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Old 02-02-2017, 03:16 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Hi from NC

Hi everyone. I'm new to the skoolie realm and am looking to learn more about what is the best model to get, etc. If we get a skoolie, it would be used to haul gear + family of 4 around to events for selling items and us "camping" in during these events. My thinking is that this would be the best way to meet our goals of 1. people space 2. cargo space 3. sleep space. Without breaking the bank. Currently, we use our SUV to pull a 17' camper around and quarters are tight and I worry about long term stress on our Jeep. We'd be looking at 6-8 trips a year with anywhere from 400 to 2,000 miles per trip. Dependability is most important. I'm not afraid of a project and can handle any conversion (wood, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, welding) work that is needed myself.

I'm in NC and am not versed with our state's CDL vs. no-CDL laws yet, so that may sway my decision some (when I find out)?

Also, there are so many models it seems, which is the best for long life, cheap parts, easy fixes, etc.? Any models or engine/trans combos to run from?

Edited to add: Where do you all get buses from? Craigslist? Auctions?

Thanks!
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Old 02-02-2017, 03:37 PM   #2
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I'm in NC and am not versed with our state's CDL vs. no-CDL laws yet, so that may sway my decision some (when I find out)?
Check your state's regulations, but for the most part, it's the purpose of a vehicle and not its type that determines what license you need for it. A person could go out and buy an 18 wheel tractor trailer rig and drive it without a CDL as long as it was for private use. If its just you and your family going places, and you aren't hiring it out to haul people/cargo, then odds are you won't need a CDL.

Quote:
Also, there are so many models it seems, which is the best for long life, cheap parts, easy fixes, etc.? Any models or engine/trans combos to run from?
There are many threads on these topics in the mechanical sub-forums. People discuss the pros and cons of different chassis manufacturers, drive trains, engines, transmissions, etc. A few combinations come up often as being preferred, but there's no universal agreement. What's too underpowered or improperly geared for one person is perfectly fine for someone else's purposes and driving habits.


Quote:
Where do you all get buses from? Craigslist? Auctions?
A lot of folks shop at online auctions - ebay, govdeals, surplus auctions, etc. Other people get them from Craigslist. I've seen a few say they have purchased directly from local school districts and some just buy from dealers who specialize in clearing out old buses, though I hear their prices are often higher because sometimes they just buy them from the same places everyone else could and mark them up. A dealer will occasionally help with getting you tags or (in one case I have read about on here) delivering a purchased bus to you, so there are probably occasions when the convenience outweighs the slightly steeper prices.

Other than that, read the forums here. There are years worth of experience and practical tips hidden in the build threads. You'll see ways to solve problems that you never even knew were problems until you read about the solutions.
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Old 02-02-2017, 05:50 PM   #3
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Awesome, thanks!
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Old 02-02-2017, 07:01 PM   #4
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I am in NC down around the beaches/military bases in swansboro.
Where are you?
I bought mine directly from the school system.
But for my purchase there were things left to be desired as far as power train cause I didn't do my research and wasn't apart of this site?
The man at the bus barn in onslow county told me everything they had was powered exactly the same and they might have been for the location?
CDL wise in NC your standard license covers you up to 26,001 regardless of what type of brakes and insurance wise nationwide (Elizabeth Velthoven/in the 28584 area ) did mine and helped another new bus owner in NC who contacted me through PM get his covered.
PM me and I will give You a number to talk on.
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Old 02-02-2017, 07:07 PM   #5
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I'm in the western part of the state kind of near Asheville. Good to know re: the NCDL! That helps even more. I'll have to check into school system sales, etc. I just registered on govdeals website and looked around there some. I'm not ready to buy just yet though, it's neat to see the types and get an idea.
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Old 02-02-2017, 07:54 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by lurk View Post
I'm in the western part of the state kind of near Asheville. Good to know re: the NCDL! That helps even more. I'll have to check into school system sales, etc. I just registered on govdeals website and looked around there some. I'm not ready to buy just yet though, it's neat to see the types and get an idea.
You might want to check out this site for local school districts near you......

North Carolina School Bus Surplus System
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Old 02-02-2017, 07:57 PM   #7
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Oh man, that's a gold mine!!! Thank you!!!!

Know of anyone purchasing from here? Reviews, experiences?
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Old 02-02-2017, 08:09 PM   #8
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Why is everyone so adverse to CDL? Go take the class. Most community colleges offer it. It is a hoot. They let you drive a full-sized semi around town. They teach you about things you never dreamt of. You will feel confident and alive. You get insurance discounts. Your friends will envy you.

Non-commercial CDL is available, as well. State laws vary with GCVW & air brake requirements in case you drive out of your own state. Interstate vs Intrastate. Federal mandates are coming- beat the rush.
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Old 02-02-2017, 08:13 PM   #9
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I think onenationundergoat bought theirs from NC years ago with no qualms.

I've been to 4 different bus depots and everyone was very forthcoming with the good and bad and willing to spend time talking about particulars.
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Old 02-02-2017, 08:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by plfking View Post
You might want to check out this site for local school districts near you......

North Carolina School Bus Surplus System
This is awesome! I love a actual price when i am buying something, and not a gamble bit to distort my business mind.

I found two on Craigslist. Drove this gal home with 110k miles. Purrs like a bbc kitten


Welcome, and good luck!
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Old 02-02-2017, 09:04 PM   #11
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I think onenationundergoat bought theirs from NC years ago with no qualms.

I've been to 4 different bus depots and everyone was very forthcoming with the good and bad and willing to spend time talking about particulars.
They weren't forthcoming to Fred and Dan. ONUG's bus had to have its engine rebuilt due to the seller withholding info about problems from them.
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Old 02-02-2017, 09:08 PM   #12
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Why is everyone so adverse to CDL?
Probably just unfamiliarity. I've had one for years, but the only reason I have it is because I drove semis for a while.

As to a non-commercial CDL... I had not heard of that before. That seems like an oxymoron, given that a CDL is a Commercial Driver's License. I'll have to find out what that's about.
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Old 02-02-2017, 09:21 PM   #13
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plfking View Post
You might want to check out this site for local school districts near you......

North Carolina School Bus Surplus System
Is there a secret to knowing what these bus models are? They only give the year, make, size, and VIN.

For example: 1998, IHC, 36 Passengers, 1HVBBAAL3WH569916
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Old 02-03-2017, 01:30 AM   #14
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That VIN tells me it is a Blue Bird bus body with an IHC chassis. Other than that, not a whole lot.

In regards to a CDL, the need for a CDL is determined by how the vehicle is being used. If your bus is retitled as an RV it doesn't matter how large it is all you need to drive an RV anywhere in the US is a regular driver's license.

If however you use your bus to transport people you will not only have to get a CDL to drive your bus but you will need to get a USDOT number and a MC number and operating authority in your state to operate your bus. It becomes a big deal and the insurance for transporting people costs between $1K and $2K per month.

As it was noted above, you can get a semi-truck with tandem drive axles, air brakes, and a 53' trailer that could gross as much as 80K lbs. and you would not need a CDL if the whole rig was retitled as an RV. So regardless of how much the GVWR of your bus is, if it is titled as an RV you will not need a CDL to drive it or a USDOT number to license it.

And it isn't that we are all adverse to getting a CDL. The problems with a CDL is the way in which the FMCSA has become so anal about crossing every 't' and dotting every 'i'. Think in terms of joining a random drug testing pool, pre-employment drug testing for any drivers of your bus, DOT physicals every two years, hours of service rules, Electronic Logging Devices on all 2000 model year and newer CDL vehicles, and complete driver files with contacts from all pervious CDL employers are just a few of the fun activities you get to enjoy operating a CDL vehicle. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/

The above observations are not concrete but are pretty much the rule out here in WA state. We have driver's licenses with endorsements. There is no commercial CDL/non-commercial CDL and there are no classes of driver's licenses limiting the size of vehicle you can drive if it is NOT a CDL vehicle. But once you get into the CDL endorsements you have to pay for each endorsement--passengers, air brakes, Class A/B/C (defined by the size of the vehicle and combinations), tanks, triples, haz mat, etc. The only other endorsements are for motorcycles and they now come in several different types.

At least here in WA state, if you do NOT use your bus in your business (food cart, mobile hair and nail salon/tattoo parlor/doggie salon/etc.) there shouldn't be any problem retitling your bus as an RV. If you then build or have someone build you a trailer that could be your mobile business location you most probably wouldn't run into any problems as long as the weight of the trailer was kept under 10K lbs. Any trailer that has a GVWR of more than 10K and is used commercially requires a CDL driver to drive the vehicle towing the trailer. The truck might be a 1-ton dually or your RV but once the commercial trailer goes over 10K lbs. it becomes subject to the CDL rules. I understand NY is also very persnickety about trailer weights.

If you converted the last several feet of your bus into a storage area that you packed all of your business junk and plunder into it, unless you actually had customers coming onto the bus, I see no reason why your bus would have a problem being titled as an RV.

So trust me when I say that making sure your bus does not seat any more than 14-passengers plus the driver and it is retitled as an RV is one of the most important things you do as your convert your bus.

If your bus is not retitled as an RV the odds of you ever getting stopped and becoming subject to a USDOT inspection are closer to none than slim. But you really do NOT want to run afoul of the weight cops as the fines start in for some of the violations at $10K. And in some jurisdictions fines from unsuspecting people is how they make their budgets balance.

I don't want to rain on your parade but I want you to clearly understand the problems you can encounter if your bus is not titled as an RV.

Good luck and happy trails to you.
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Old 02-03-2017, 02:27 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasd View Post

As to a non-commercial CDL... I had not heard of that before. That seems like an oxymoron, given that a CDL is a Commercial Driver's License. I'll have to find out what that's about.
Completely is oxymoron, but DMV...Is very confusing for us, but they like to ticket as some States are broke. Laws are dynamic and arbitrarily enforced.

DRIVERS LICENSE REQUIREMENTS FOR
RV VARY GREATLY AMONG STATES & PROVINCES.
Here are different states confusing laws-PDF


Sometimes called: Non-Commercial Class A. Usually goes by GCVW.

In Illinois in airbrake bus, you are required to have air-brake endorsement, but they won't give that to Class D regular car license. In California, they will confiscate your vehicle and require a tow, many oversized toy haulers fall victim.

Illinois has similar draconian laws where trailer might put you over:

Many local police departments require officers to make a custodial arrest of the driver for misdemeanor traffic offenses. This may include towing and impounding the truck, fingerprinting, mug shots, and assignment of criminal State and Federal ID numbers. That is big deal. However, if a CDL driver is indeed violating an airbrake restriction, it is only a petty offense (625 ILCS 5/6-113).

A minor traffic offense can easily become an unlawful arrest situation due to a lack of understanding. There’s no need to complicate things.



Of course, this depends on the state, the trooper and the Zodiac calendar.

IANAL, but try to stay sorta legal. Never break more than 1 law at a time, as they say.
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Old 02-03-2017, 08:28 AM   #16
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ive never heard of a Non commercial CDL.

while a CDL may be required to drive a big bus ( most shorties fall "short" of requiring CDL).. I thought the only time a DOT number and DOT service regulations apply is if the vehicle is ever used for COmmercial service..

ie our busses are never used for hire and so wouldnt display a DOT number and wouldnt be subjected to service rules..

in OHIO (yes in caps to stress only in this state).. the requirements for a DOT number are any vehicle used for commerce or transport of people.. (limos are different).. haulers over 10K GVWR, and busses being used for commercial use.. (church busses dont display a DOT number)..

now DRIVER qualifications are different.. any Truck over 26k GVWR reqwuires its driver to obtain a CDL
any bus over 15 passenger requires a CDL to operate..

other cases requiring CDL are when operating for hire.. but the above truck or bus can be operated non commercially but still requires a CDL to do but it not subject to COmmerce rules unless used commercially..

any person can obtain a CDL but that doesnt mean they instantly have to carry logbooks and the like.. however a medical vertificate is required for a CDL driver to cross state lines and have his CDL stay valid..

-Christopher
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Old 02-03-2017, 06:22 PM   #17
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Thank you all for the wealth of information, guidance, and the ins and outs of CDLs, RV vs. Bus, & Personal vs. Business (people hauling)!!!

It seems obvious that my plan of action will be as follows for my situation and needs: get a bus under the 26k threshold, get it titled as an RV, address any unique state laws re: licensure, then go!
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Old 02-03-2017, 11:16 PM   #18
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Here in Ca if you have a RV 40ft or longer you need a Class B endorsement , doesn't allow you to drive commercial or haul passengers it's manly to teach you about air brakes & doing the inspections & test. My 38ft has air brakes but according to the CHP since it's under 40ft I'm legal with my Class C, but I used to drive tractor trailers many yrs ago & my wife is a School Bus Driver so we do have knowledge on the systems.
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Old 02-03-2017, 11:46 PM   #19
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California RV & Trailer DMV handbook
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Old 02-04-2017, 01:05 AM   #20
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In WA state, if a vehicle falls under the category of a CDL vehicle (15 or more passengers) then you will need to have a current and active USDOT number in order to get a license or renew a license for it.

If it is an RV in WA state, it doesn't matter what the GVWR is. As an RV it is not subject to any of the rules and regs that apply to a CDL vehicle. Which is why you have to remove enough seats so the bus can NOT have seating positions for more than 14-passengers plus the driver. In WA state, even if you have a kitchen, full bath, and a bedroom with a built in bed it is still considered a bus if it seats 15-passengers.

So don't be concerned about GVWR. There are some Gillig, Crown, and at least one Thomas 10-wheeler kicking around WA state that had GVWR's in excess of 40K lbs. that are licensed as RV's and require nothing more than a standard driver's license. But do be concerned about removing most of the seats.
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