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Who here as a unit bus? Mini bus, full size bus?


Pros and cons?


Annual cost? Insurance costs? DOT inspections, CDL licenses?


Would you do it again?


We're starting the process to determine if we should buy a bus. Purchase cost is not the issue,


but annual cost is.


(This message has been edited by Alabama Scouter)

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State Law, Federal CDL guidelines, size of the passenger load, who is IN CHARGE of keeping it up, all important considerations. CDL, class B (over 26,000lbs), Passenger 15 or more passengers?)(and airbrakes?) endorsement.


Best idea: One person OWNS the vehicle, makes sure the tags and title and insurance are current, makes sure the driver(s) are properly trained and licensed and LEASES the vehicle to the Troop. Either a written agreement or handshake (A Scout is Trustworthy). The Troop must realize the financial outlay such a vehicle will require and be ready to act accordingly to the owner. You can even paint the name on the bus. This saves the necessity of a committee (never the best idea in a all volunteer situation), or a rotating responsible person.

Personal experience: I was the driver for a non-profit organization that did outdoor ed with "at risk" youth. My (MY!) bus was a '86 Bluebird (IH chassis)26 passenger diesel. No turbo (thank god! Turbos are the most likely part to break). Boss said it was up to me to keep track of the maintenance and fueling. The boss was quite willing to do whatever I said "BOB" needed. The first time I drove BOB, I made a list of everything I thought it needed. I would be carrying school kids four days a week. BOB had, already, in excess of 400,000 miles on the odometer, and I would be doing 300 plus a week. (Bouncy Old Bus). The first tuneup and state required inspection came to $3,000 plus. New brake discs and pads, new injectors, tie rod ends, four filters to replace, refill all fluids, two new mirrors, and decarbon and time the engine. The garage said that since the frame and running gear were all there, definitely worth the work. Much cheaper than a $40,000 new replacement. Oil change and filter maintenance , about $100. every 3,000 miles. Being an older diesel, the rings and valves are "worn in" and the oil takes a particularly hard beating. Newer models might have different allowances, but not the older vehicle. Tires (not needed at that point) about $200. each to replace (bus has six).

I had to replace the rear tail lights and turn signals, (one burns out, they are all that old, I replaced all) 4 times $18. each (sealed units) and two hours of my time (I was cheaper than the garage). Same with the clearance lights I knocked out on treelimbs (did I mention the outdoor ed?). Drivers seatbelt retractor failed. New belt. $150.

Seat covers: 14 seats, lots of duct tape and vynil repair kits. Sweep it out . Learn to do a proper "circle check". And the driver licensing. Not every garage will work on such vehicles, usually only heavy truck shops.


Second best choice: CO owns the vehicle. Now, who is incharge of everything? Who makes sure all is "legal" and safe? Maybe the CO already does these things and has a vehicle maintenance person. One more in the fleet, more or less?


Third best: Unit owns the vehicle. Ditto, the "transportation subcommittee". May be some savings if a non-profit owns it, but make sure it is what you really want. 'Course, you won't be putting 300 miles aweek on it, only maybe 1000 to camp and back every 6 months. And it sits in whose backyard? Is it a safe place to sit for weeks/months at a time?


Scratch head alot, take deep breath and....

(This message has been edited by SSScout)

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I remember my unit discussing this once. We decided not to because of liability or other type of insurance costs. We're chartered at a church, too, so the problem of where to keep it arose. In the end, the costs and logistics of a bus couldn't justify owning one.

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I can't answer your specific questions either, but can offer additional experiences:


My troop had one back in the 70s. We had a number of Scouters that worked for the local school and got an older one donated. Was a great deal as we removed a few of the back seats for boxes and gear and all could ride in one bus. We had a couple ASMs that were drivers for the school so there was always a driver. Another dad was a diesel mechanic so we always had someone to work on it. Until those days ended. No more CDL licensed drivers. No one to donate their time to work on it. Insurance started to climb. The brakes went out one time going up a steep entrance into one of our local camps. Was great while it lasted, but I wouldnt want the headache unless the CO is backing it by covering the big costs and a driver is readily available.

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Our sister Troop has one, and they seem to love it. That being said, they do almost constant fundraising to help defray the costs. Aluminum collections, hoagie sales, plant sales, etc. They also have a dedicated group of ASMs and parents who were willing to get CDL licenses and training to be able to drive the bus. It is expensive, but works well for them.


The biggest cost I see is not financial, but time needed. They use their bus for every summer high adventure trip they take, which adds 2 to 4 days traveling each way to the trip times. As a result, the adult leaders have to burn up some serious vacation time to get there in addition to the time at the Camp itself. Our last Northern Tier trip was 9 days for our Troop, but it was 16 days for them. Great if you have the time or are retired, but a lot to ask from your volunteers in order to save plane fare.

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The troop I server has a Chevy extended van with 4 rows of seats?



Anyway, with the van and ~2 vehicles (1 truck to pull the Troop trailer) we usually have seats for the active Scouts on outings, ~20-25.


The Troop covered the purchase price (used) and the church covers the insurance yearly. Labor is the Troop leaders, and we fund-raise for big-repairs/parts.


I would say we use the van at least once a month and any big trips (1-2 a year).






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My response to anyone proposing to buy a bus is to run like hell in the opposite direction.


1. Too expensive


2. Hard to get and keep drivers


3. Parents use it as an excuse not to help.




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Personally, I would stay away from it for the reasons already given.


I did just want to chime in, though, about the "15 passenger van". I would be very hesitant to consider one, because hardly a year goes by when you don't hear about a fatal accident involving one.


They're probably not inherently unsafe, but the problem seems to be that they are often packed with too much weight behind the rear axle, either with gear behind the rear seat, or by towing a trailer.


I suspect that they can be safe if you're always careful about how they're loaded, but it seems to me that eventually, someone is going to put all of the dutch ovens in the back, at which point it could become an accident waiting to happen.


So if you decide to go that route, I would definitely do some homework.


But as others have pointed out, on those rare occasions when you really need a bus, I suspect it will be a lot cheaper just to charter one. In addition to the other issues, when the bus breaks down 500 miles from home, they'll have to send out another one to get you, which won't happen if you only own one bus.

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A nearby unit has a converted school bus. Theirs is privately owned by a troop leader. You have to have special training and licensing to be a bus operator, so your pool of potential drivers is obviously a potential limiting factor.


Clemclaw is right about trouble with the 15-passenger vans. Many charter org insurance providers won't cover these. Rear loading is a major issue, coupled with tire wear, tire inflation, and driver inexperience. If you rent one, check the tires frequently, especially the left rear. Car rental companies often keep tire pressure low in order to create a softer ride.

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