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Old 09-14-2023, 11:09 AM   #1
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: San Jose, CA
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Year: 1981
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Who has turned the back half of a school bus into a road legal enclosed trailer?

At my income level, buying any 20’ cargo trailer for a mobile workshop or wheeled storage unit is out of reach.

With so many non-running school buses with intact, not rusting bus bodies sitting in fields, salvage yards, on the auction block; why haven’t I seen and heard of more people turning them into road legal cargo trailers?

In some cases, you could get the bus free and clear for the cost of being able to tow it away. The hardest part is fabbing a trailer tongue onto the frame rails, which would probably need to be a pintle hook connection due to how heavy the dry weight is. Then there is fabbing a wall to close the open end. To create easy rear access, put the tongue on the closed end of the body and add or relocate a set of brake lights and marker lights.

Thinking of how cool it would be to give a Wayne bodied activity bus another chance at life, possibly saving it from the shredder by saving the back half and turning it into a road legal, heavy duty enclosed cargo trailer.

I could have very large cargo trailer for as little as a couple thousand dollars that matched the shape of my bus.

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Old 09-14-2023, 04:42 PM   #2
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I paid someone to haul a motorcycle from Wis to Mo and it seems a person could make money doing that, hauling motorcycles across the country or even locally in a bus. He had a 15 pass van that he put 3 motorcycles in at a time and was plenty busy.
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Old 09-14-2023, 07:02 PM   #3
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Iím in process of building a half rv half car hauler I cut frame and made a ramp over for headroom etc Iím almost ready for first camping outing and a few weeks from being ready to load a race car I left all walls and roof it will look like a bus from the side.
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Old 09-14-2023, 10:01 PM   #4
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Weight is the biggest reason, a bus body and frame weighs a good bit more the a cargo trailer. Also brakes. If your bus is air brakes and the bus turned into a trailer is air brakes then you can set up the brakes just like a tractor trailer. But if either are hydraulic then better to change to trailer axles with electric brakes. At that point just buy a trailer.


Having said all that I do have a 6 window shorty with no engine, and my new bus and the shorty both have air brakes that is a possibility. It would just be cool. Still un needed weight is a factor.
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Old 09-17-2023, 12:03 AM   #5
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If anybody is reading this who is not already mechanically minded, a school bus to trailer conversion I would not recommend.

With this out of the way, I feel like it would not be out of my abilities to do after I complete my build and living full time. I would need a shop trailer if I were to offer “whole package” Skoolie prep & build services, a really big shop trailer.

The weight would make it a very heavy duty trailer though. More than enough to carry the tools, supplies, wood, steel, hardware, equipment and parts would need to carry for such a venture. If I bought another Wayne activity bus body to match my bus, the ground clearance would be better than any cargo trailer on the market.

The single axle would be a drawback for a trailer, I would effectively have a 24-28’ single axle trailer but with dually tires. This means extra consideration for load balance and tongue weight as you have only one point of contact with the road instead of two. Many tolled bridges would be slightly cheaper to cross because 2 axle skoolie + 1 axle trailer would be less total axles, which future toll prices could mean tens of dollars of savings.

If you’re car hauling or need easy roll on - roll off, you could simply shift weight or fully extend your jacks to tilt the trailer back. While your wheels are locked up while parked because it’s air brakes.

Since any trailer that large is going to need the same safety considerations, a tongue jack, possibly a sway bar, I don’t see enough difference here to talk about. Having to supply just a screw jack yourself on a bus body trailer is going to add at least several hundred dollars to the cost.

Converting the former drive axle would entail deleting the differential, or removing its internals and finding some way to prevent the former drive lines from coming out of the tubes. There could be minuscule drag on the axle compared to a conventional cargo trailer. Then again, this possible minuscule drag is minuscule compared to the additional fuel burn from pulling the bus body trailer. Internal wear of the axle would be a bigger concern.

Adding an air line connection to my skoolie and using the existing (former) drive axle air brakes on the trailer is a big “what if?” for Insurability. Insurability for a bus body trailer using the original air brakes could be why this isn’t more common. You would be effectively insuring a custom built cargo trailer but with a home built air brakes system (in the eyes of many insurers) for private, not for hire use. Remember, school buses don’t have both primary and secondary air brakes systems, at least in the same way a semi tractor does.
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Old 09-17-2023, 07:44 AM   #6
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On a bus rear end, tget are a full floating rear. This means the axles that drive the wheels do not carry weight , nor do thet retain the wheels. Popping the axles out, as is often done for towing and putting a plate to cover the hub is all that is needed. No more drag then a trailer axle. I would remove the pumpkin just to save weight though.

A word of caution some rears have greased bearings and some are lubed from the differential fluid. Again i am talking bus/ truck rears not car or pickup.

The brakes on the rear are the same as a tractor trailer trailer, drum size might be a little smaller but same set up. So you would need the glad hands, and another parking brake controller. The trailer does have air tanks, so keep the bus ones. I would check out how it is actually plumbed on a tractor trailer.

I see no insurance issue, as many other heavy trailers use air brakes, as long as you build it the same way.
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Old 09-23-2023, 01:53 PM   #7
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Since my bus is 35’ I could go huge for a shop trailer. I could have up to a 29’ trailer body with a 5 foot tongue, using a pintle hook. This size would allow a complete workshop to work on steel and wood, allowing for full size equipment like a 6’ drill press and 8” metal lathe, while parking a pickup truck inside the rear section (to make the inevitable part runs from customers site into the nearest city).

Since the donor bus doesn’t need to run, just roll, all I need to do before I start looking is be equipped to dolly or flat tow a full size bus safely with my skoolie.

With this being said, in the event only a non-air brakes equipped vehicle is available to tow my bus trailer, and I didn’t have my bus available. Is there a reliable, fail safe system I could add to the tongue of the trailer to emulate air braking? This is the simplest and least costly way I can think of to make it safe to pull with non-air brakes equipped vehicles.
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Old 09-23-2023, 04:27 PM   #8
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why pintle hook?
that would need to be air or electronic brake axles on the trailer.
i hate pintle hook but deal with them daily. if your know your vehicle and trailer then you can feel the trailer floating in the pintle verses a solid mount hitch.
of course everything is articulating as far as trailers go.
used to use post style fight wheel hight on the farm? they never lost a trailer. even in the mud.
never had a fifth wheel style.
aint scared of it
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Old 09-25-2023, 01:48 PM   #9
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I just thought the largest ball mount wouldn’t support the weight and tug of a bus body trailer. If I can’t balance it so there’s around 500 pounds on the tongue. The extra ground clearance is just the nature of a bus body trailer.
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Old 09-25-2023, 07:04 PM   #10
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Remember about 10% of total trailer should be on the hitch. I have a 2 5/16" ball and it is rated at 16,000 lbs towing and 1600 lbs tongue weight
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Old 09-26-2023, 11:59 PM   #11
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I will have to do some research on ball sizes & super heavy duty hitch receivers. With my hypothetical shop trailer, it’s going to probably be a 8000 pound empty weight, then at least 10,000 pounds of supplies and equipment, a 4000 pound pickup truck (with little to nothing in the bed).
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Old 09-27-2023, 06:30 AM   #12
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22,000 lbs, ouch. Ok you are getting into needing a 5th wheel at those weights, and getting beyond any normal school bus to pull it.

Just convert a tractor trailer.
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Old 10-01-2023, 09:14 AM   #13
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What would you be pulling this trailer with? You can always go up to a 5-inch ball. That is what the truck and pup dump trucks have.
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