BSA to prohibit use of 15-passenger vans made before 2005

Fully loaded 15-passenger vans, like the ones you might use to haul a bunch of Scouts to camp, can be more dangerous than you might think.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says 15-passenger vans with 10 or more occupants are three times more likely to roll over than ones carrying fewer than five passengers.

That’s why all Scouters should take heed of this breaking BSA news: Effective Sept. 1, 2015, the use of 15-passenger vans manufactured before 2005 will no longer be allowed in connection with Scouting programs and activities.

15-passenger vans manufactured in 2005 or later may be used, as long as they are equipped with Electronic Stability Control and seat belts for all passengers and the driver.

This applies to all vehicles, regardless of ownership (privately owned, owned by chartered organization, rentals, etc.).

Why the rule?

First, it’s a fact that adults who are used to driving their SUV or passenger car often overestimate their skills when it comes to driving a 15-passenger van.

Also, the BSA has determined that the risk posed by the use of 15-passenger vans manufactured before 2005 are such that they should not be used. Most pre-2005 vans without Electronic Stability Control have already been retired and are no longer in use.

Safety tips for using 15-passenger vans

Have a newer 15-passenger van that meets BSA requirements? Here are some safety tips from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that you should read:

  • Make sure that the vehicle is properly maintained (correct size tires, steering, brakes, ESC, etc.). The best practice is to complete an inspection checklist daily or before use.
  • Make sure drivers are trained and experienced in operating 15-passenger vans and are properly licensed. (There are online resources for drivers to learn about the safe operation of these vehicles. For example, see this link.
  • 15-passenger vans are very sensitive to loading and should not be overloaded under any circumstances. Agency research shows overloading not only increases rollover risk but also makes the vehicle more unstable in any handling maneuvers. For example, passenger capacity should be reduced by one for every 150 pounds of gear, and roof-mounted storage units should not be used.
  • Make sure that properly sized tires are being used on the vehicle.
  • Before every trip, drivers should check the tires for proper inflation and make sure there are no signs of excessive or uneven wear. The “penny test” is a good indicator of whether tread depth meets the minimum requirements.
  • Make sure all passengers wear seatbelts.

FAQs on this policy change

These come from the BSA’s general counsel.

Q. Where will this policy be published?

A. We will be adding this to the next update of the Guide to Safe Scouting and other BSA publications as they are modified.

Q. Can we remove seats from our 15-passenger vans to meet this new policy?

A. No. Improper loading of cargo can be just as much of a hazard to the driver as a passenger loaded vehicle is to occupants.

Q. Does this apply to our chartered organizations?

A. Yes. The prohibition applies to any vehicles used in connection with Scouting programs or activities. This applies regardless of ownership, including rental vehicles.

Q. Does this apply to camp vehicles used off public roads at low speed if they are not registered for highway use?

A. Yes. The prohibition applies to any vehicles used in connection with Scouting programs or activities. This applies regardless of ownership, including rental vehicles.

Q. Why is the BSA taking this action?

A. The history of injuries due to accidents involving these vehicles coupled with the availability of vehicles with ESC makes it appropriate to take this additional precaution to prevent injuries.