12 and 15 Passenger Vans


In 2001, 2002, 2004 and again in 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a cautionary warning for 15-passenger vans and their propensity to rollover. According to the NHTSA, “vans with ten or more occupants have three (3) times the rollover ratio than those with fewer then ten occupants.” The report goes on to state “the decrease in stability under fully loaded conditions correlates to an increase in the rollover risk of approximately 40 percent.” NHTSA said in its notice of caution that it is important that 15-passenger vans be operated by experienced drivers and that institutions using the vans require seat belt use at all times. NHTSA made this information available because of these findings and because of several highly publicized rollover accidents involving 15-passenger vans loaded with college students (often driven by a fellow student rather than a professional driver). There was also a feature presentation by 60 Minutes II bringing this issue to the public. Similar hazards appear to be present for 12-passenger vans.

In light of the above the UM Risk and Insurance Management office suggests that departmental policies on 12- and 15-passenger vans be reviewed and include the following recommendations:

  • All 15-passenger vans are limited to a capacity of 10 people. The NHSTA report noted that vans with more than 10 people had a higher rollover rate.
  • Vehicle operators should assure that all their passengers are wearing their seat belts. The NHTSA indicates that you can reduce your chance of being killed in a rollover by about 75% just by wearing a seat belt.
  • Use properly sized tires and check for proper inflation before each trip.
  • Limit Speed to 65 MPH on all 15 passenger vans (slower during various conditions). In most of the van accidents reported, speed was a contributing factor.
  • No driver younger than 21 should be allowed to drive a 15-passenger van. All drivers should be a University of Missouri employee or recognized volunteer.
  • There should be no roof racks or trailer hitches on the vehicles. Luggage and gear should be stored in the vehicle (with a limit of ten passengers, there will be more storage area, however the rear window should not be blocked by luggage).
  • For long distance trips, drivers should rotate every two hours. We recommend a maximum driving shift of two hours, with no driver taking more than three shifts. The maximum driving day with three drivers should not exceed 18 hours.
  • Driving through the night is not permitted. Do not drive past midnight. Front passengers should remain awake to help keep the driver alert during all shifts.

EHS recommends that all drivers of 12- and 15-passenger vans attend training specific to driving vans. We also offer classroom-based courses on general defensive driving as well.

EHS discourages the purchase of new 12- and 15-passenger vans. If departments believe that such vans are the only ones that will meet their needs, EHS recommends the installation of an after market stabilizer bar, which reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of rollover. Contact EHS at 882-7018 for more information.

If you have other questions specific to 12- and 15-passenger vans, contact the EHS Safety Professional.