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Old 02-16-2020, 11:47 PM   #1
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Shorty for towing travel trailer

Hello!

I currently live full time in a 34' travel trailer that has a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. I've been looking around at tow vehicles trying to decide what to get, which is difficult because I have a family of 7 and options for that are very limited. I've looked at diesel Excursions and the like, which can technically tow at that weight, but only has like 1,000 lbs of extra weight which would get used up and more by the weight of the family, additional gear, etc. I had a wild thought the other day that a short school bus might be perfect because it would let my family kind of just hang out in the back while we travel rather than being stuck in seats with seat belts. I'm also considering doing some mission work in Mexico, and the extra space in the bus would be great for a little office to manage things, too. I was also a school bus driver for a little while, so I have experience driving them and it would be cool to do so again.

My question here is: has anyone used one of these for towing? My favorites are the conventional Internationals, as they had the most comfortable seat and just felt more solid overall from my experience, so that's what I'm mostly focused on. Would something like that have a GCVWR high enough to reasonably tow a trailer that heavy? Is the engine strong enough to maintain reasonable uphill speed with that much weight?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 02-17-2020, 06:42 AM   #2
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I have towed up to 10,000lbs with my bus, and do tow regularly around 5000-7000lbs. It does ok. Long grades are a bit slow. We are comparing apples to oranges here though as mine is an old gasser.

I would avoid the van cutaway buses, and go for the a full size shorty. DT466 or equivalent, and anything better then the AT 545 trans. Many short buses tend to max out around 60 mph because of gearing, however that gives better pulling power. So may well work in your favor.
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Old 02-17-2020, 11:33 AM   #3
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Thanks for the quick response! Yes, my preference would definitely be the full bus version, as it would give the most "open" feel and it's what I'm most comfortable with when it comes to buses. The speed limit while towing here in California is 55 mph anyway, and it looks like the speed limits most places in Mexico are limited to around 65 mph, so 60 mph isn't terrible unless we go out of state in the US, and even then I'm not sure I'd personally want to go much faster than that while towing my full time home with me. Better safe than sorry when a serious accident could mean you're homeless!
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Old 02-18-2020, 01:46 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
I have towed up to 10,000lbs with my bus, and do tow regularly around 5000-7000lbs. It does ok. Long grades are a bit slow. We are comparing apples to oranges here though as mine is an old gasser.

I would avoid the van cutaway buses, and go for the a full size shorty. DT466 or equivalent, and anything better then the AT 545 trans. Many short buses tend to max out around 60 mph because of gearing, however that gives better pulling power. So may well work in your favor.
Is the T444E a reasonable equivalent to the DT466? It's a V8 rather than a six cylinder, but the internet tells me the T444E has around 210 HP and the DT466 is between 210-350HP. There's an AmTran in Arizona that looks pretty good, but it has the T444E.
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Old 02-18-2020, 01:52 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by avarusbrightfyre View Post
Is the T444E a reasonable equivalent to the DT466? It's a V8 rather than a six cylinder, but the internet tells me the T444E has around 210 HP and the DT466 is between 210-350HP. There's an AmTran in Arizona that looks pretty good, but it has the T444E.
In school buses both the 444 and 466 both can be rated anywhere from 170-230. The DT can even go up to 250 or 275 on some rare buses.
The straight six is superior to the v8.
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Old 02-18-2020, 01:59 PM   #6
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In school buses both the 444 and 466 both can be rated anywhere from 170-230. The DT can even go up to 250 or 275 on some rare buses.
The straight six is superior to the v8.
Can you elaborate a bit on what is superior? How about from a reliability standpoint? I'm not sure I'm looking for absolute maximum power, as more power = more fuel, but I want something strong enough to pull all the weight somewhat comfortably (i.e. won't crawl uphill at 10 mph). I don't want to discount the V8 if it's a strong and reliable engine and there aren't any straight sixes in range of me.
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Old 02-18-2020, 02:16 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by avarusbrightfyre View Post
Can you elaborate a bit on what is superior? How about from a reliability standpoint? I'm not sure I'm looking for absolute maximum power, as more power = more fuel, but I want something strong enough to pull all the weight somewhat comfortably (i.e. won't crawl uphill at 10 mph). I don't want to discount the V8 if it's a strong and reliable engine and there aren't any straight sixes in range of me.
More powerful, more robust, more longevity. I have a Cat 3126 and it seems like I'm getting around 10mpg +/- but I'm not an mpg nerd.
If you want STRONG don't buy a v8 diesel. They're wimpier than the straight sixes.
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Old 02-18-2020, 02:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
More powerful, more robust, more longevity. I have a Cat 3126 and it seems like I'm getting around 10mpg +/- but I'm not an mpg nerd.
If you want STRONG don't buy a v8 diesel. They're wimpier than the straight sixes.
Cool, thanks for the info.
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Old 02-18-2020, 02:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avarusbrightfyre View Post
Hello!

I currently live full time in a 34' travel trailer that has a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. I've been looking around at tow vehicles trying to decide what to get, which is difficult because I have a family of 7 and options for that are very limited. I've looked at diesel Excursions and the like, which can technically tow at that weight, but only has like 1,000 lbs of extra weight which would get used up and more by the weight of the family, additional gear, etc. I had a wild thought the other day that a short school bus might be perfect because it would let my family kind of just hang out in the back while we travel rather than being stuck in seats with seat belts. I'm also considering doing some mission work in Mexico, and the extra space in the bus would be great for a little office to manage things, too. I was also a school bus driver for a little while, so I have experience driving them and it would be cool to do so again.

My question here is: has anyone used one of these for towing? My favorites are the conventional Internationals, as they had the most comfortable seat and just felt more solid overall from my experience, so that's what I'm mostly focused on. Would something like that have a GCVWR high enough to reasonably tow a trailer that heavy? Is the engine strong enough to maintain reasonable uphill speed with that much weight?

Thanks in advance!

Check out my build, Heavy Fuel. I have a 26' enclosed car carrier. After Hurricane Harvey wiped us out, we loaded up HF with the trailer fully cubed out and very heavy (pun intended) and moved to Kansas. With a total weight rating of 17K tons, we nearly maxed out the weight on her with all of our stuff. This also includes maxing out the trailer at 6 tons. Our Cat 3208 diesel with the 643 auto transmission had no issues making the trip. Everything ran cool throughout the entire trip.


My advice is find a bus with the 643 transmission, the most heavy duty engine available (Cats and Cummins are good choices, mine is the 10.2L engine with an excellent reputation for durability), and make the most crazy duty towing hitch that can haul 10K tons of stuff (that's what I did, 1/2 inch plate steel).


Again, read my thread, it may help with what to do for just such a project.


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Old 02-18-2020, 04:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avarusbrightfyre View Post
Can you elaborate a bit on what is superior? How about from a reliability standpoint? I'm not sure I'm looking for absolute maximum power, as more power = more fuel, but I want something strong enough to pull all the weight somewhat comfortably (i.e. won't crawl uphill at 10 mph). I don't want to discount the V8 if it's a strong and reliable engine and there aren't any straight sixes in range of me.

The T444E is a V8 style engine (I have one in my bus) and they have a pretty good reliability reputation. The HP on it could use a little help if I'm going to move much weight but since mine's a shorty that's not as much of an issue.


The DT466 is a straight-6 engine and generally have good reliability and parts availability, they'll generate marginally more HP but a *LOT* more torque, which is critically important when you're moving a 17000 pound bus and 10K pound trailer. Also, a larger, more powerful engine running at half power will be more efficient than a smaller engine running at full throttle.


One member with a 250HP(?) DT466 ended up with his build weighing like 34K pounds and felt even that was woefully underpowered (and he's probably right, based on my experience driving box trucks with heavy loads).
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Old 02-18-2020, 04:54 PM   #11
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For sheer brute torque the Cat 3208 is a winner in my book. When I helped my good friend move from California to Kansas he loaded me well over 12 tons of his stuff. Tools weigh TONS! The 3208 never got hot, nor did the tranny. I did about 45 mph coming up to Reno, NV on 6 and 7% grades, never missed a beat.


The fact the Cat 3208 is a 10.2 Liter engine makes a huge difference. Lots of low end power, can tach over 3K without blowing up, and I still got about 7 mpg loaded down, going up hill.


Not many other school bus engines can do all that and not overheat. The next step up is an 18 wheeler set-up. Even then, some aren't up to the task like my 3208.


Just sayin'


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Old 02-18-2020, 04:59 PM   #12
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The 444 is a cousin to the Ford powerstroke. The 466 is a heavier duty medium truck engine. So while you can get 210 hp in either for a bus the 466 will last longer doing it.

The transmission is important. Avoid the Allison AT 545, it is not suited at all to towing, the MT643 is good, or for that matter any of the MT series Allisons.
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Old 02-18-2020, 05:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
The 444 is a cousin to the Ford powerstroke. The 466 is a heavier duty medium truck engine. So while you can get 210 hp in either for a bus the 466 will last longer doing it.

The transmission is important. Avoid the Allison AT 545, it is not suited at all to towing, the MT643 is good, or for that matter any of the MT series Allisons.

While there's a lot of truth in what you say, let me give a couple examples:


Let's say you have a racecar engine rated for 600 HP. It will accelerate quickly and achieve a high top speed but will use a lot of fuel over the course of a race. It also will perform very poorly if pulling a moderately loaded trailer.


Move up to a road tractor with a 600 HP rated engine. It will pull an 80,000 pound load comfortably (as it was engineered to do) and last many miles doing it, achieving a reasonable fuel economy doing it.


Now find a railroad switching locomotive rated at 600 HP. It will move many hundreds of tons, at slow speeds and some over 50 years old are still in use (admittedly, after more than one rebuild).


All these engines generate the same (rated) horsepower but the key difference is how much torque they have. The racecar has a high revving engine but not much in the way of torque. The semi will rev up to ~1900 or so RPM but can give upwards of 2000 pounds of torque (this is a lot in the trucking industry). The locomotive will redline at 950 or so (yes, that sounds very low!) but gives enough torque to move several heavily loaded railcars.


Also, I wouldn't say the AT545 isn't suited for towing. Some yard spotter trucks had the AT545 and they commonly move those same 80,000 pound trailers (many had the Cummins 5.9 engine), though it's true they are very geared down and have a limited top speed. They don't usually pull those heavy trailers long distances up steep mountain grades (and I wouldn't be surprised if most had transmission coolers). I will agree the AT545 is much better suited for stop and go city usage, and I will further agree it's not a good choice for much long distance travel (especially involving towing). It's the heat buildup from running full throttle up a long grade that greatly shortens their life, and many buses didn't get transmission coolers, not really needing them for school bus use.
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Old 02-18-2020, 09:36 PM   #14
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For sheer brute torque the Cat 3208 is a winner in my book. When I helped my good friend move from California to Kansas he loaded me well over 12 tons of his stuff. Tools weigh TONS! The 3208 never got hot, nor did the tranny. I did about 45 mph coming up to Reno, NV on 6 and 7% grades, never missed a beat.


The fact the Cat 3208 is a 10.2 Liter engine makes a huge difference. Lots of low end power, can tach over 3K without blowing up, and I still got about 7 mpg loaded down, going up hill.


Not many other school bus engines can do all that and not overheat. The next step up is an 18 wheeler set-up. Even then, some aren't up to the task like my 3208.


Just sayin'


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Some of it is pretty wimpy for the size.

That said I'm possibly picking up a bus with a 3208 this year.
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Old 02-23-2020, 08:39 PM   #15
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If I ever go back to a travel trailer I plan to pull one with some type of school bus. Before we got into buses we had 2 excursions which were awesome but can get very expensive for engine repairs if not already bulletproofed; the 6.0 also takes a lot of monitoring of different temperatures so you don’t mess it up.

when looking for a bus to pull yours just be sure to check the rear of the bus that there is enough frame to attach a custom 10,000 lb hitch to.
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