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Old 02-21-2020, 04:25 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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California Driver License Requirements

So I'm a bit confused about how California words their driver license requirements when it comes to "housecars". I'm assuming that's supposed to mean RV's, but my confusion is whether or not the items are mean to be inclusive or exclusive. For example, for a class C non-CDL does it mean under 26,000 gross weight AND any "housecar" less than 40 feet? Or is it under 26,000 gross weight OR any "housecar" less than 40 feet? I ask because most of the buses I would use for a conversion would be full size school buses that are going to gross over the max class c weight but probably be less than the "housecar" length, and I need to know if I need a special license to use it for personal use because of the weight.

Also, does being legal for one state automatically make me legal for other states, or would their weight/length restrictions apply? Or to ask another way, do I need to research every state I go to, or does me being legal here in California automatically make me legal through reciprocity nationwide?

Anyone from Cali able to shed some light?
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Old 02-21-2020, 04:50 PM   #2
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Isn’t it crazy? I went back and read it again. I think you should call them and report back. The way I read it is that if it’s over 26K but less than 40’ you need a CDL. If it’s 40 1/2” you just need the 45’ housecar stamp.

FYI, the 7 window buses are usually 25,500 GVWR
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Old 02-21-2020, 08:33 PM   #3
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You won't find any "school buses" that are over 40'. the 26k lbs is the killer in some states, still requiring a CDL. Many of us are exempt from most rules in an RV. My sister keeps bragging about the nice weather out there, but not as often as she bitches about everything else wrong with that state.
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Old 02-21-2020, 11:57 PM   #4
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You're over thinking it.

In ca with a rv/house car/moterhome designation on both the title and the registration of the vehicle, you don't need a cdl as long as it's not longer than 40 feet.

What *is* surprising is that a novice 16 year old driver with a regular license could get behind of a steel container weighing several tons and go highway speeds legally as long as it's an rv, when the same rig used in any other fashion requires a cdl who's been scrutinized in taking training but that's true.
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Old 02-22-2020, 12:22 AM   #5
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You're over thinking it.

In ca with a rv/house car/moterhome designation on both the title and the registration of the vehicle, you don't need a cdl as long as it's not longer than 40 feet.

What *is* surprising is that a novice 16 year old driver with a regular license could get behind of a steel container weighing several tons and go highway speeds legally as long as it's an rv, when the same rig used in any other fashion requires a cdl who's been scrutinized in taking training but that's true.
But what about the 26000 weight limit that is printed in a class C license?
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Old 02-22-2020, 01:57 AM   #6
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I think the RV manufacturers intentionally make RVs super lightweight to stay under that 26000 weight limit. I recently drove a 35 foot fleetwood that had a 26000 GVWR. IDK if that’s universally the case.
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Old 02-22-2020, 08:31 AM   #7
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I believe it's OR not AND.

You're fine as long as you're driving an RV under 40', regardless of weight.

For other vehicle type registrations, the weight restriction applies.

And no matter the vehicle, of course non-commercial purposes only.

You may never get an official acknowledgement of that, but should be fine IRL wrt actual enforcement.
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Old 02-22-2020, 08:36 AM   #8
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And yes, the other states will not enforce their own license restriction on holders of out of state DLs, nor vehicle standards on out of state registrations.

Unless gross safety issues are obvious of course, and so long you or the vehicle don't overstay the "jyst passing through" time limits.

And the feds DOT only have jurisdiction over commercial activities.
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Old 02-24-2020, 03:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sepudo View Post
You're over thinking it.

In ca with a rv/house car/moterhome designation on both the title and the registration of the vehicle, you don't need a cdl as long as it's not longer than 40 feet.

What *is* surprising is that a novice 16 year old driver with a regular license could get behind of a steel container weighing several tons and go highway speeds legally as long as it's an rv, when the same rig used in any other fashion requires a cdl who's been scrutinized in taking training but that's true.
Well, that was my question. "Any vehicle less than 26k lbs" OR "any house car under 40 feet" is very different from the same verbiage and the word "AND". Since the website doesn't specify "and" vs "or", I wanted to make sure the designation of "housecar" removes the weight restriction.

I'm considering two options: buying a short bus to tow my current trailer, or selling my current trailer and buying a 40' transit bus and building it custom to my exact needs. If the weight restriction isn't a factor, that removes one of the cons of the transit bus option.
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Old 02-24-2020, 04:55 PM   #10
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Have you called the DMV for clarification?
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Old 02-24-2020, 05:22 PM   #11
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Have you called the DMV for clarification?
No, I'm a ways off from being able to move on this plan and it's not worth my time yet to sit on hold forever and then probably be told they have no idea and transfer me 20 or 30 times and still end up with no answer. I was hoping someone from California has already done something similar and already had an answer.
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Old 02-25-2020, 02:23 PM   #12
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So I just found out about some 29' transit style buses that shifts my paradigm a bit. I live full time in my 35' travel trailer, and part of the appeal of using a bus to tow the trailer is fitting it out as extra living space because my family is 7 strong, with two adults, three teens, and two almost teens.

Assuming about 4' of driver space in the front, a 29' bus would leave about 25' of build-able living space. The travel trailer has about 29' of living space, which totals up to 54' total of living area. The overall vehicle length would be 64', which is just under most state limits of 65 feet. Really long and awkward, especially with the pivot point about half way between the ends, but still probably workable.

I would imagine almost every RV park would be out of the question with a setup like this, but my goal is to avoid those as much as possible anyway, so that's not really an issue I guess. And if it turns out that the "housecar" designation removes the weight restriction somehow, that would be the ultimate setup for my large family.

It just seems weird that they'd allow non-trained drivers to operate that much weight on the road, so I'm still a little leery about it. I would be shocked to find that a restrictive state like California allows regular drivers to exceed the weight limit just because it's an RV.
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Old 02-25-2020, 02:58 PM   #13
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Hmm, I just read a bit more through the licensing sticky at the top of this forum. I had originally only read a couple of posts because it seemed focused on registration rather than licensing, but later on it gets more into what license you need and all that. Many states, including California, exempt private RV owners from a CDL requirement if its for personal use. And from what I can see on the California website, the Class A and B non-commercial licenses seem targeted toward RV length and not weight. I would imagine I'll need an endorsement for air brakes if the bus I get has them, but other than that it's actually starting to look like there's not going to be a weight restriction. Color me shocked, lol.
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Old 02-25-2020, 04:38 PM   #14
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You do know there are maximum length restrictions for **total** TV+trailer together, right?

IOW only a very short bus can be used to tow a long trailer, even 25' much less 35'!

And I think that is also one area where DOT / feds might override states they consider too laissez-faire.

Edit: OK I see you did work out, 65' really seems long to me.

Personally I'd get two vehicles, and at least one other driver ideally more, trained and au fait with lots of practice being safe on the road.
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Old 02-25-2020, 05:52 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
You do know there are maximum length restrictions for **total** TV+trailer together, right?

IOW only a very short bus can be used to tow a long trailer, even 25' much less 35'!

And I think that is also one area where DOT / feds might override states they consider too laissez-faire.

Edit: OK I see you did work out, 65' really seems long to me.

Personally I'd get two vehicles, and at least one other driver ideally more, trained and au fait with lots of practice being safe on the road.
I agree that 65' seems really long, but at least here in California that appears to be the limit. Tractor trailers are something like 73 feet. I have no idea if reciprocity exempts me from individual state length restrictions like appears to be the case with other factors.

As far as two drivers, my future wife doesn't want to drive separately if we don't have to, as she's just really uncomfortable with driving something that big, so I'm trying to maximize living space while keeping everything under "one vehicle". Most of the time we'll be parked with occasional trips here and there. It'll be inconvenient, but most of our time will be living in it, not driving it.
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Old 02-25-2020, 06:06 PM   #16
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I drove a 35 foot fleetwood towing a pickup truck. Including the tow hitch that must have been 55. Drove like a sports car. Haha. It really wasn’t a thing. You definitely think ahead about how turns get negotiated.

10 feet longer? Sure, as long as you always have a pull through
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Old 02-25-2020, 06:31 PM   #17
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I drove a 35 foot fleetwood towing a pickup truck. Including the tow hitch that must have been 55. Drove like a sports car. Haha. It really wasnít a thing. You definitely think ahead about how turns get negotiated.

10 feet longer? Sure, as long as you always have a pull through
You mean a pull through spot in an RV park? Do spots get that long?
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Old 02-25-2020, 07:13 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by avarusbrightfyre View Post
You mean a pull through spot in an RV park? Do spots get that long?
No, I meant so you donít have to turn around. And no, with a 35 foot motor home we had enough room to park the truck sideways in front of it. A 45 footer would push the limits of that place we stayed. Of course itís just one place.

Speaking of long buses, and much like this scenario, I encountered a video on YouTube sometime back posted by a guy who was selling his 40 footer only 6 months after finishing it. His reasons were, because it was overbuilt, it couldnít climb well and they found themselves crawling
Up grades. The other part was that because it was so long they werenít able to pull off in the picturesque places they were out to see and if they wanted they would have to drive to somewhere they could park, unhitch the car and go back.
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Old 02-25-2020, 07:58 PM   #19
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No, I meant so you donít have to turn around. And no, with a 35 foot motor home we had enough room to park the truck sideways in front of it. A 45 footer would push the limits of that place we stayed. Of course itís just one place.

Speaking of long buses, and much like this scenario, I encountered a video on YouTube sometime back posted by a guy who was selling his 40 footer only 6 months after finishing it. His reasons were, because it was overbuilt, it couldnít climb well and they found themselves crawling
Up grades. The other part was that because it was so long they werenít able to pull off in the picturesque places they were out to see and if they wanted they would have to drive to somewhere they could park, unhitch the car and go back.
Gotcha. I was assuming RV parks weren't really in the cards anyway.

Thanks for the heads up on the long bus. I was thinking there would be some struggling up hills towing a 34' travel trailer even with a 7 window school bus (26 ft from what I understand), and the short transit bus would only be like another 3 feet longer, so I wasn't thinking it would be that big a difference. I don't plan to add much to the tow bus, just insulation, a half bath, a couple of minimal bunk beds, a TV cabinet, and basic RV utilities. I wasn't thinking the weight of that would be a whole lot, but I could be wrong.

As far as picturesque locations, I will have to compromise between every day life and going off on adventures. Most of our time will be stationary just living, and I've been trying to think about a setup that primarily focuses on that. It will suck to miss out on places because we can't reach them, but I think our sanity needs more space.
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Old 02-29-2020, 05:53 PM   #20
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Vehicle registration is the domain of each state. States set their registration rules above and beyond the Federal Highway vehicle weight and other restrictions for commercially operated vehicles as they see fit.

You follow the registration rules for your state of registration/domicile and other states recognize those vehicle registration rules when traveling in a "Foreign" state. Good example is the single license plate law in the vast majority of states. One plate per vehicle yet you can operate that vehicle in states like Texas that require a front and rear license plate.

Tennessee where I live is a single license plate state. If you have a weighted license plate meaning a plate that says 10,000 lbs or greater on the bottom of the licence plate up to and under 26,500 lbs license plate that is either a non-commercial Farm tag or a Commercial tag AND your vehicle has a GVWR rating of over 8,500 lbs on the door sticker you mount that weighted license plate on the FRONT of your vehicle. No license plate the rear. The other states love that as they think you have no license plate at all since there is no license plate on the rear of your vehicle. For this very reason I keep a copy of the State of Tennessee Registration Code in my truck to show the officer that I am completely legal with the mounting of my single license plate on the front of my vehicle. Most have never heard of this and let me go. It's easy for them to check if they don't believe me!

The Tennessee registration law for weighted license plates is setup this way so when you "Roll the Scale" which nobody ever does in a none commercial vehicle under 26,500 lbs the "Weight Man" can see that you have enough GVWR license plate weight for the gross weight of your vehicle/trailer as your license plate with the weight shown is on the tag is on the front and easy to read as you cross the scale.

Different yes however Federal law actually states that vehicles with a 10,000 lb GVWR or greater that is NOT an exempt RV is supposed to cross the scale on Federal Interstates this includes private and commercial vehicles. That mean most any dually or other bigger truck will have a GVWR over 10,000 lbs and should cross the scale. Now the "Weight Man" does not want a bunch of smaller none commercial trucks messing up their scale however that's what the Federal law states concerning GVWR and crossing scales.

Most "Weight Men" and State Troopers I know have this attitude:

"If you look commercial, smell commercial or act commercial with your vehicle you can have the pleasure of proving to them that you are NOT commercial"!

Pull a drag car in a trailer with all your racing info plastered all over the trailer you "Look Commercial". The cop stops you and asks you if you ever win anything doing this racing stuff and you say yes they will ask you what you win. Tell them you have won Money racing and that makes you the operator of a COMMERCIAL VEHICLE! Your Busted!!! Your answer is always we just race for fun and have never won a damn thing!

If your vehicle is registered as a RV NONE OF THIS APPLIES!!!

The LESS you do to your vehicle to make you stand out in the crowd the better off you are as ALL THE STATES and Municipalities are out looking for any vehicle violations they can because "It's all about the MONEY" and THEY NEED MORE OF YOUR MONEY!!!
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