going to turn, stop, or handle any better just because you took the seats out. And wind is NOT your friend. Wind advisories in places like Wyoming include skoolies, too, as they are high-profile vehicles. And in chain-law states such as CO and CA, check as to whether you are required to carry chains. This is one area I'm not sure RVs are exempt, and it just isn't worth the hassle with DOT, because they may still consider it subject to chain law because of its length and weight. Always went by my trainer's rule though -- If it was bad enough to chain, it was too bad to drive. Common sense, folks.

Hope this helps anyone who reads it. There's a bit more to this than some might think.
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Old 11-09-2018, 07:23 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Tango View Post
Biggest issue for most new bus drivers seems to be the rear overhang swing. Many buses have as much as 12' behind the rear tires that can sweep a street clean if not kept up with.
Side note: When I was getting ready to drive my bus for the first time, the seller hollered "watch that tail swing!" I must admit I took it as a compliment when it was clearly a warning.
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