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Author Topic: Replace passenger compartment of school bus with 20' shipping container?  (Read 9130 times)
Kevin Warnock
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« on: April 22, 2011, 06:50:10 PM »

Hello,

I have been dreaming for a while now of making a green home from a 20' ocean shipping container.

This would be a guest cabin with a small bathroom and kitchen area.

The plan would be to experiment with many of the ideas I've written about here before.

To make a house from a shipping container, I would need to get a container to my house and be able to regularly move it to the area a few blocks away where I can park it overnight without disturbing people.

At first I thought about buying a Class 8 semi truck and a traditional shipping container chassis. I live in San Francisco, CA.

I called a couple of insurance companies today to find out how much it would cost to insure a non commercial Class 8 semi truck and a container chassis. I got a quote from Progressive of about $3,300 per year! This is just too much, since I would probably only put 500 miles a year on the combo. I would also need to get a non-commercial Class A license. I found a truck driving school that would train me for only $595, and they said it would take only 4 hours!

This is a non commercial pet project of mine, so these expenses are just a lot of money. A semi truck might be $5,000, the container chassis might be $3,000 and the shipping container might be $2,500. Add in $3,300 for insurance, and this is getting pretty expensive before I even start work on the dwelling.

Then I thought of an idea I want to run by you:

I can buy a 40' front engine school bus for around $3,000.

Then I could cut off much of the passenger compartment and recycle it.

Then I could weld some supports to the frame so that I would have 4 corner supports matched to where a 20' shipping container would sit if it were placed on the bus frame.

I could use the same corner supports found on an actual container chassis trailer, so a container could be attached to the bus frame by the same solid twist lock attachment method as is used by semi truck drivers.

The result is I would have a bus with a box on the back that could be removed at will by a forklift or crane.

I would think this would qualify as a motorhome once I install the stove, fridge and toilet inside the container. Thus, I can skip the class A license and the very costly semi truck insurance. I got a quote from AAA today for my car and a random EBay school bus. The rate was less than insuring just my car! They explained this by saying that by adding the school bus I got a multi-vehicle discount. In effect, I can insure a 40' school bus at less than zero cost -- they will be paying me.

If the DMV won't count the shipping container as part of the vehicle since it's removable with the twist of 4 corner connectors, I could leave 5 feet of the original bus passenger compartment and put a minimal duplicate motorhome installation in there. Then the vehicle would still be a motorhome even without the shipping container on the back.

The cost savings of doing the above are dramatic, especially over the years, since I will pay less than zero for insurance and can use my Class C license.

I am wondering how to cut off the majority of the bus passenger compartment. Can I just use a sawzall to just start removing manageable chunks by myself until I'm done? As I understand it, school buses are just passenger compartments on truck frames, and the passenger compartment can be cut away without ruining the truck frame.

Does anyone have an idea how much the passenger compartment weighs? A shipping container is about 4,500 pounds (20' long). I found info on the Internet that suggests an empty 40' school bus weighs about 19,000 pounds and has a GVWR rating of about 30,000 pounds. I would guess the passenger compartment might weigh 3,000 pounds, so I could add a container plus extras weighing about 14,000 pounds without going over the GVWR.

I would hope the total length could be closer to 30 or 35 feet, so the container would not overhang the rear wheels as much as a passenger compartment does.

I would think a school bus based platform would be easier to drive than a semi - trailer combination, and that repairs would be cheaper since the engine in school buses seem to be smaller than found in a full fledged semi truck. Even if the engine blew up, I could buy another school bus cheaply to just get the engine from it.

One downside is a school bus based platform will look funny and attract more attention than a semi and container chassis, but I think I can deal with that.

One important point I want to make: This crazy idea is to enable me to experiment and learn about building a home from a shipping container, which I am extremely interested in. I still have and will continue to convert my RTS bus conversion.

I can't just put a shipping container in my backyard because there's no obvious place for one, and the crane charge is $4,500 each visit.

Comments?

Thank you,

Kevin Warnock
http://KevinWarnock.com - my blog
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chart1
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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2011, 07:01:52 PM »

I use 20' shipping pods for our outdoor festivals they weigh 8,000 lbs w/ ac unit
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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2011, 07:05:22 PM »

If I understand you right, You want to take a shipping container and put the front and rear sections of a school bus on it , am i close Grin, Why not nothing ventured nothing gained. I would think you going to need some pretty stout iron to support the container and then built a frame that the two halfs can be tied to the container. Sounds like a worth while project.I have mated  front ends of cars before takes some time and a lot of measurement but sounds like you got the time. Iam just thinking out loud here.  Cool
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Kevin Warnock
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2011, 07:08:19 PM »

No, I want to put a 20' container on the back of a school bus, as if the school bus were a flat bed truck. The driver area of the bus will be untouched.

An empty 20' steel container without an AC unit is 4,850 pounds, per this link:

http://www.shipping-container-housing.com/shipping-container-standard-dimensions.html

Kevin Warnock
http://KevinWarnock.com - my blog
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buswarrior
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2011, 07:10:01 PM »

Neat ideas.

The school bus body is not going to yield easily, it just might be able to go head to head with the shipping container in ease of cutting up.

Arrange to buy a school bus from a local bus company as it drives into the yard from its last school run, not one that has sat around.

For the DMV, get that "bus" word off the title. Do whatever it is they need you to do to change the registration to truck or RV or whatever your insurer wants to see on there. Seat removal is all you need for "truck", "RV" depends on jurisdiction and the whims of the counter staff.

After that, keep your flap firmly shut about all the rest of it, you'll just make trouble for yourself by confusing or scaring them.

You don't want them thinking you are up to no good and misrepresenting yourself.

happy coaching!
buswarrior
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2011, 07:10:57 PM »

Oh I got it lol Iam such a dunch sometimes Sure go for it
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Kevin Warnock
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2011, 07:16:30 PM »

Here's a link to the kind of bus I have in mind.

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/ctd/2340986870.html

Imagine cutting off the passenger compartment 5 feet behind the back of the driver's seat, and putting the 20' shipping container right there. Then, shorten the bus frame if it extends beyond the other end of the 20' container. My guess is the overall vehicle length will be 30' when done, so 10' for the driver.

Kevin Warnock
http://KevinWarnock.com - my blog
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Kevin Warnock
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« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2011, 07:19:44 PM »

I have access to both a plasma cutter and an oxyacetylene torch. I don't know how to use the plasma cutter but I do know how to use the torch. However, I've only used one for a few cuts in plain, clean 3/8" steel. How does it work on painted metal like the passenger compartment of a bus? What kind of special respirator might I need to wear so I don't breath burning paint fumes?

Kevin Warnock
http://KevinWarnock.com - my blog
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buswarrior
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2011, 07:32:51 PM »

Go check at a scrap yard how they deal with school buses, no easy way.

Depending on the construction methods, hundreds/thousands of fasteners to remove, judicious use of the hammering air chisel, many sawzall blades, insulation and whatever goop and plastics are in there, lots of torch gas, fumes and fire, and then,

you get to start on the next panel.

Be sure your time/effort and expense estimates are informed!

A buddy of mine thought an old 6 wheeler school bus would make a great donor frame for a late 40's White truck body he had, due to the flat frame it had. He found out the hard way that they don't come apart as easy as it looks. They are tanks.

It was so long in the making, and so long ago... I wonder if it ever got finished?

happy coaching!
buswarrior
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2011, 07:36:15 PM »

Well your also going to need a welder either a 200 amp buzz box or wire feed. as far as the plasma cutter it's like cutting butter it's fast. You might want to do a little practice before you start cutting. A torch is slower but in the hands of an expert same results. as far as a resperator I would go to your local welding supply shop and ask them.
You want to make sure you have all meteriels that can lite off out of the Bus for sure. scripe your lines wiht soap stone or something that you can see and measure measure measure as many time  as it takes to make sure your making the right cut.
Bare in mind Iam no expert just alot of doing it my self stuff. Chopper Scott is the one to ask  Grin
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« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2011, 07:38:14 PM »

I know someone that did something similar except he cut open the schoolie and attached a travel trailer to the frame.  Sort of an instant bus conversion.
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Kevin Warnock
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« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2011, 07:42:07 PM »

I have access to a lot of tools, including MIG and TIG welders in the 225 amp range, courtesy of my membership in TechShop, which is a healthclub like membership workshop. I pay $99 a month but get access to their $750,000 worth of tools. They have an outside area where I can park the bus while I work on it. If you're near a TechShop, I recommend a visit. You'll be drooling.

http://techshop.ws/

Kevin Warnock
http://KevinWarnock.com - my blog
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Stormcloud
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« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2011, 07:47:25 PM »

Why not mount the shipping container on a two axle heavy duty trailer? If you have access to a real good 3/4 or 1 ton pickup, it may be the easiest and cheapest of all. When you are done with the container renovation, sell the trailer.

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Mark Morgan    near Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
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« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2011, 07:51:58 PM »

OTOH, there are several former schoolies in our area that have found a new life.

Grain truck, tire-service truck, tow truck. All had the passenger compartment shortened dramatically, but all used the rear wall of the bus body as the rear wall of the cab.

There's also at least one International bus that had the entire body removed and a regular International cab was installed to make a real truck.
I saw it in a couple of different stages of work, but never saw the finished product. It had been licensed, safetied and was gone.
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Mark Morgan    near Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
1972 MCI-7     'PapaBus'  8v-71N MT654 Automatic
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« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2011, 07:52:30 PM »

Well hell your good to have fun . Thats a neet idea
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