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Old 05-20-2020, 03:39 AM   #1
New Member
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 1
New guy looking for skoolie to help move out of Alaska.

Hello all,

I am a new member to the site, and am excited to learn about the world of buses and skoolies. My wife and I are looking to purchase a 2002 Thomas saf-t-liner ER that has already been converted for life in Alaska. We are hoping to move back to the lower 48, and utilize a bus this bus to move our selves, pets, and some house hold items.

First off I am quickly realizing that there is quite the learning curve to owning an operating a skoolie. I consider myself fairly motivated DIYer, but buses are a whole new world. My wife and I will be skoolie owners at some point. Wether we purchase one for the move, or find one in the lower 48 after the move later this summer.

My first question is can we do this safely? I have no experience with driving large vehicles. Drove a moderate sized class C motorhome for a weekend, and have multiple years driving an ambulance. That is pretty much the only driving experience I can speak to. How hard is it to learn how to drive a bus, more specifically can I learn how to drive in canyon conditions? Especially the Alcan highway that runs from Anchorage to the lower 48. With the added danger of canyons, inexperience, and remoteness that is Interior Alaska and Northern Canada. Will this be a learning curve too steep to navigate safely?

Second question is how much weight can be loaded into a bus for it to safely operate? We are not taking much back south with us, but there are certain things that if possible we would like to bring with us. I don't want to load a 2 bedroom house full of stuff into a bus if I can help it, but would like an idea of what is a safe amount of weight I can load into a bus? I know this may be a little bit of a broad question but I really have not idea what to expect.

I do plan on hiring a bus mechanic to come with me to check the vehicle out the bus in question. I would think that I would be well worth the few hundred dollars to pay them for their opinion.

Well, I will bring my rambling to a stop and welcome all advice suggestions or ideas that you all may have for me.

Again I will emphasize that if I cannot do this with a good margin of safety I will pay to freight my belongings to the lower 48 and drive my truck south. We can postpone our dream of a skoolie till we land down there.

Thanks in advance


NewSkooliRN is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-20-2020, 06:05 AM   #2
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Virginia
Posts: 2,302
Year: None
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Chassis: None
Engine: None
Rated Cap: None
In theory, it's not a lot different than driving a Class A motorhome, but there are things you should know. It needs a lot more room to turn, a lot more room to stop, and it needs a lot more time to accelerate. MIRRORS, MIRRORS, MIRRORS. Get out and look if you aren't sure, and plan on 500 foot braking distances as well as slow cruising -- these puppies weren't really built to cruise the highway.

I would highly recommend reading the General Knowledge and Air Brakes sections of a Commercial Driver's Manual. Couldn't hurt to make friends with a bus driver and pick their brain, too.
CHEESE_WAGON is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-20-2020, 07:29 AM   #3
Bus Nut
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 691
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
One thing for sure, after a trip like that, you will definitely be an experienced bus driver!

The amount of stuff you can carry is determined by the gross vehicle weight rating (GVRW) It may be as high as 36,000 lbs depending on the bus you buy. Find a scale and get the empty weight and compare to the GVRW and you will know how much stuff you can load.

For driving experience, best case would be to find an experienced truck driver and have them go for a ride up and down a big mountain pass in the bus you buy to give you advice on how to handle your vehicle. Going up, it's important to know how to NOT overheat things and cause catastrophic failure of multiple components. Coming down, it's important to know how to properly slow the vehicle so you don't overheat the brake system and cause fatal failure with a runaway 36,000 lb missile!

Read this thread. It's all about a guy who recently used his bus to move from Ak to Ga. Tons of helpful info in there.
JackE is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-20-2020, 09:24 AM   #4
Bus Crazy
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Fraser Valley British Columbia
Posts: 1,043
Year: 2007
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freightliner
Engine: C7 Cat
Actually I think if you are confident in the overall condition of the bus that would be a fantastic trip and a great way to get comfortable driving a bus(with the right preparation). As others have suggested maybe a few test drives or even pay a little cash for a few lessons. And please take Chesse's advise and learn about air brake systems for the safety of yourself and everyone else on the road. In Canada it is required to get an air brake endorsement when driving an air equipped Rv however you will not be required to have that when transiting through Canada if it's not required in your state.
Best of luck and keep us informed
Oscar1 is offline   Reply With Quote

inexperienced, new guy, saf-t liner, safety, weight limit

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