15 Passenger Van Guidelines

15 Passenger Van Guidelines

The objective of these guidelines is to reduce the risk of accidents and possible injury or death associated with the operations of 15-passenger vans.  Risk reduction is achieved through assurance that vans will only be operated by safe and knowledgeable drivers, that vans are in proper and safe working order and that all passengers use passenger restraint systems when the vehicle is in operation.

You and your drivers of 15-passenger vans are responsible to make sure all safety and operating guidelines are followed, and to make appropriate judgment calls in the interest of safety. At a minimum, the following guidelines must be adhered to in order to operate a van:

  • You must be a university employee or authorized adult driver to operate a van.
  • You must be a licensed driver with five or more years of driving experience or at least 21 years of age.
  • You must have a Motor Vehicle Record check (MVR) and cleared by Risk Management.
  • You must complete a pre-trip inspection (van checklist) of the van to assure that it is in a safe condition. Do not operate the van if you have any mechanical or equipment concerns.
  • You and your occupants must wear seat belts while the van is being operated. Your driver is ultimately responsible for seeing that this is enforced.
  • When the van is not full, passengers should sit in seats that are in front of the rear axle.
  • When possible, there should be at least two eligible drivers in case of an emergency or driver fatigue.
  • No cargo stored on the roofs of 15-passenger vans.
  • Have the occupant of the front passenger seat serve as the navigator. Let the navigator follow the directions or read the map for you and assist with lane changes, turns and backing.
  • It is always a good idea to limit your drive time to less than four hours. If trips will exceed this, plan on having a second eligible driver or plan on staying overnight.
  • Always consider the characteristics of the van and drive conservatively. Its length, width and weight are all greater than what you are typically used to.
    • The weight of the van, particularly when fully occupied, requires additional stopping distance. And it causes the center of gravity to shift rearward and upward increasing the likelihood of rollover. This shift in gravity will also increase the potential for loss of control in panic maneuvers.
    • The width of the van allows for less lane room. Be aware that the shoulder of roadways is often soft and can give way underneath you causing the van to roll.
    • The length increases distances needed for making turns, changing lanes and backing. Use your navigator to assist with these lane changes and turns. And when backing, have the navigator get out to watch for obstacles.

When possible, departments that operate 15-passenger vans should select one or two experienced drivers to drive on a regular basis. These drivers will gain valuable experience handling the van. By driving conservatively, following these basic guidelines, you and your occupants will experience a safer and more enjoyable trip.

If any driver feels unsure of their ability to drive a 15-passenger van, please make sure that you notify your department and do not drive.


Anyone planning on driving a 15-passenger van on university business must watch the informational video at the link below. The video is 11 minutes and 15 seconds in length.  Departments are responsible for their drivers reading the 15-passenger van guidelines and viewing the informational video (link below).





Studies conducted by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA) reveals that loaded 15- passenger vans have significantly higher risk of rollover than passenger cars and light trucks.  Loading the vans raises the center of gravity and shifts it towards the rear greatly affecting the handling characteristics.  When heavily loaded the steering characteristics and responsiveness are very different from light passenger vehicles, this can cause serious consequences in an emergency situation when an untrained driver expects the vehicle to respond like a care.

Driving large vans requires skill and experience from the operator.  The vehicles must also be in proper working order to reduce the likelihood of involvement in an accident.  NHSTA has shown that the chance of survival in a rollover type accident is greatly enhanced by the proper use of seat belts.


Please contact Risk Management for additional information regarding these guidelines 852-6925.