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. 

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

Traditional* 12- and 15-passenger vans

  • Passenger Van Safety limits capacity to 10 people. The back seat must be removed to facilitate this requirement. 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 (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. 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. The rear window should not be blocked by luggage.
  • For long distance trips, drivers shall rotate every two hours. A maximum driving shift of two hours shall be enforced, 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.
  • Attend mandatory training. EHS requires all drivers of traditional* 12- and 15-passenger vans attend training specific to driving vans. EHS offers classroom-based courses on general defensive driving on request.

In light of the existing data and best practices established by our peers in higher education, the purchase of new traditional* 12- and 15-passenger vans is prohibited.

*Traditional 12- and 15-passenger vans refers to those referenced in these studies and does not include newer redesigned vehicles, such as the Ford Transit. (Reference to the Ford Transit should only be seen as an example, not an endorsement.)