TTD targets contract van safety

Studies show 15-passenger vans have poor safety record

The Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department passed a resolution on September 17 calling on the federal government to apply its motor carrier safety regulations to commercial passenger vans.

The resolution stated that "Given the inherent safety problems of vans designed to transport between nine and 15 passengers, it is unacceptable that the Bush Administration recently issued a so-called van safety rule that continues to allow too many regulatory loopholes and in the process threatens the safety of passengers and drivers alike. There are too many well-documented and highly publicized hazards associated with these vehicles to allow this segment of the industry to escape compliance with basic safety standards that are required of other commercial motor vehicles."

The Bush Administration opted to issue an incomplete rule that does not universally apply safety requirements to all 15-passenger vans. The rule limits the application of safety regulations to those interstate operations that are outside a 75 mile radius from the location where the driver normally reports to work. Also, these requirements do not cover passenger vans entering or leaving Mexico unless the vehicle meets the 75 mile criteria. The rule also restricts applicability to passenger van operations that are directly compensated for their service by passengers, i.e. hotel shuttles, rental car shuttles and outdoor recreation transporter services.

The TTD resolved to urge Congress and the Bush Administration to ensure the safety of van passengers by applying Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to all commercial 15-passenger van operations, regardless of distance traveled; to seek application of commercial drivers license and drug and alcohol testing requirements to operators of 15-passenger vans; and to educate the public and policy makers on the inherent rollover dangers of 15-passenger vans and importance of having trained, experienced drivers behind the wheel.

On March 21, 2001, BLE member Raymond J. St. Marie of Division 366 was killed while deadheading from Houston to the Union Pacific terminal in Alexandria, La. As the van he was traveling in slowed down for a highway construction zone on Interstate 10, just east of Lake Charles, La., it was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler. The van was shoved into the rear of another 18-wheeler, killing Brother St. Marie, the van driver, and a conductor, M. Deramus, 48.

Brother St. Marie's death was added to the 864 occupants who died in van crashes between 1990 and 2000.

When compared to other passenger vehicles, 15-passenger vans are involved in a disproportionate number of single vehicle crashes involving rollovers.



© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers