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.

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