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Author Topic: Beginner Help and CDL License  (Read 3755 times)
TheWellMinistries
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« on: May 05, 2007, 09:37:00 PM »

I stumbled upon your Bulletin Board yesterday and spent hours reading some of your posts/suggestions/help/advice and I must say thank you in advance for the help I have found so far. I got up enough nerve to register and post my own problem.

2 months ago we obtained a 1973 GMC bus that had been partially converted but not completed. We began our obsession, and I do mean obsession, with the bus. It has basically taken over our life. We needed to put in 6 bunks, shower, toilet, plus some minor improvements. We're using the bus for a tour bus for our music group and we're trying to get it ready for the summer tours. If you want to see pictures and a journal of our construction, feel free to visit our website at www.thewellministries.org/bus/. This really doesn't have much to do with my question except to restate that we are new at this.

The people that owned the bus before us said that because the title had been converted to a motorhome and has a motorhome plate we did not need a CDL license. But a friend of ours is a driving instructor and said that because it had airbrakes and because it was being used as a commercial vehicle, even though our musicians are volunteers, we probably would need a CDL. Because this is a ministry we decided to get the CDL to protect our drivers and our organization in the event of a tragedy.

Our one driver prepared for the exam and when he went to the testing facility the instructor found so many errors in our paperwork that he would not even test our driver.

1. Our vehicle has no VIN number. The VIN number on the title is actually the vehicle's model number. The plate inside the bus that has the VIN and the GVW was removed.
     
  • Would anyone know how I can obtain the correct VIN number from GMC?

2. The title has our GVW as 11,000 pounds which the examiner said had to be false based on his experience. He suggested we get it weighed and submit a correction to the title.
     
  • We did, of course, get the bus weighed today. Without our equipment, the water tanks empty, the fuel tank near empty, and half the passengers, the weight was 25,960 pounds. In PA, the weight limit to require a CDL license is 26,000 pounds.

My next question would be: How do you guys do all that remodeling and keep the GVW under the limit of needing a CDL or do you all have one? Any thoughts on how we can reduce our weight by about 2,000 pounds to account for the stuff we didn't have in there yet?

Has anyone had problems in this area or do you have any suggestions for me? I would appreciate any help.

Kris Rhoades
The Well Ministries
www.thewellministries.org
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Dallas
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2007, 02:44:54 AM »

Kris,

You are in a typical situation that comes up every so often.

First... That probably is your VIN number if it looks something like H8H4905A-XXXX or on older GMC's it would be something like PD4106-XXXX

Next,
By law, (federally mandated), if you use the bus for commercial purposes, have a GVW of 26,001 pounds or more and carry more than 15 passengers, you must have a CDL with a bus endorsement and an airbrake endorsement.

You also must have commercial plates along with commercial insurance. Liability insurance, I believe, must be 1 million, 500,000, 500,000. (But don't quote me on that... I'm going by my trucks.).

As for keeping under the 26K limit, most of us don't have a problem since we are not commercial vehicles and don't fall under those DOT regulations.

Now, on to the plus side....

Many of the groups that I know of that use buses, keep the motorhome registration and call the group, "friends who are along for the ride, and we may just do some singing and making a joyous noise at our destination, but then, If God Wills, maybe not".
I'm not saying that that is legal or condoning it, or recommending you do it, it's just their way.

That allows one person to license and register the coach as a motorhome along with all that entails, including licensing restrictions and insurance.

Good Luck.
Dallas

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TheWellMinistries
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2007, 03:56:16 AM »

Dallas,

Thanks for the reply...So do I understand that the 26K limit doesn't apply to non-commercial vehicles or do most individuals just not worry about it? (we don't plan on having more than 15 passengers ever so our only concern is the weight of the vehicle.) I was beginning to think you guys were using some secret substance that had the strength of plywood without all that weight. LOL  Wink

I wish we could have gone the other approach but someone donated the money to the ministry to purchase the bus and thus we had to purchase it through the organization.

At least I got a great price on commercial insurance through Progressive.

Kris Rhoades
The Well Ministries
www.thewellministries.org
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JackConrad
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2007, 05:15:03 AM »

Kris,
    First, welcome to the insanity, you will find all types on this board and very few questions that cannot be answered by at least one of the members. For the "official" VIN , open the door to the outside compartment under the drivers seat (in front of the drivers side front tire). Look in the compartment and you should see a number stamped in the panel inside the compartment. that is the VIN . 
    Remember that all newer vehicles have a 17 digit VIN, but these older vehicles do not. More than once I have been told my 73' MC-8 VIN cannot be correct because it does not have 17 digits. When trying to renew my registration (done annually in Florida) one young DMV person was so adamant, I offered to go home and drive the bus to their office (which had a very small parking lot). An older DMV employee overheard our loud conversation and informed the young employee that all vehicles do not have 17 digit Vin's. 
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2007, 05:19:26 AM »

And the vin of the older vehicles is typically the bus model number like 4104 and then a four digit production or serial number like 3012 for a total vin of 4104-3012.
Richard
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2007, 05:33:50 AM »

 In Pennsylvania,
For the use you have planned for the bus,
It will need an Omnibus plate (registration).
Check here  https://www.dotdev3.state.pa.us/pdotforms/fact_sheets/fs-busreg.pdf
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« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2007, 05:36:12 AM »

Kris:

First, I don't think it's a bad thing to take the path of acquiring your CDL class B with air-brakes and passenger endorsements.  You'll learn good habits and hopefully follow the good practices and skills that commercial drivers employ for both checking their vehicle in advance and skills, etc. while driving.  Does it means you can't do this without a CDL?  No, certainly not.

I am in Penna., here are the CDL requirements of PA >> http://www.dot10.state.pa.us/pdotforms/fact_sheets/fs-cdl.pdf

Federal DOT determines the "minimums" for all the states.  Individual states begin with the minimums and may build on that.

If your bus were registered as "Motorhome" / "RV", and insured as such ... the driver should not be required to hold a Class B CDL.  But if the vehicle IS used for commercial purposes, then that's where the issue might arise.  Commercial applications changes the requirements.

Insurance ... I "believe" the requirement is $1,500,000.00, rather than the $1-Mil.

Kris, I also (just) noticed you are also from PA.  I'd be happy to share the course (path) I took to get my CDL, etc., etc.  Send me email at this site and I'll get back to you.

Thanks,
JerryH.
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Dallas
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« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2007, 06:20:25 AM »

Thanks, Jerry,

I wasn't sure on the Insurance requirements for commercial buses.

I do remember when I was hauling radioactives and explosives my insurance for just one truck was 50 million! I think the insurance companies made as much off those runs as I did.!

Dallas
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TheWellMinistries
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2007, 06:45:29 AM »

Jack,

Thanks for the info on where to find the VIN. We just recently found that compartment. Your answer was so inspiring that I wanted to run right out and see for sure if it was there but I thought I better not do it in my pajamas. My neighbors are complaining enough with the bus parked in my driveway.

Kris Rhoades
The Well Ministries
www.thewellministries.org
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2007, 07:40:12 AM »

I'll echo the advice to go ahead and get your CDL anyway, regardless of how you license the coach.  Lax regulations regarding vehicles with air brakes have allowed a lot of people on the road who are clueless about how air brake systems work. For that matter plenty of the truck drivers out there who have their CDL are still pretty vague about how their air brakes work.  So getting the CDL won't guarantee that you understand the sytems but it will expose you to some level of knowledge and will at least force you to be aware that the system is different than what is on your car.  That knowledge might save your life or mine someday. 

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« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2007, 04:16:36 PM »

Kris, I'd buy the big insurance to protect the public,the church and the occupants. Don't forget to keep the uninsured motorist at the full 1.5 million policy ammounts also, as it comes in handy if you or another passenger are seriously injured by someone else and they have one of those little $25,000 policys. The PA weight limit is probably based on axle capacity and not real weight. Lots of motorhomes are that heavy, do they all run CDLs? I don't think so. If you are using your coach for hire or are charging for your church music services you will need the CDL plus a DOT number painted on the side. If you go that route, you then need ALOT of other stuff and unless one of you already runs a Trucking Company and is familar with a DOT Audit, it is not feasable for you to consider going this route. If your choir is for hire I advise your church to sell this gift bus and use the funds to transport you in a new bus provided by a local bus company in your area. Lots of small churches have a bus that picks up congregation on Sundays. These buses are commonly driven by volunteers without CDLs. This would not be considered a commercial vehicle operation if you didn't charge for the ride. I think this is the area you should fall into with your bus. I say no CDLs, run it like any other motor home. If you see a scale house, its OK to wave as you go by. If you see a scale house that says all buses must stop, its also OK to wave as you go by! In most states a 2 axle bus is allowed 12,000 lbs steer and 20,000 lb drive axle weight so you are safe with a 32,000 lb ride. The coach chassis is probably rated around 36,000lbs. Motorhomes are exempt from commercial license regulations, so the gross weight requirement on a CDL of 26,000lbs does not apply in most states and could be argued in the rest. The last issue I see with this has to do with safety. If you are going to drive a commercial vehicle, (even privately), some experience is manditory, especially if you are hauling passengers and have other peoples lives in your hands. Also, if your gonna drive it, you also have to know how to at least keep the brakes adjusted and do a walk around DOT inspection. Its your responsibility.
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2007, 07:02:47 PM »

A CDL licensed driver will recieve stiffer fines/penaltys for a minor traffic infraction/violation than a non-CDL licensed driver.

Some violations will cause you to loose your CDL, then you're back where you started, or have to shell out the money to license another driver. 

The schools around here want $3500.00 for the course.

Personally I'd skip it.

Ed 
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« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2007, 10:19:44 PM »

Or, you could study for and take the CDL test, and not complete the application. Then, you should know how you did on the test, but you won't be subject to all the CDL requirements.

It's a lot easier to lose your license if it's a CDL. If it's ever suspended, I don't think you will be able to just replace it with a license to drive cars.

You might study this issue; the education is great, but the price may not be tolerable for your purposes.

Good luck.

Tom Caffrey
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TheWellMinistries
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« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2007, 08:50:47 AM »

Motorhomes are exempt from commercial license regulations, so the gross weight requirement on a CDL of 26,000lbs does not apply in most states and could be argued in the rest.

I can't find any resource to back up this statement. I researced PennDOT's website yesterday and could not find any reference to motorhomes being exempt. Can you prove this? Because if this is truly the case then I have nothing to worry about.

Kris Rhoades
The Well Ministries
www.thewellministries.org
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« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2007, 09:28:10 AM »

I say in your situation you can do what you want to. You do work for the Lord, Right? If you ever get pulled over tell them to take it up with your boss Grin
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