No doubt we will cover a lot of ground and put out answers to a lot of questions in greater detail in upcoming blogs, but I thought perhaps a quick and concise Q&A session would be in order, especially if you’re planning to get your own bus.
What bus should I choose?
First, you’ll need to determine your needs, particularly space. Is it just you, a couple, a family of 12? There’s plenty of solo and couple skoolies out there that manage just fine with a shorter bus, even one that is built on a Ford/GM chassis/drivetrain. There are families out there with multiple kids who manage inside a 40′ bus. I recall there’s even a family who converted an articulated tour bus, well beyond 40′ in length. Obviously the longer the bus, the bigger the challenge in where it can go. A shorter bus may be more comfortable to drive for some. Vin drives our 40′ bus, but there’ll come a time when Kat will muster the nerve to have a go at it.
Do you need a special license to drive a long bus?
In California, to the best of my knowledge, you’re fine with a standard C-class license so long as the vehicle is under a certain weight, and/or there are less than 10 passengers on board. There is a need, though, to get certification for air brakes if your bus has them. Vin doesn’t currently have one, but that’s in the works. The school drivers went over the specifics of operating the air brakes in good detail when we took possession.
Vin drove limousines at one of his jobs for a time, and didn’t need a special license. The same general rules apply for a limo as for a bus: watch your mirrors constantly, turn from outside lanes, keep an eye out on your rear wheels and the bus’s back end as it swings out during turns, and watch other drivers carefully. When parking, position the vehicle so you can drive forward out instead of reversing whenever possible. If you have to reverse out, have someone spot for you (i.e., stand at the rear and help you navigate out).
What kind of engine/transmission combo should I look for?
This is a tricky one, given the opinions of many mechanics and drivers. Some will tell you what engines NOT to choose. Our bus has a tan-colored Cummins diesel fitted to an Allison automatic transmission. I didn’t pay any attention to the color of the engine until talking with a mechanic over the phone. He asked the color, was it tan or some other color? That gave him clues as to the kind of engine, its features and capabilities. Evidently we picked a good one! For this engine, there are no electronic controls, which makes it easier to jump start. Check the blog entry “Our First Breakdown” for more details.
… More to come.