15-Passenger Vans Pose Safety Risk

Federal studies, recently passed laws, and the all-too-frequent word of fatal accidents are causing concern about the use of 15-passenger vans by organizations. Consider these recent newspaper headlines:

“Big Loads in Big Vans Carry Big Rollover Risk”
“Seven Killed, Three Hurt When Church Van Flips in California”
“Church Van Rolls Off Roadway”

National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) research shows there’s a greater risk of rollover due to the following:

  • Inexperienced drivers
  • Improperly sized and/or inflated tires
  • Incorrectly loaded cargo and more passengers that affect center of gravity

Combine the increased rollover potential with the lack of seatbelt use, poor driver selection, passenger misconduct, and the lack of side impact protection, and the risks of fatality and serious injury when involved in a van accident are great.

More pressure is being put on states to conform to the federal law and pass state laws regarding use of the vans. The families of accident victims are applying much of this pressure. Also, more insurance companies are re-thinking their coverage of organizations that use these vans. Policyholders should expect more information, reports, and possible changes or more stringent requirements attached to their coverage.

In the interim, organizations that currently own 15-passenger vans should adopt several key safety practices:

  • In order of priority, require drivers to have
    • A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) OR
    • Pass a defensive driving course to operate a 15-passenger van. The course must meet the following minimum requirements: Note: Internet-based programs are acceptable.
      • Four (4) hours of instruction time.
      • Testing with written results.
      • Driver certification.
    • Examples of nationally recognized programs that meet this requirement include, but are not limited to, the following. Note: These programs are sponsored by the National Safety Council.
      • Coaching the Van Driver III.
      • DDC-4.
      • DDC-PC, Online.
  • Carefully screen all drivers.
  • Do pre- and post-trip inspections of the vehicle.
  • Communicate safe procedures to all occupants.
  • Require seatbelt use by all passengers.
  • Have safety items on board the vehicle (cell phone, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher).
  • Do not transport children to and from school using these types of vehicles (applies to churches and schools).

Specifically to prevent rollovers, organizations should

  • Buy high quality tires.
  • Keep the gas tank as full as possible.
  • Drive conservatively.
  • Fill the front seats first.
  • Never load items on the roof.
  • Remove the backseat.

It is the responsibility of every organization to ensure the safety of the passengers it transports. Reducing the possibility of crashes and injury should be foremost in the minds of every organization.

Also see: Transportation Safety Resources

© 2018 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.