Transportation of children in 12 and 15 passenger vans
All vehicles utilized for school transportation in the State of Minnesota must meet Minnesota school bus safety standards, must be inspected annually by a Commercial Vehicle Inspector (CVI) of the Minnesota State Patrol, and must display a current Minnesota School Bus Inspection Certificate.
Minnesota school bus safety standards comply with Federal Regulations and require that no vehicle larger than 10 passengers, including the driver, may transport school children unless the vehicle meets state and Federal standards for school bus design and construction. Non school bus vehicles over ten passengers,
including the driver, do not meet those standards.
Henrietta Texas Crash Van - NTSB Photo
Daycare’s, churches, social service organizations, and youth organizations, who are the most frequent users of 12 and 15 passenger vans, are not prohibited from utilizing these vehicles when transporting children unless the transportation is to or from school, or on school related activities, under an agreement with a school or a school district.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is very concerned about the use of large vans to transport children and has recommended that daycare’s, church groups, and other organizations
utilize vehicles which comply with Federal school bus standards. However, at this point these are recommendations only and non-school related organizations may continue to legally use these vehicles.
Henrietta Texas Crash Van - NTSB Photo
The following is the NHTSA position on the use of 15 passenger vans:
Use of Nonconforming Vans: New vehicles that carry 11 or more persons that are sold for transporting students to or from school or school related events are required to meet all FMVSSs for school buses. A vehicle is regarded as being sold for use as a school bus if, at the time of sale, it is evident that the vehicle is likely to be
significantly used to transport students to or from school or school related events. This applies to school buses sold to public as well as private schools. Thus, a dealer selling a new 12 or 15-passenger van to be used for school transportation must ensure that the van is certified as meeting all school bus FMVSSs.
Henrietta Texas Van - NTSB Photo
In addition to investigating and imposing of civil penalties on dealerships that have illegally sold 12-15 passenger vans to schools NHTSA has taken steps to educate the public, pupil transportation industry, and automobile dealerships about the laws governing such sales to school systems.
In October 1995 letters were sent to State Directors of Pupil Transportation and State Automobile Dealers Associations explaining the prohibition on selling to school systems, vehicles that seat 11 or more and do not meet school bus Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Similar letters were sent again in October 1997. At that time letters were also sent to the National PTA and PTA state offices, and the American Automobile Manufacturers Association. Agency staff have also spoken about non-conforming vehicles at many pupil transportation and highway safety conferences.
1995 Ford 15 Passenger van owned by Laurens County (Ga) Rural Transit System transporting Head Start childred involved in a fatal crash at East Dublin, Georgia, December 8, 1998. NTSB Photo
Within the past two years, NHTSA
has investigated allegations that dealers have violated this requirement. In May 1998, the agency issued a press release announcing the agency had completed investigations into vehicle dealers which illegally sold or leased vans that were used as school buses and obtained civil penalties totaling $14,400 from 10 dealers. The announcement also contained information on how to report a suspected illegal sale or lease of vans that are used in pupil transportation. NHTSA is currently conducting five additional investigations of dealerships reported to have illegally sold vans to school systems. The agency will
1992 Dodge 15 Pasenger van transporting students to school under a private parent contract involved in an accident with a transit bus in Sweetwater, Fla., March 25, 1998. NTSB Photo.
continue to publicize the safety risks of transporting students in vehicles other than school buses and investigate all violations reported to the agency.
1996 Dodge 15 Passenger van transporting students from school to daycare involved in a crash with multiple fatalities in Bennettsville, South Carolina, February 16, 1999. NTSB Photo.
NHTSA strongly recommends that only vehicles meeting Federal school bus safety standards be used to transport school children. Highway Safety Program Guideline 17, Pupil Transportation Safety, specifically recommends that any vehicle designed to carry more than 10 persons and which is used as a school bus comply with all Federal safety standards applicable to school buses at the time the vehicle was manufactured.