Adhere to Ministry Passenger Vehicle Guidelines
Churches, Christian schools, and Christian colleges may not be following safety standards if they use vans rather than standard buses to provide transportation for children. Under federal guidelines, any new vehicle sold or leased that's designed to carry more than 10 passengers and the driver and that's used for transporting children must meet federal safety standards for school buses. These standards cover design and equipment.
Vans that don't follow federal regulations for equipment are considered “substandard.” This means there's a greater risk of liability if such a van is used to transport children. In addition, some states have requirements for vans that carry fewer than 10 passengers.
Keep Vehicle Safety In Mind
Federal law prohibits dealerships from selling passenger vans that carry more than 10 passengers for school-related transportation unless they're modified to meet the federal bus safety standards. Not all states restrict the operation of vans for school use, but schools may face increased liability for operating a “nonconforming” van if it's involved in an accident in which a student is injured or killed.
There are several websites you can consult for more information:
- School Bus Fleet has a wealth of information about buses, including links to state and federal agencies, school bus contractors, and safety organizations. It lists several bus companies that make 14-to-22-passenger buses that meet all federal and state bus standards.
- The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services has links to its state directors at its website. Go to its U.S. map and click on your state to find contact information for its director. The page to which you'll be taken will also have a link to a site with more information about school bus safety standards in your state.
- The School Bus Information Council has information on federal safety requirements, school bus experts, and statistics on school bus safety at its website.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reports, guidelines, and links to other sources of information on school bus safety at its website.
Finally, as with all legal issues, we recommend that you consult with your local legal counsel for specific state and federal requirements and guidelines.