Senator Likes RV Conversion

As the only U.S. Senator with a CDL (all endorsements) and an on-again/off-again driver of Class 8 rigs since 1955, I was particularly interested in your May issue and Paul Hartley’s
story (“Class 8 camping”) on Class 8 trucks that have been reconfigured into recreational vehicles.

I have taken a different approach. I compared the cost of a Class A diesel pusher RV bus conversion with every available option (including every gong, bell and whistle) with converting a Class 8 tractor-trailer with the same amenities and found about an $800,000 difference. I won’t list them all, but I literally ran out of custom add-ons having this truck built. I have more height, width, length and cubic feet, and I have a
C-16 600-hp Cat hooked to an 18-speed Eaton AutoShift transmission, both of which are unavailable in any bus RV on the market.

It sure is fun blowing by everything from RVs to Greyhound buses when my 2,050 pounds-feet of torque kicks in on the 6 percent and 7 percent grades of my home state of Colorado. My tractor is a 2002 Sterling 9500. I wanted an aerodynamic look.

The added feature of a tractor-trailer is that I can use the tractor alone if I don’t want to go on extended trips, as it is equipped with double bunks, refrigerator, television, microwave and a bathroom, as well as a 10-foot bed. The trailer is a 50-foot Cargo Express with self-contained living quarters and a 22-foot cargo office shop area. It has a viewing deck roof and ramp rear door for drive-in loading.

The total cost of my Class 8 RV was $165,000, which was a lot, but compared to getting the same amenities in a Class A RV, I not only saved a lot of money, but also reinforced my belief that real truckers ought to drive trucks.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Colorado, U.S. Senate

While the advice was excellent in the May Viewpoint (“Fool you twice, shame on you”), I disagree with your placement of blame.

Certainly some blame rests with those who don’t read and understand the lease contracts before signing them or who don’t thoroughly research the operating practices of a prospective carrier. However, many owner-operators don’t have the legal expertise to properly interpret the fine print in most lease contracts nor do they have ready access to legal counsel knowledgeable in this area of law. The Interstate Commerce Commission recognized this disparity in the relationship between owner-operators and motor carriers when it developed the truth-in-leasing regulations in the late 1970s.

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Certain terms of lease contracts are governed by federal law in recognition of the disadvantaged bargaining position of owner-operators. The sad reality is that the majority of contracts we review do not comply with the truth-in-leasing regulations and many are in flagrant violation.

If compliance with the law is used as the standard, there are far more than just a few bad carriers. To place the burden of blame totally on owner-operators is akin to blaming the rape victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There is nothing OOIDA would like more than to be able to get “out of the litigation business.” There is no shortage of areas where we could apply our resources. Unfortunately, as long as the bottom-feeders continue to drag others down to their level, we will still have our work cut out for us.
Jim Johnston
President, Owner-Operator Independent
Drivers Association

When asked how the new hours-of-service rule is affecting my business, I replied, “Only in the way I write it down.” I still keep the same schedule and make the same stops. I still see the same drivers at the same stops making the same deliveries. They write it down differently. The shippers haven’t changed their schedules, and the receivers haven’t changed a thing.

Now I hear that a couple of major players that ship their own inventories want to change the rules to suit their needs. Seems as if it’s costing them too much to comply. Could you see that tear roll off my cheek? The same people who want to change the rule because it’s costing them too much to comply are the worst offenders of wasting drivers’ time at the dock. I might be a bit more concerned if I thought that they would help the drivers who are strapped to a 14-hour day get away from their docks in half the time they are currently spending making deliveries to them.
Jack Webster
Wolcott, Ind.

Contrary to information in “Class 8 camping” (May), drivers are not required to obtain a commercial license to operate truck-based recreational vehicles. Nor do they need an air-brake license endorsement if their RVs have this sort of equipment.

About nine states, however, limit the size or weight of recreational vehicles that can be driven with a standard class C license. According to Richard Reed, owner of the RV Driving School in Applegate, Calif., residents in those states must apply for non-commercial class A or B license – depending on the regulations – to drive RVs that exceed the limits. Non-residents are not bound to the same rules as long as they’re meeting the licensing standards set in their states. More information is available at

Thanks to Joseph Phelan, regional vice president of the American Truck Historical Society in Perkinsville, Vt., whose letter brought this to our attention.
– Overdrive editors.

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