I remember the time my wife and I were planning our first road trip from the East Coast to the West Coast. We took our vehicle to a certified mechanic to ensure the tires, wheels, brakes, engine, and all vehicle fluids were serviced or changed. That way, we felt secure before the trip. Pre-trip planning is effective risk management that helps ensure a trip is not only safe, but also enjoyable.In our local churches and organizations, buses and vans haven’t been used as much lately due to the pandemic. As churches and schools are reopening, the need to rely on transportation is eminent. In order to decrease risk and ensure a smooth trip, it is essential we make sure vehicle maintenance is fully up to date. As good stewards of the church or school, it is important to “kick the tires” and identify potential safety issues. Conducting pre-trip inspections and servicing vehicles accordingly are two reliable ways to ensure safety. When was the last time a vehicle inspection was completed? Have you done any further assessment, perhaps on the serviceability of your bus or van?
Prevention is better than repair. You may help protect the lives of your church members and students by following the steps below:
Maintaining VehiclesHave the vehicle serviced in a systematic, regular way, as recommended by the manufacturer. This should include changing the vehicle’s oil. If you run without sufficient hydration, you may feel thirsty, dizzy, and faint, risking serious complications. In a similar way, failing to check the engine oil level may risk engine damage and failure, which impacts the vehicle’s ability to run. This is one of the most important elements of vehicle maintenance and should not be ignored.
In addition to the recommended service by professionals, we recommend the following steps to ensure the vehicle is ready for use:
- Check the tire pressure. It is dangerous to drive when the air pressure of one or more tires is outside the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch). Verify your vehicle’s PSI with the manufacturer. You can also use a tire pressure gauge to check the tread depth of the tires of any vehicle that has not been driven for an extended period. This helps avert serious damage.
- Drive the vehicle regularly. The trick here is not necessarily driving far but regularly starting the engine. A five-minute drive at least every other week is sufficient to get the fluids of the vehicle moving. Regular driving also keeps the battery charged, machinery lubricated, and prevents the brakes from rusting or fusing.[i] [ii] [iii]
- Before using the vehicle, perform a vehicle inspection. Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) provides a Vehicle Pre-Trip Inspection form, a valuable resource for keeping track of key components in the interior, exterior, and under the hood. This form allows you to identify exactly what works and what needs repair before it is too late.
Accident PreventionYou can lower your chances of an accident by taking the following actions:
- Avoid the risk. If you notice a repair or maintenance issue that could cause an accident, stop or cancel the trip. For example, using partially deflated tires can cause dangerous accidents. Before use, ensure the tires correspond with the manufacturer’s recommended PSI.
- Reduce or eliminate distractions. During your trip, it is crucial to maintain constant awareness of what is happening around you. Distractions can slow down reaction time when driving, so be aware of these common distractions:
- use of phone
- applying makeup
- food or drink in hand
- Be mindful of driving too long. Plan to have drivers switch or take breaks so they are alert while behind the wheel.
- Increase your awareness in the dark. Driving toward the rising or setting sun can cause sun glare and decrease driving visibility. Low visibility increases the opportunity for collision.
- Adapt to the seasons. There is beauty in each season, especially with the weather changes. These changes in weather can affect road conditions and the handling of the vehicle. It is important to slow down, adapt to the weather, and drive with caution when conditions are hazardous.
Many churches, schools, and organizations are looking for alternatives to 15-passenger vans. First, it is important to understand what a 15-passenger van is. Is it only a van that has 15 passengers in it? Does it have seats for only 15 passengers? Does it have room to hold seats for 15 passengers?
Prohibited Vehicles/15-Passenger Vans
Unfortunately, the term “15-passenger van” is just a descriptor, not a name, and creates confusion as we try to identify which vehicles we can or cannot use.
Instead, follow the practical guide below. Do not use a van if any of the following are present:
- It can be configured as a 15-passenger van.
- It has a wheelbase longer than 135 inches.
- It has an overall length greater than 225 inches.
According to North American Division policy, 15-passenger vans should not be used to transport our members or children. Do not use 15-passenger vans any longer. They are dangerous and deadly. The updated policy offers the following alternatives to 15-passenger vans:
- mini school buses
- 15-passenger buses with dual rear wheels.
References[i] Sullivan, A. (2020, November 10). 5 Tips for Maintaining Vehicles When Not in Regular Use. Adventist Risk Management, Inc. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from
Image Credits: Artemiy-stock.adobe.com