Camps and Vans: The Latest Update

The seemingly timeless debate concerning the use of fifteen-passenger
vans to transport children continues to rage. As recently as last winter’s
issue of The CampLine,ACA has written about the most current information
available concerning the issue.1 Will it ever end, you might
ask? In reality, as long as there are vehicular accidents involving children
(in any kind of vehicle), our nation will continue to debate, make recommendations,
and try to find ways to ensure the safe transport of our children.

On March 22, 1979, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
issued its first recommendations about the safety of “multipurpose
vans”.2 Since that date, they have issued a number of
other reports and recommendations concerning various modes of transporting

Where does the issue stand right now? On July 15, 2003, the National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made its boldest statement to date.
They stated that “ . . . the safe operation of fifteen-passenger
vans requires a knowledge and skill level different and above that for
passenger cars, particularly when the vans are fully loaded or drivers
experience an emergency situation.”3 While the NTSB had
previously made recommendations about driver training and use policies
for fifteen-passenger vans,4 with this new statement they have
added a new recommendation:

“ . . . the Safety Board recommended that the fifty states and
the District of Columbia establish a driver’s license endorsement
for fifteen-passenger vans requiring drivers to complete a training program
on the operation of these vehicles and pass a written and skills test

Thus, instead of recommending a federal regulation or piece of legislation,
the NTSB has placed it into the hands of the individual states.

In the meantime, however, Senator Olympia Snowe has presented a Passenger
Van Safety Act of 2003 in the United States Senate. This bill would require
increased safety testing of fifteen-passenger vans and ensure the compliance
of fifteen-passenger vans used as school buses with motor vehicle safety
standards applicable to school buses. Senator Snowe says “Sensible
regulation, improved manufacturing standards, and better driver training
seem imperative if fifteen-passenger vehicles are to stay on the road
without a grimly mounting toll in lives.”6 While this
bill has yet to be considered in the Senate, you can find updates on the
status of the bill at

Visit the ACA Public Policy area frequently
for up-to-date information about transportation of campers.

1Update: Camps and Fifteen-Passenger Vans. American Camping
Association. The CampLine. Winter, 2003.
2Safety of Multipurpose Vans. National Transportation Safety
Board. NTSB Report # HSS-79-01. March 22, 1979.
3Evaluation of the Rollover Propensity of Fifteen-Passenger
Vans. National Transportation Safety Board. July 15, 2003.
4Activities Pertaining to Vehicle Rollover — Consumer
Advisories. National Transportation Safety Board. April 2002.
5NTSB, July 15, 2003.
6Olympia Snowe Press Release. July 15, 2003.

Originally published in the 2003 Fall issue
of The CampLine.