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Old 01-29-2015, 10:34 AM   #1
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Default Our build and thoughts on different truck

Hi everyone.

We are finishing up our truck conversion/camper build and may want to switch out trucks to something with a bit more capacity.

We started with a 2006 Isuzu NRR with a 190hp 4cyl 5.2L diesel, 176" wheelbase, 20 foot flatbed and GVWR of 19,500. The empty weight with the flatbed is 8700 pounds and the cab + chassis is about 6600 pounds.

The goal was to build a modular camper and separate garage pod unit that both would sit on the flatbed. We have finished the camper except for a little cabinet work on the inside and we have mostly completed the garage unit.

Things got a bit heavy. The camper is around 4000 pounds and I estimate the garage unit will be 1800 pounds. We also added about 500 pounds of aluminum storage boxes under the steel flatbed. With the camper and garage pod mounted on the flatbed, we will be pushing 16,000 to 16,500 pounds, allowing only 3000 to 3500 pounds for gear, food, water, passengers, motorcycles. Add to this that the 190hp 4 cylinder is a tad underpowered :-)

We have put too much work into the camper and garage to change them, so if we want more capacity, the change has to come from the truck. I was pretty sold on the cab forward design but recent searches for something bigger have yielded meager results. The GMC T7500 with a 186 inch wheelbase and 20 foot flatbed would seem to be the best fit but they are quite a bit heavier (maybe 11,000 pounds vs the 6,600 pounds of the Isuzu NRR). I am also now considering a conventional cab like a Freightliner or International 4300 (maybe the low profile series?). We are right at 12 feet tall on the Isuzu with it's fairly low deck on 19.5" wheels.

If I could gain a bigger engine and 2000 pounds more of capacity (giving me about 5000 pounds for gear and supplies) but stay under 26,000 GVWR I would be happy. I have not yet found a lot of information on Freightliner or International trucks, like cab/chassis curb weight to see if they would give me this capacity. I am very open to suggestions.

Here are a few pictures of what we have so far:





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Old 01-29-2015, 05:08 PM   #2
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Cool idea. Takes the slide in camper to the maximum. I'm thinking you are right about needing more truck, total weight aside, I'm betting your front axle is WAY overloaded as is, maybe not so much if you add the garage for a counterbalance. Have you weighed each axle? Those small cabovers are generally way underpowered, you have to remember those were generally designed with close quarters city deliveries in mind, so light weight, fuel economy and maneuverability were the main concerns, not load capacity or ride quality, and most never saw much highway use at all.

The good news is flatbed trucks of all sizes and descriptions are readily available, so it should not be a problem to find a suitable truck.

One problem you may run into switching to a conventional cab is the height of the cab vs. the overhang on the camper. Be sure to take careful measurements on any truck you are looking at. At one point I had considered a moving van box on my GMC chassis, and I found there is quite a bit of variation in that area on the boxes for sale, which tells me there is a lot of variation in the trucks. I know one good deal I found on a box would not be able to clear the roof on my Topkick. You would have the opposite, but similar problem.
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Old 01-29-2015, 05:31 PM   #3
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You are right about the front axle. Without the garage and goodies in it the front axle is at about 6400 pounds with the camper mounted on the flatbed and nothing on the rear of the flatbed. The axle is rated for 6830 or something around there. With driver and passenger it puts us right at the max.

When the garage is mounted and carrying two dual sport motorcycles, it counterbalances the front axle quite a bit, dropping the front axle weight to under 6,000. We would almost always be travelling with the garage mounted or with neither pod mounted.

I really like the cabover design for visibility, turning radius, and compact length (the whole vehicle is less than 26 feet long).

The cab and chassis gets heavy when you go up to the next level, the T series or Isuzu F series. Our 6200 pound cab and chassis bumps up to over 11,000 pounds.


I have looked a bit at the Freightliner M2 or Hino 268. The Hino is the only one I can find specs on. It is about 10,200 pounds for the wheelbase that would fit a 20 foot flatbed, giving you 15,750 pounds for payload vs the 13,300 we have with the Isuzu. It is going to be 5 inches taller and quite a bit longer with a larger turning radius.
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Old 01-31-2015, 09:41 AM   #4
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If you're able to license the truck as an rv I don't think you would be limited to 26k lbs. Might open up more possibilities for trucks.
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Old 01-31-2015, 09:43 PM   #5
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You'd have a hard time licensing that as an rv, since the whole thing is removable. I know in Ohio for sure the statute specifically states permanently attached. Same reason you can't license a pickup truck with a slide in as an rv. Probably the best you can hope for us "heavy duty non-commercial". There is a class for that here in Ohio, all it requires is an affidavit signed at the dmv that the vehicle will never be used for commercial purpose. Then the same tag and price as a pickup truck.
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Old 02-01-2015, 03:02 PM   #6
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Minnesota has the same rules for licensing as an rv. No rv license for slip in campers. But, there are people that do it. Most cops don't know, or care much, about the particulars. There are lots of people putting rv plates on a day cab truck in MN too. In MN you just have to sign a form saying it's got all the stuff needed to qualify as an rv. There is no inspection or picture requirement. I'm not sure of Washington's rules. I'm not advising breaking the law. I'm just saying a lot of people do and get away with it.
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Old 02-01-2015, 03:05 PM   #7
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Another thought I just had (they kind of come irregularly in my old age) is about that camper. If you can't find a suitable truck that the cab overhang will clear, what about putting it on backwards? Then build some nice storage bays to fill the area under it? Or put a Smart car or some motorcycles under it? That way you could mount the camper up tight behind the cab of the truck, since there is no door in the back/front that should work? Entry door on the street side shouldn't be too much trouble to deal with. You can just front it into a camp site.
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Old 02-02-2015, 12:35 AM   #8
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Below is what I have found out for converting a vehicle to an RV in Washington. All the info is contained in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC).

First thing is the definition of vehicle types. WAC 308-96A-099 Use Class Descriptions:

MH - MOTOR HOME, Motorized vehicle designed for human habitation and defined in RCW 46.04.305

CMP - CAMPER, Is a slide-in pickup camper (not a canopy) as defined in RCW 46.04.085. Even if the owner has chosen to permanently attach the camper to the pickup, the units need to be titled and licensed separately.

TRK - TRUCK, Motor vehicle is a personal use truck, with a declared gross weight of twelve thousand pounds or less. Trucks used for business or commercial purposes do not qualify for the TRK use class.

The Licensing agencies I have talked to go by the GVW on the title, so they will not allow a business class or class 8 tractor to have pickup truck plates and a non commercial status since it is over 12k lbs. This is why most of the toters in Washington seem to go with converting to a motorhome (i.e. smaller volvo's with sleepers)

9) May I license my truck, truck tractor or tractor as a motor home?
Yes, you may license your truck, truck tractor or tractor as a motor home if:
(a) The vehicle has been permanently altered to meet the definition of a motor home in RCW 46.04.305; and
(b) You certify the vehicle qualifies as M/H and will be used exclusively as a motor home for personal use and not for commercial use.

RCW 46.04.305 Motor homes. "Motor homes" means motor vehicles originally designed, reconstructed, or permanently altered to provide facilities for human habitation, which include lodging and cooking or sewage disposal, and is enclosed within a solid body shell with the vehicle, but excludes a camper or like unit constructed separately and affixed to a motor vehicle. Typically folk utilize a truck with a sleeper and add a built in Microwave, generator or APU, and a Rv Toilet w/ tank. (some have had success with a port-a-pottie in a closet). As far as proof, there is an affidavit to sign, and some agencies want to see either photos or the actual vehicle.

I would think that if a box was placed on a flatbed and securely bolted or welded down, without some type of removable camper tie down there might be some type of argument that it is permanent. even the body on my class C could be removed with enough effort.

In my case, I am planning (for when the magic combination of time & money occur at the same time..lol) a complete conversion of a class 8 Peterbilt, into a 40'+ coach so i do not expect much argument when i finally get it built and go in for licensing. I will also more than likely submit plans to the division of factory assembled structures section of L&I so I can have it inspected and tagged as a factory built RV which will help with insurance and resale down the road.

I have spent many years as a heavy haul trucker in Washington, and dealing with the WSP and the commercial vehicle enforcement guys, I know they take there job seriously and will stop any "unusual" vehicle and make sure it is licensed correctly for the purpose it is being used for. Now I work as an engineer and deal with the states building regulations for mobile and modular buildings.

Good luck with your conversion and keep us updated, always good to see others on this forum from the left coast. (If you get a chance check out Kenn's build on his thread "frame welding" he has been doing an outstanding job on his build.)

Dave
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Old 02-15-2015, 09:52 AM   #9
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IMHO the issue is going to be complying with RCW 46.04.305. The devil lives in the details


"Motor homes" means motor vehicles originally designed, reconstructed, or permanently altered to provide facilities for human habitation, which include lodging and cooking or sewage disposal, and is enclosed within a solid body shell with the vehicle, but excludes a camper or like unit constructed separately and affixed to a motor vehicle.

In other words, you have to be able to get from the cab to the camper without going outside.

This language is used in many jurisdictions.
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Old 02-15-2015, 04:05 PM   #10
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I've heard others talk about being able to get from the driver's seat to the living quarters too. Might be the requirement. But, does Washington require an inspection to get licensed? In MN I'm pretty sure you just have to sign a form saying you've got all the requirements met. And I'm certain that there are more than a handful of people running around with RV (that's what MN calls them) plates on vehicles that really don't satisfy the law. And most cops really don't care either.
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Old 02-15-2015, 05:58 PM   #11
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The problem IMHO is a bored enforcement officer parked on the side of the highway, or sitting in a scale / inspection station with no 'customers' to keep them busy.

I was running a truck conversion home from FL for a family friend who fell ill and was flown back to Canada a few years back. Crossing into GA from FL I was chased down and stopped by a GA trooper who 'invited' me back to the state line inspection center for a once over by the nice folks there. I passed muster, but they had a good long look and a lot of questions.

Getting nabbed 1,000 miles from home wouldn't be fun at all.
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