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Safety Tips and Recommendations for Operating Passenger Vans

Across industry lines, passenger vans can be useful for transporting groups of people. However, these vehicles also carry unique risks. Recent research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 15-passenger vans are more likely to be involved in truck crashes than other types of vehicles.

With this in mind, your organization must take steps to mitigate the risks that come with operating passenger vans. Whether your organization utilizes a single van or an entire fleet of this type of vehicle, review the following guidance for an outline of the most common safety hazards associated with 15-passenger vans and risk management steps that you can implement to avoid these hazards.

Safety Hazards with Passenger Vans

According to NHTSA research, 15-passenger vans can carry the following safety hazards on the road:

  • Higher fatality risks—Because 15-passenger vans can hold more people, they can contribute to a higher number of fatalities in the event of a crash. What’s more, the risk of a rollover increases with each additional occupant in the van.
  • Road curvatures—Driving on curved roads can also be a more hazardous feat in a larger vehicle. The odds of a 15-passenger van rolling over on a curved road is double that of the risk on a straight road.
  • Speed concerns—Driving at high speeds can be significantly more dangerous in large vehicles. The likelihood of a 15-passenger van rolling over increases fivefold on roads with a speed limit that’s above 50 mph.
  • Underinflated tires—An NHTSA study found that over 70% of 15-passenger vans had at least one underinflated tire. Driving with underinflated tires increases the risk of a blowout occurring, which can cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle and potentially lead to a rollover incident.
  • Heavy loads—Passenger vans have a center of gravity that shifts up and to the back. That being said, the heavier the load, the greater the risk of rollover.
  • Poor weather conditions—As with any vehicle, adverse weather can lead to reduced visibility and slippery road conditions—both of which increase the risk of being involved in a crash.

Reducing the Risks of Passenger Vans

Despite these safety hazards, there are a variety of steps that your organization can take to reduce the risks of operating 15-passenger vans.

Consider this guidance:

  • Enforce passenger safety—Never allow more than 15 occupants within a 15-passenger van. Have passengers fill the van from front to back. If every seat in the van is not occupied, have passengers sit only in forward-facing seats in front of the rear axle to increase vehicle stability. If possible, remove the rear seat. Further, require passengers to wear their seat belts at all times.
  • Select skilled drivers—Only allow competent, experienced drivers to operate your 15-passenger van(s). Drivers who possess a CDL are ideal candidates. In addition, review all candidates’ driver history before letting them operate your vehicles. In many cases, your state or insurance company may impose restrictions on who’s permitted to operate a 15-passenger van.
  • Implement a driver training program—Even skilled drivers need routine training. Your training program should include the following safety recommendations for 15-passenger van operations:
    • Conduct a pre-trip inspection and address any safety or maintenance concerns before each journey.
    • Drive in the right-hand lane whenever possible.
    • In good weather conditions, keep at least a four-second distance behind other traffic. In poor conditions, keep at least a six-second distance.
    • Avoid being in other vehicles’ blind spots as much as possible and avoid backing up as much as possible.
    • Always obey the speed limit, and consider driving under the speed limit if needed.
    • Exercise extra caution on steep or curved roads.
    • Take all turns slowly. Remember that 15-passenger vans can’t handle abrupt maneuvers.
    • Avoid panicked steering and hard braking. If an emergency occurs on the road, slow down and pull over safely as soon as possible.
    • Distribute passengers evenly on the left and right sides of the vehicle. Insist that passengers sit toward the front of the vehicle if possible and wear their seat belts at all times.
    • Don’t overload the vehicle with passengers.
    • Always stay focused on the road. Never use a handheld device while driving, and limit conversation with passengers. Avoid driving when fatigued.
  • Keep weight in mind—Consult the vehicle owner’s manual for the maximum passenger weight. Never allow drivers to exceed these limits.
  • Be prepared—Make sure each vehicle has an emergency kit. This kit should include a spare tire, wheel wrench, tripod jack, flares or triangle reflectors, toolbox, first-aid kit, blanket, flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Conduct regular maintenance—Be sure to inspect your 15-passenger vans regularly for wear and tear. Pay special attention to the brakes, steering, seat belts, and tires. Conduct routine maintenance and make replacements as needed.
  • Have the right policies in place—Ensure your organization has policies on safe driving, substance abuse (clearinghouse cdl), distracted driving, accident reporting, and vehicle maintenance in place.
  • Comply with state laws—Keep in mind that the state you’re operating your vehicles in might have specific standards for 15-passenger van usage. Be sure to check your state’s department of transportation website for specific regulations.
  • Secure the right insurance—It’s crucial to purchase adequate commercial auto insurance that accounts for the risks associated with operating 15-passenger vans. Here’s some tips for finding the best truck insurance company.

Bottom Line

For more risk management tips and insurance guidance, contact Truck Insurance Quotes today.




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