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Old 06-10-2019, 08:58 PM   #1
Almost There
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 73
Maximum legal fuel capacities?

This thread is to quote & link to the maximum legal limits for vehicle fuel capacities - installed / in containers, gas limit / diesel limit / propane limit / total limit / max combined limit before needing to comply with a different set of regs to legally carry beyond that limit.

This thread is about maximum legal fuel capacities in the United States and Canada. I am probably the first bus nut who is going to max out legal fuel capacity in a RV-registered vehicle. If I am not the first I want to hear your war story.

I am going to have the aux system designed & installed professionally by a shop because I don’t want trouble. Hypothetically, if you do everything yourself with mismatched junkyard parts, connect everything with scrounged tubing and fittings, making it work with as little money as possible because “frugality is the midle finger to the CONsumer CULTure that is destroyin the planet!”. What retribution can you face by authorities for a virtuously janky auxiliary fuel system other than a Fix it ticket or impoundment?

I’ve heard of intercity buses lines in Mexico carrying hundreds of gallons of diesel in plastic drums placed in every bay, so they can drive nonstop through the dangerous regions with their main tank shot through. Because they’ve been robbed after losing their fuel because the bandits shot through their tanks to stop the bus. I’m mentioning this as an example of maxing fuel capacity - I don’t plan to explore Mexico in the skoolie until I can afford a total loss scenario.

I specifically want to know the interstate limits for carrying diesel in a RV-registered skoolie for the Lower 48.

I also want to hear your stories of crossing into Canada with a stash of fuel (several full gas cans / auxiliary tanks / 100 pounds of propane etc.). I know a lot of things are at the discretion of the border agent and I also know the duties on extra fuel will be more than any savings. Be polite to them they’ll be polite to you...

My question is “Could the aux tanks be designed in a way that the CBSA considers it part of the fuel system, and considers it not subject to duties? Or should I plan on drawing down as much as I can and pay the duties on the gallons they deem unreasonable?” A design like this will also help when I have to stop at those inland immigration checkpoints in the Southwest.

For me maxing out fuel capacity is not just about saving money, it’s saving time. Time is the most important asset you have, as time is non-renewable and finite - Money is renewable and infinite. Filling 500 gallons, It’s worth your time and money to drive the bus an hour across town or to the next town to save 20 cents a gallon.

For me the cost to max out fuel capacity will pay dividends. When I’m going to travel the Dalton, Dempster & James Bay Highway not just once in my life but multiple times. When I explore America and fill up once a season. When I visit California and have the option to not pay their fuel taxes on principle because I wont need to fill up. When Im watching the news anchor report on $5 gas, smiling because I have at least 300 gallons of diesel under the floor. When I’m able to ride out temporary fuel shortages, like another 1973 oil crisis replete with fuel rationing and even-odd license plate days; where in some places after waiting hours in line in a hot car to fill up you’re told you can only fill to 20 gallons and you can only fill one gas can.
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Old 06-10-2019, 09:16 PM   #2
Join Date: Nov 2018
Posts: 41
Think about fuel going stale, so thatís a problem. Having so much extra weight would make miles per gallon turn into gallons per mile. You might end up losing money lugging around a literal ton of fuel. As for being shot at, bulletproof the fuel tanks. Saving time, good point. Just an idea. Take it for what itís worth.
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Old 06-10-2019, 09:23 PM   #3
Bus Nut
Join Date: May 2018
Location: topeka kansas
Posts: 685
Year: 1954
Coachwork: wayne
Chassis: old f500- new 2005 f-450
Engine: cummins 12 valve
Rated Cap: 20? five rows of 4?
fuel - diesel

I can have two,stock fuel tanks, they sit between the frame rails and behind the rear axle. 40 gallons each tank. uses OEM switch valves and fuel level sending units and lower skid plates. No tanks out side the frame rails. dont know yet about propane tank... gonna go under there somewhere.

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Old 06-10-2019, 09:44 PM   #4
Bus Nut
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Posts: 932
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: International
Engine: TE 444
Rated Cap: 12
My 1982 bluebird wanderlodge has a single 270 gallon fuel tank, I have driven semi tractors with 2 150 gallon tanks and seen larger. Make sure whatever tank you use is rated for fuel
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Old 06-10-2019, 10:16 PM   #5
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: Stansbury Park, Utah
Posts: 184
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Amtran
Chassis: GA39530
Engine: DT466E 215hp 620tq
Rated Cap: 40
Freightliner FLD120 tank

Im planning on using one Freightliner classic or FLD120 tank which is 23" x 88" and holds 150 gallons. This will be in place of the stock cage tank which is only 60 gallons but takes tons of space and weighs a bunch. They are pretty cheap too, tons of them out there.
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Old 06-10-2019, 10:41 PM   #6
Almost There
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 73
So, is there a legal limit to the maximum gallons you can have onboard an RV / vehicle registered as an RV?
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Old 06-10-2019, 11:16 PM   #7
Bus Nut
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Greater Boston
Posts: 504
From what I can find doing some research (so far) :

You can carry a maximum of 1,000 gallons of diesel without a hazmat endorsement.
No single tank/container that's holding that 1,000 gallons can be over 119 gallons.

I don't know how the vehicles primary fuel tank figures into that equation - since you can buy tanks that will hold more then 119 gallons.
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Old 06-11-2019, 05:20 AM   #8
Bus Nut
Join Date: May 2019
Location: Lebanon, Indiana
Posts: 437
Coachwork: In the market
Originally Posted by Mark_In_MA View Post
From what I can find doing some research (so far) :

You can carry a maximum of 1,000 gallons of diesel without a hazmat endorsement.
No single tank/container that's holding that 1,000 gallons can be over 119 gallons.

I don't know how the vehicles primary fuel tank figures into that equation - since you can buy tanks that will hold more then 119 gallons.
These are good general guidelines as they are the same guidelines used by the DOT for hazmat transportation. Regarding the exception for fuel tank capacities over 119 gallons, there are two guiding principles at play - one is that an affixed fuel tank is permanently secured to the vehicle versus being a portable cargo container which is secured but not permanent and fuel tanks are more rigid than cargo containers. Anything in bulk like a fuel tanker truck would end up requiring placards and that's not a box of trouble worth opening. Second is that >119 gal tanks have become less common based on a number of factors, including a more robust national fuel network infrastructure and increased fuel efficiency since the era of big rigs which toted 300-400 gallons for long hauls with few fuel stop options.

Pertaining to this topic with regards to skoolies, of course a fuel capacity upgrade is imperative if you're planning to do long trips but no reason to to overboard. A second fuel tank of equal capacity should be sufficient. Best location would be between the frame rails for impact protection. And at some point the added weight of too much fuel will become self-defeating as fuel economy declines in response. These are all good points previously raised and well worth considering from to learn from the past experience of others.
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fuel, interstate, interstate rules, legal, legal limit

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