Debunking “Big Rig BS…”

30 Nov

Greetings, campers…

Welcome to another psychotic episode of:

“Okay… Who didn’t take their med’s today?”

It’s me… at least for now… 🙂

Read fast, ‘cuz I may channel “Clark, or Roger, or even Scott” here pretty quick! 🙂

… You know me, you love me (at least the way I “imagine”  it) … that “Corten Crusader” on a mission, to house every family in America and points North, South, East, and West… by recycling steel boxes, and turning them into safe, affordable, sustainable, energy efficient Shipping Container Homes.

Lately, several people have asked me whether or not they can re-use those trailers you see plying the highways, to build housing.

There seems to be some confusion as to whether or not a tractor trailer is considered a “shipping container.”

While technically, a tractor trailer is used to ship stuff from “point A to point B…” NO.

An ISBU and a “highway hauler” are two entirely different animals. An ISBU is made of  durable Corten STEEL. It’s weatherproof, tougher than tough, and capable of withstanding tons and tons of pressure.

A tractor trailer is built out of flimsy aluminum, and other “junk.” You can’t stack them, you can’t “build off” of them without basically rebuilding them, and you can’t endure heavy weather in them.

Okay, it’s not actually “junk…”  but it’s stuff that you wouldn’t build a house out of, in the way they have it configured.

But it get’s even further confusing, when you witness shenanigans like this;

Jimmy Lee's "Shipping Container " homes... Bah!

  1. Is it a stealth home?
  2. Is it an RV on steroids?
  3. Is it a viable housing solution?

Well, somebody thinks so…

Some guy in Costa Rica has decided to skirt most of the regulations involved in building housing…

… by recycling tractor trailers and turning them into rolling “container” homes. And he actually wants to export them… to the United States.

Why “rolling?” Because that way, he claims that you don’t need a building permit.  What???

He claims that his homes are;

“Earthquake, Fire, and Hurricane PROOF.”

So right off the bat (if he actually said that, and it’s hard to believe anyone could be that incredibly stupid), he’s a liar out to steal your money.  There’s no such animal.

And, he’s calling his homes “Shipping Container Homes.” Are they? Absolutely NOT. They aren’t even close. They’re based on using tractor trailers. You know, those flimsy boxes you see hauling goods, and butt… up the highway at breakneck speed.

Do I think it’s a good idea?


Not just “nope,” but “OH H-E-double-L NOPE!”

Now, this guy… he’s talking about these “conversions” like they are “container homes.” And if you read all the hype about him, he’s selling them that way. But, they aren’t. They’re not even on the same planet.

There’s several problems with this “solution.”

First… you KNOW it’s just a tractor trailer, because the wheels are permanently attached. He didn’t set an ISBU on a flatbed. Plus, that slick siding and big old gooseneck make it a dead giveaway…

Um… BTW: The trailer part of a “highway hauler” is usually made out of  lightweight aluminum. In fact, the lighter the better. After all, it’s job is just to keep the cargo covered, until it’s offloaded in a few days.

They design those trailers to be lightweight for a reason.

It’s not designed to be “heavy duty” because you PULL IT WITH A TRUCK.

Sorry, didn’t mean to shout. Much!

A heavy ISBU type STEEL container would use more fuel and when you’re hauling cross-country, that’s a big, giant no-no… 10-4?

Sure the chassis is steel, but little else is.

And, if you’re crazy enough to buy into this nonsense, you’ll be living in “the other part…” the flimsy aluminum “and other crap” part. And, that part is hardly capable of withstanding high winds and other heavy weather scenarios.

The trailer sits 4′ off the ground.

This means that your center of gravity is way up in the air. Even wonder WHY the DOT makes truckers pull over during heavy weather? It’s because these trailers get blown over onto their sides in strong gusts. It doesn’t take much wind, either…

And your “container home” would be basically empty. Let’s face it, home contents and a few flimsy partition walls to separate your guests from the “bathroom view of the throne”… aren’t all that heavy. It’s just a horrible accident waiting to happen.

Talk about “scrambled eggs!”

This is WAY worse than even being hunkered down inside a mobile home, and you’ve seen time and time again how they hold up to heavy weather events. You want that to happen while you’re inside it? I didn’t think so…

Then (supposedly) he goes on to claim that these “conversions” are “Hurricane proof.”

Yeah, right. Know how? They’re on wheels. The hurricane is coming. You’re sitting there, 4 feet off the ground in a flimsy billboard, waiting to become a sail…

Wait! I know how he can make that statement, and be right! You hook your home up to a Freightliner, and haul tail for anyplace but “hurricane ground zero…” thus avoiding the hurricane completely!

Bingo! Instant “Hurricane proof.”

But, using that same reasoning, my bicycle is “hurricane proof” too… if I can peddle fast enough to get out of the way of the storm… What a load of crap…

tractortrailer-container-home-interiorBut, let’s look at what they do with the space, huh?

After all, even if the shell is based on “idiotic ideas…”

… the internal dimensions are close to what you’d expect to see in a traditional STEEL ISBU container.

You can see how they laid out the living area.

tractortrailer-container-home-kitchenHere’s the “business center…”

For a “temporary” home… that you spent a few days a week in, it might work. Just add a hot plate, and a dorm sized refrigerator.

And you could build a cool fold-down “murphy” bed, to get a nice living room/bedroom layout, too.

The bath (located behind the kitchen to keep everything – like the plumbing – all together) could be decent sized.


That trailer “skin” is paper thin… It’s hardly a deterrent to anything hurled at the outside of your new “house.”

And a decent RV built to American industry standards has a much thicker and more durable skin. That means more insulation, and a broader range of use, geographically.

Will the roof of a tractor trailer take a big snow load, accumulated by sitting in the same spot, over time, during winter? Nope. It’ll bow.

I have PERSONALLY repaired damaged tractor trailers that got snowed in, and buckled under the snow load. And I’m not talking about the Artic. I’m talking about Idaho.

Look folks, don’t fall for this. It’s not anything close to “permanent.” It’s temporary at best. And, I’m not even going to guarantee you that this is even safe.

For that to happen, you’d have to anchor it down, enclose the bottom, reinforce the sides and roof, and just generally start over. Why bother?

Just buy a REAL ISBU, and start with steel.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninYou can find out more by following the link in the YouTube video (IF you double-click on the video and watch it on YouTube). I’m so “P.O’d” at these guys that I’m not even going to ‘hardlink’ their site to mine. This is complete B.S. as a “housing solution.” They’re just going to take people’s money, and get people killed. 😦

11 Responses to “Debunking “Big Rig BS…””

  1. G November 30, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

    what a blast.. you are going to make new friends ehehhe..

    and no I have not forget ya.. it’s just I’m in the middle of 2 trips. I write you back soooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnn..

    don’t need to publish that comment, just wanted to give a quick hello and show that you are still my favorite read daily

    love to missu and kid


    • renaissanceronin November 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

      Hi G,

      Guys like this just burn me up!

      They take something that can actually make a difference, and then they “play on it,” twisting it into something that is downright dangerous.

      And the part that really sucks is that their “claims” somehow get stuck on the “original concept” making our swim upstream (like the “struggling Salmon who just want to get home, to give birth…”) that much harder.

      If he’d have just said:

      “I convert tractor trailers into rolling ‘Recreational Vehicle type’ apartments…”

      I’d have had no problem with it, aside from the safety risks to the inhabitants.

      Obviously I think it’s a stupid idea, for “permanent” housing…

      But when he claims that he’s building “Container Homes?” I’m calling complete, total, emphatic (shaking my fists at him, even…) “B freakin’ S.”

      Actually, I’m calling it “something else,” but I’m just not “typing it out” for all to see. I wouldn’t want to hurt your eyes… 😉

      He’s doing a huge disservice to all those families that are REALLY trying to build safe, sustainable homes for their tribes, REAL Container homes made of Corten Steel that will allow them to overcome most of the storms to come, be they “Mother Nature or (gasp!) “man-made.”

      People like “gullible Planning and Zoning Nazi’s” read stuff like this, and it further “fuels” their angst against us.

      The post isn’t even a day old, and I have already gotten quite a few (8 so far) emails from my “Trucker Buddies” who are laughing their butts off at this guy.

      Especially the claims about the “Hurricane-proof” part…

      I have to believe he was misquoted. Nobody is that stupid. Or, are they? Not even dogs would play with someone that stupid…. Hmmm…

      I wonder if he has meat in his pocket…

      Bottom line?

      “Ronin no like! Ronin Maaaaaad. Ronin Crush….!”

      Now excuse me while I go take my blood pressure med’s…

  2. Andy in Germany November 30, 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    You mean I can’t live like Knight Rider? Bummer. Mind you reversing off a moving truck on a bicycle would be er… tricky.

    I’ve noticed a lot of tiny houses are built on wheels for the same reason- it gets around planning regulations, but then the wheels are tiny and the overall house is lower down. And wood.

    • renaissanceronin November 30, 2009 at 4:04 pm #


      I bet David Hasselhof would buy one! 😉

      The whole idea is flawed.

      He even claims that in Costa Rica (where he’s building them) it works because you don’t have to worry about heating and cooling.

      Funny, I lived in Costa Rica for many years, and I don’t remember any situation that would support his claims, and a lot of my Expat friends think likewise.

      I think he’s genuinely trying to find an alternative housing source. And if he’s sincere, I have to commend him on at least getting off his butt and trying something. But I just wish he’d blaze his own trail with his “idea.”

      He’s not doing the rest of US, who are building “REAL Corten Steel Homes” any favors, by affiliating himself with us..

      I think maybe we should get one of his “boxes” and make it a part of that X-Games phenom!

      Wouldn’t it be cool to see those insane BMX’rs fly out of the back of a moving tractor trailer on their way to the half-pipe?

      I’d watch… until it got too bloody…

      I have “delicate sensibilities,” don’t ya know…;)


  3. jakob December 1, 2009 at 3:33 am #

    I like your blog and see you are into containers. (understatement of the year, maybe)

    check out the latest project by these young architects…



  4. renaissanceronin January 31, 2010 at 10:16 pm #


    Jimmy Lee Update.

    Jan 30 2010… As you know, I’ve being courted by “the powers that be” to help out with the Haitian Crisis, after the earthquake. Clinton-Bush Initiative. What a strange set of bedfellows…

    Lo and behold, Jimmy Lee pipes up, via email, looking for an in to sell his “Earthquake, Fire and Hurricane Proof Container houses” to the Haitians because of the horrific housing shortage.

    I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, until I started getting information about his company, released by him, directly.

    That “Everything proof” nonsense, my friends, is still an outright lie. NOTHING is Earthquake, Fire, or Hurricane proof. Especially not for $18 grand.

    However, where before I doubted that anyone could be that incredibly stupid, now I know that he actually “said” it. I have it in print, right from HIM.

    And, yeah… based on the quote I saw (I was forwarded ALL of the contact data), he’s not doing a single thing differently than he’s talked about before, but he’s INCREASED his price by $1,000, at least, based on all his Internet “press releases” and hype. And, that shipping is still “extra.”

    So, on top of everything else, he’s looking to capitalize, and even cash in, on the death of Haitian families.

    He also claims that he’s exporting these boxes to the United States already. However, I’ve yet to discover one. I seriously doubt it. You could NEVER get one of his boxes past any building code inspector.

    There’s a place for guys like this, but not at MY dinner table. Be aware.

    At least this time, he’s using REAL shipping containers, while he gives the rest of us a bad name.

    Look, if you go out and get your own ISBU, you can do what he’s doing (probably better), for about $10,000 less (USD).

    How do I know? Well, first, I’ve done it myself. Second, many other people have, too. I ran a post a while back about the $8,000 ISBU house, built for Mexican workers. Look in the archives.

    Start here: Welcome the $8,000 Shipping Container Home

    This LEE guy isn’t a businessman, or even a builder. He’s, um… less. much less.

    My mother would have washed my mouth out with soap if I actually said WHAT he apparently is.

    Look, use your head when you hear these idiots spout their BS. If it sounds too good to be true… run.


  5. Mike and Jackie April 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    Wow, we just came across your blog and am enjoying it very much. There is so much to read and to learn.
    My husband and I just retired(actually 2 years ago) in Costa Rica.
    We were very surprised to read your blog about Jimmy Lee. We know him because our neighbor bought one of his homes. We were very impressed. We feel that maybe you should contact him and get your facts straight. He is only using the steel shipping containers, we have been to his factory several times. We did have questions about the “green” trailer home he built. It was kind of scary on the outside and didn’t seem to measure up to the steel containers.

    I really like your blog. I think it is one of the bests.

    I will forward this post to Jimmy so he can square up with you.

    • renaissanceronin April 20, 2010 at 8:35 am #

      Perhaps it’s Jimmy that needs to get his facts straight.

      He started this foray into housing by claiming that converting a tractor trailer into a home would allow you to skirt Planning and Zoning. He doesn’t mention that ‘s it’s an absolutely stupid idea, structurally. Nor did he mention that it would put your family at risk.

      Then, he’s making wild claims about his homes being Earthquake proof, Hurricane Proof, etc… Total and complete BS.

      He goes on to make claims about heating and cooling that just aren’t “real.” I LIVED in Costa Rica for many years. I know what the weather is like there.

      Then during the initial Haiti Earthquake crisis, he actually contacted the people I was working with (I have ALL the documentation) and offered his container homes as “Emergency housing…” after he raised the price to meet the opportunity.

      He may “mean well”, but frankly, he’s a long way from “reputable” in my book. His “homes” are underbuilt and overpriced. Some of us have invested our entire lifetime building these homes for families, in spite of “public response to them”, only to see opportunists try to leverage in, and stir up controversy with their schemes.

      He may seem like a nice guy. Most salesmen do. Con men are often “charming…”

      He’s taking the “movement” backwards. That makes him a problem, in my book.


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