One of the things I like about my job is that new challenges are presented almost daily. Here’s an example:
Recently we received a question from a member’s broker regarding how APEI insures 15-passenger vans. In researching the broker’s question, we learned much.
We have long known that 15 passenger vans are more dangerous than other motor vehicles. Research indicates that 15 passenger vans have a 70% greater chance of rolling over when loaded with 15 people or the equivalent in people and luggage. They also have a higher rate of single vehicle accidents than any other vehicle.
However, research in response to the broker’s question revealed more. School districts should never use such vans to transport kids. Since 1974, federal law has prohibited pre-primary, primary and secondary schools from purchasing or leasing new 15-passenger vans to be used significantly to transport students unless the vans meet the federal standards for school buses. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined that 11-15 passenger vans do not and cannot meet many such federal standards, including rollover protection, body joint strength, and crash protection systems.
In short, schools are prohibited by federal law from leasing or purchasing new vans designed to carry more than 10 passengers (even if some seats are removed), if the school intends to use the vehicle to transport students. They are, quite simply, unsafe. “Pre-primary, primary and secondary schools should not use 15-passenger vans for transporting school children, as they do not provide the same level of safety as school buses. It is also against federal law for schools to buy new 15-passenger vans for school transportation purposes.” NHTSA Consumer Advisory, Oct. 10, 2010. Any auto dealer selling a 10+ passenger van to a school district is subject to severe penalties.
We see many vans with seating capacities above 10 on our school district auto schedules. We strongly encourage districts to look for ways to de-commission those vehicles that transport students and replace them with other types of vehicles that meet federal safety standards.