Federal agencies speak out on passenger van use

Posted on December 14, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sent a letter today to all 50 states’ motor vehicle administrators to remind them that 12- or 15-passenger vans should not be used to transport students.

In the joint letter, David Strickland, NHTSA administrator, and Anne S. Ferro, FMCSA administrator, state that pre-primary, elementary and secondary schools should not use these vans to transport children because they do not provide the same level of safety as school buses meeting NHTSA’s safety standards. They also remind DMV commissioners that federal law prohibits the sale or lease of a new 12- or 15-passenger van if it will be used to transport students.

Moreover, Strickland and Ferro cite recent fatal crashes in New York state and Georgia involving 15-passenger vans that resulted in the deaths of 10 people and injuries to many other occupants as evidence for the need to improve the safe operation of these vehicles. 

The agencies’ safety data indicate that 9-, 12- and 15-passenger vans are often inadequately maintained and the tires are vulnerable to deterioration as they age. The vehicles also display sensitivity to rollovers, particularly when they are fully loaded.

NHTSA and the FMCSA have undertaken an outreach strategy to van owners to improve the safety of the vehicles, and Strickland and Ferro ask the nation’s DMV commissioners for assistance.

They request that the commissioners send a NHTSA consumer advisory to every registered owner of a 9- 12- and 15-passenger van in their states, along with a letter that explains what owners of these vans should do to improve their safety and stability.

To read Strickland’s and Ferro’s other requests to DMV commissioners, click here.   

The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) supports federal law and NHTSA’s regulations that prohibit the sale or lease of new 12- or 15-passenger vans if they will be used to transport students, and also concurs with the statement in today’s letter that pre-primary, elementary, and secondary schools should not use these vans for transporting students.

NASDPTS distributed Strickland's and Ferro’s letter to the nation’s state directors of pupil transportation and encouraged them to forward it to others who may be involved in decisions about vehicles used for student transportation.


Comments ( 1 )
  • Roberta

     | about 9 years ago

    As a safety director and school bus driver, I have long contemplated why operators of 9, 12, and 15 passenger vans are not held to the same certification standards as school bus and coach drivers, as well as the licensing process. I constantly see daycare, adult daycare, nursing homes, senior centers, karate, church, parents and other entrupeneurs, purchasing these vehicles and then using employees of their venue to drive children and adults, with little more experience than a drivers license for a car. In fact, I had a student on my high school run, just got her license, 17yrs old, I believe she told me. I dropped her off at her stop, continued on to my next schools, pulled into the driveway of the elementary school and see her pull in behind me with the daycare van, where she works part-time. I have had hotel shuttle vans pull into school driveways and when stopped by staff, who tell them, school buses only, tell the staff they are a bus. I had an encounter with a school bus, that had been refurbished by a local karate school, painted, lettered and logoed for the karate school and I recognized the driver as one who had failed the CDL testing in this state, driving this bus. I struck up casual conversation and congratulated them for achieving their CDL status and they told me "oh thanks, but I never was able to pass my test. I said how can you be driving this without a CDL, they said it was not considered a bus, but a shuttle vehicle and for that you don't need a CDL. I must have changed color 3 or 4 times, because they asked me if I was ok. I could have sworn by weight class and passenger seating that this vehicle would have at least required a CDL with a passenger endorsement, how silly of me. I mean when a friend calls you and says, can you help me out, I want to rent a 24 foot moving van, but the company I am renting from requires a CDL 'B' driver, why would we allow people to go purchase or convert vehicles for passenger transport, charge $5.00 a head for "fue

More Stories

New York School Bus Driver Charged with DWI

Anderson Hollins with East Irondequoit Central School District pleads not guilty to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Police say his blood alcohol test results were above the legal limit for driving.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!