Another Licensing Example

Let’s forget about barbers and talk about church vans. Yesterday, six people were killed and seven were seriously injured in a rollover accident on the NYS Thruway when their church van blew a tire and rolled “three to four times”.

Fifteen passenger vans are an interesting case study in government regulation. The government knows that 15-passenger vans are more dangerous when more than 10 passengers ride in them. While NHTSA recommends that an “experienced driver” be in charge of the van, laws governing who must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are carefully written to exclude these vans: the cutoff for a CDL is 16 people.

A CDL is not an extremely difficult requirement, and it tests legitimate skills:

A prospective driver must pass a written test on highway safety and a test about different parts of a truck with a minimum of 30 questions on the test. To pass this knowledge tests student drivers must answer at least 80 percent of the questions correctly. To pass the driving skills test the student driver must successfully perform a set of required driving maneuvers. The driving skill test must be taken in a vehicle that the driver operates or expects to operate.

I assume the reason that 15-passenger van drivers aren’t required to have a CDL is that church groups and other interests who use these vans for casual transportation feel that they would be unduly burdened by that requirement. I don’t know if the driver in yesterday’s crash had a CDL, and I’m certain that a CDL is no panacea. I’m just offering this case as an example of a serious public safety issue where licensing could help, and government isn’t stepping in.

58 replies
  1. 1
    roshan says:

    The ordinary DL should work for this. The van blew a tire, which is unfortunate but also avoidable to a certain extent by performing a basic checkup of the van before the trip. There is nothing in the CDL which would have prevented this accident.

  2. 2
    Steve says:

    I am a member of a small church in Colorado that has a 15 passenger van. I can assure you that our church does not use the van for “casual trips”, nor do the other churches in our area. The typical trip involves a youth outing or a trip by seniors to an event of some type. Our insurance requires that that all drivers pass an operations safety test (though it is not the CDL). Getting qualified drivers is a significant issue. Dispite that, I am strongly in favor of requiring CDL certification for all drivers of such vehicles.

  3. 3
    mistermix says:

    @roshan: I don’t know the particulars of this accident, but I assume that checking tire pressure and tire condition is part of the CDL training, or even the safety test Steve mentions.

  4. 4
    Jeff says:

    Plus, anyone with a CDL has passed a physicial exam, which tests, for example whether the driver has 20/40 vision, can hear, and can tell the colors of traffic lights and signs- to name 3 practical things I tested drivers for .

  5. 5
    Joe says:

    In the spirit of this Blog-post, the government will now mandate ‘balloon-suits’ to be donned by passengers before entering church-vans. These balloon-suits shall have a Geometry that exceeds the Geometry of the church-van windows. This is important as we know that most of the dead were ejected from the church-van, and we further know that nobody likes to put on their fucking seatbelt.

    Now, these balloon-suits will have standards established by the Balloon-Suit Regulatory Agency Guidance Experts (BS-RAGE), an Equal Opportunity Employer, headed by a Harvard Law School Professor, selected by my boss. BS-RAGE will be funded by ending tax breaks for oil companies, because if there was no fucking gas in the van in the first place, these people would all be alive today, and you can’t be too safe, you know.

    We are here to help and truly care. I have a very high IQ. Higher than yours at least. Great idea mistermix!

  6. 6
    Carol says:

    Good point about the licensing issue. I’m old enough to remember when school buses were used as well for church outings, and all we needed was to find a willing driver young enough and with decent reflexes to drive. No CDL and no training for long-distance driving either And we didn’t just go around the block: we went on long-distance trips to other churches and on vacation outings. Only when we became more affluent did we start chartering buses with drivers who at least could get a CDL.

    What’s even more scary is that these vans are used to transport the most vulnerable parts of a congregation: the elderly that can’t drive anymore and kids. And nobody asks folks to buckle up, and sometimes people ride in the back space behind the last row of seats, and sometimes maintenance can be a little spotty because most people assume things are ok since the van only goes a few miles per week, and because the person who might be tasked to maintenance duties sometimes doesn’t get around to it very often.

    Which is why those vans are too often a deathtrap.

  7. 7
    Jager says:

    Over the years I’ve had a few blow outs, never had a problem controlling the car or truck. When I was a snot nosed college boy I worked on construction. During a move to a new job site about 80 miles away, I was driving a semi lowboy rig with a D-8 Cat on the trailer. I had a blow out at 60 miles an hour on the left front tire, I didn’t have any problem controlling the rig. Having a blow out shouldn’t be a disaster, where the hell do these people learn how to drive?

  8. 8
    Jeff says:

    The point is of course that regulations serve a public purpose, and in this instance might have saved lives. And this is just the sort of common sense regulation that the Repukes and their Tea-tard allies have strokes about.
    No doubt, if the Repukes retake congress, they will try to gut regulations like this inthe name of “competitiveness”. It was always the other hand of lower taxes– “less regulation!”
    If they had their way, drivers would be driving 36 hours straight, popping meth to stay awake, and there would be an epidemic of truck crashes that would be blamed on illegal immigrants.

  9. 9
    Carol says:

    @Jager: Experienced and trained drivers like you are busy working at a company or doing the bus routes. So you probably aren’t available for long church trips or on an early Sunday morning.

  10. 10
    mistermix says:

    @Carol: Seven people were ejected from the van that crashed yesterday, meaning they probably weren’t wearing seatbelts.

  11. 11
    Mr. Prosser says:

    All of you keep talking about the driver instead of the van. Fifteen passenger vans are the Corvairs of today, unsafe at any speed. The churches should be investing in a bus style vehicle, not a van.

  12. 12
    Carol says:

    But some churches are too small and poor for a bus, but they still have members who are elderly and can’t drive anymore. What’s the solution for those groups? Rentals aren’t always available even if they could pony up the money, and drivers are scarce on a Sunday morning-especially ones with training.

  13. 13
    mclaren says:

    This offers a classic example of too damn much licensing. It’s a chronic problem with liberals. Every time something bad happens, we need to license someone or something more strictly.

    Trouble is, bad stuff happens. You have to ask: How the hell did people get along back in the 1950s, before all the licensing?

    People seemed to do okay. Bad things happened. Some people died. It didn’t happen often. Life seemed to go on.

    Yes, you had horrible examples like thalidomide. Today, we’ve gotten horrible examples like Avandia, Baycol and Permax. Which is worse — having a child who’s deformed, or dying of heart damage brought on by an anti-cholersterol drug or pain medication with unforeseen side effects?

    This frantic effort to prevent every bad thing that could possibly happen by wrapping society in nearly unlimited layers of government bureaucracy at some point has got to stop. I’m down for government inspection of food and testing of our water and obvious basic safety procedures like government-mandated seatbelts and airbags.

    Beyond that, we really have to start to ask ourselves: how much is enough? Conservatives have a point when they talk about the nanny state. At a certain point, you have to recognize that bad things are gong to happen at a very low rate. How many 15-passenger vans have crashed compared to those that haven’t? What’s the death rate? Is it lower than the rate of dying from a meteorite impact??

    Your chance of dying from a terrorist incident is provably lower than your chance of dying from an meteorite impact. You have 10,000 times as much chance of dying from a lightning strike as from a terrorist incident. Do you think it would make sense to spend 50 billion dollars a year to create a Department of Meteorite Safety to make sure no one in America died of a meteorite strike?

    If not, why do the foolish irrational people in America think it makes sense to spend 50 billion dollars a year on the Department of Homeland Security to keep them safe from terrorism, since there is a lower probability of dying in a terrorist attack than a meteorite strike?

    Just once, just once, just once wouldn’t it be great if people took a hard cold look at the statistics and the cost involved in some new regulation or licensing procedure and concluded, “You know, this bad thing that might happen is 50,000 less likely than dying by slipping in your bathtub at home, so let’s not enact this new licensing procedure.”

    Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

  14. 14
    Carol says:

    @mistermix: As I was afraid of. I’ve been on too many van trips for various reasons where folks just didn’t buckle up-that is, if you could even find the seatbelt to begin with. Too many older vans don’t have them, or them in good repair, and a lot of times on a long trip people keep them off so that when the van stops, they can rush out to use the rest stop or rush into the gas station for food. Which brings me back to the elderly and children and sometimes disabled thing again. When a person needs a lot of help, waiting for someone to unbuckle you can take an eternity, and you may also be struggling with everything from adult diapers to oxygen.

    I’ve also heard of drivers not willing to stop at the first sign of trouble thinking they can tough it out. If there were signs, the drive may have decided that they could make it a few miles more into a gas station or rest stop. And there’s no one to make them stop either.

  15. 15
    aimai says:


    Are rentals really more expensive than keeping and properly maintaining the van and carrying the insurance? I doubt it. One problem probably is that the driver isn’t assuming the responsibility of checking out the van–that responsibility probably belongs to the nonexistent maintenance crew that the church also can’t afford to pay.


  16. 16
    anonymous says:

    Christians are so oppressed that they cut themselves an out from common-sense regulation!

  17. 17
    roshan says:

    Yes, the CDL does cover vehicle inspection as a part of driver training. The ordinary DL tests don’t seem to carry that part though. I’m not sure why that is so. Adding it to the DL training would be sensible but having folks get the CDL to drive such vans seems to be an overkill.

  18. 18
    Carol says:

    @roshan: But could we at least demand as part of driver training some sort of refresher on these things so that if pressed into service a volunteer could handle it?

    Rentals mean that maybe something is available, sometimes not. If someone else has rented the van, no go-and a lot of times you can go over the rental time limit if a person is a little slow getting out, or the sermon is a little long. Not to mention many of these vans double as delivery vehicles and transportation for elderly members during the week. Which is another reason why you wind up with untrained and too often elderly and retired drivers driving, or a harried housewife who does her bit.

    So churches will buy these deathtraps to make sure Mrs. Green can actually still make it into church on Sunday Morning

  19. 19
    El Cid says:

    @mclaren: The other thing is that no one asks whether or not we would be better off without these excess van passengers.

  20. 20
    Jeff says:

    You’re funny, in the way you miss the point. 15 passenger vans are a problem, and accidents seem to happen far too frequently to be just chance and bad luck. We can’t prevent every bad thing from happening, but when bad things happen in patterns, which seems to be the case here, as we seem to hear of these horrific crashes every few months, involving church vans or school vans, we should sit up, take notice find the common denominator– is it a design flaw in the vans? is it lack of training for the drivers? is it overcrowding of the vans? The point is that there is a sensible precaution that can be taken that will reduce– reduce, mind you, not eliminate the likelihood of such accidents happening again. This is liberalism at its best, not being a nanny state, but using science and research to improve the lives of us all, by preventing preventable accidents.

  21. 21
    scav says:


    So churches will buy these deathtraps to make sure Mrs. Green can actually still make it into church on Sunday Morning

    Nah, better still, they buy these deathtraps so they can make sure Mrs. Green can actually still make it into heaven on Sunday Morning. All this stuff down here is simply the meatgrinder to get your way to the important bit with feathers and harps and too much regulation only prolongs the agony. Dodgy Spinach and Salmonella are the clearly the fingers of glod.

  22. 22
    Kirk Spencer says:

    As much as I disagree with the general points mclaren makes, above, in this case he’s right. Not least, fatality rates in 15 passenger vans have been declining for a few years now.

    In 2008 NHTSA had a report on this. Some information includes:

    1) The vast majority of fatalities occur to passengers not wearing seat belts.

    2) Fatalities, and rollovers in general, are more likely when there are more than ten passengers.

    3) Electronic Stability Control (a parallel element to ABS) has been standard on all 15ers since 2004. While fatality rates had been declining prior, they really started dropping in 2004. NHTSA said at this report there wasn’t enough evidence to cite cause and effect, but notes the coincidence.

    Note that none of these are CDL driven issues.

  23. 23
    sven says:

    A CDL isn’t sufficient to become a bus driver, in most states at least one additional endorsement is required to carry passengers. Although the 15 passenger vehicles are quite common among non-profits the vast majority of miles are almost certainly logged by businesses operating some kind of shuttle service. Because a CDL is not required, shuttle drivers are relatively cheap and easy to replace. This means that individuals driving 15 passenger vehicles are both less qualified and less experienced; a frightening combination. Most bus drivers are professionals. Higher wages and benefits means that the typical driver for mass transit or Greyhound has years of experience. In addition, these drivers receive ongoing training and evaluation through the company or union. I don’t doubt that a CDL requirement would make 15 passenger vans more expensive to operate but I think the added cost is probably worth it.

  24. 24
    Jager says:


    The guy who taught me to drive big trucks when I was a kid, explained if you have a blow out, steer straight, gradually slow down and don’t make any quick moves. How hard is that to master?

    I wonder if the guy driving the van took the time to check the tire pressure? Ever notice at a rest stop the truckers walk around their trucks and bang the tires with a rubber mallet? They can tell by the sound if the inflation is proper…underinflated tires are dangerous on trucks or cars. Some people drive thousands of miles and never check the tires! This stuff isn’t rocket science, its common sense. Wait, I’m a liberal, I have no common sense!

  25. 25
    PurpleGirl says:

    I just read the comments to the article about this accident at the NY Times. A number of people wrote about maintenance problems, having too old tires, and luggage issues (i.e., too much and poorly loaded luggage weighing down the back end of the van). NYT story didn’t comment on the driver’s age. It also seems that the van model has known problems and flaws, especially involving luggage location and stability. The van itself was from 1997.

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Kirk Spencer:

    The van that was being driven in this case was a 1997 Ford. Most church and nonprofit groups are going to be driving older, less-safe vehicles because of cost considerations, so the point about 2004 and later vans being safer is kind of moot.

    What would be cheaper for these groups, having a few drivers get CDLs or making them buy the newer, safer vans?

  27. 27
    El Cid says:

    @Kirk Spencer: Having ridden many, many hundreds of miles in such vans as a kid and teen, and occasionally more recently, I had never heard of there being such a danger. Stats help. Driving skill, belt use (I was always the weirdo freak who tried to wear mine and get others to, until it finally became a requirement), pre-trip checks, and maintenance would seem to me to be the major factors, ABS being the biggest tech innovation.

  28. 28
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Jager: Typical Obot with your obsession with tire gauges.

  29. 29
    mistermix says:

    @Kirk Spencer: (2) is directly related to driver training (how to handle a top-heavy vehicle), and (1) is at least peripherally related (if the driver took safety more seriously, or was trained, he’d insist on passengers wearing seatbelts).

  30. 30
    Comrade Darkness says:

    This is a training issue and a long-running vehicle safety design issue cursed by automaker lobbiests. We only hear about horror van crashes because of the body count, but this risk is inherent for most vehicles (except perhaps Mercedes and Volvo) and the higher the riskier.

    If your vehicle tire leaves the roadway, DO NOT pull the wheel more than a smidgen to bring it back on the road. Go with leaving the roadway if that’s where the car wants to go. You can flip any car if you get the wheels in the ruff sideways. Hitting something head-on is what the vehicle is designed for while the roll-over safety specs are for crap.

    @El Cid: ABS doesn’t help anywhere near as much as stability control, which has been standard in Europe for high vehicles for a long time and their stats bear out the benefit.

  31. 31
    Jager says:


    I’d guess that if the van in question was a legitimate 15 passenger van it was a one ton. I can’t find any specs on a ’97 but the new one tons are rated to carry about 4 thousand lbs and even with gear it would be tough to go over capacity with 15 people on board. Ford increased the Gvw a few years ago and like GM and Dodge added heavier axles, better brakes and stability controls to the vans. If it was in fact a ’97, it was probably is pretty sorry condition, tires breakdown (even with plenty of tread) quickly after 4 years or so. I’d guess it was a shitbox with little or no maintenence.

  32. 32
    El Cid says:

    @Comrade Darkness: Yeah, well this ain’t soshullist Yurp, and until recently talking about things such as electronic stability control for large capacity vehicles might have been like suggesting we instead move to magnetic levitation vans. Or serve only locally produced organic vegetables at the church banquet. Might make sense, but it takes a long time to import innovations from them damn weirdo furrners with all them ‘regyoolations’ and uptight safety concerns and whatnot.

    ABS, however, wasn’t a minor innovation, though most people have no idea how to use it (i.e., don’t release the brake pedal). I hadn’t had anyone pitch the van around when I was in it, but in a sudden stop we did start skidding a couple times, especially in inclement conditions.

  33. 33
    Mnemosyne says:


    So maybe the solution is not to make the drivers get CDLs, but to require an annual inspection of the van in order to have its registration renewed.

  34. 34
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @Mnemosyne: False choice. Once more, where will the CDL help with the two major problems?

    There are a number of places I’m in favor of increased standards, regulations, and enforcement. Meat (chicken and beef) production comes to mind, for example. However, the CDL is a Mencken solution.

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Kirk Spencer:

    Once more, where will the CDL help with the two major problems?

    As I said, it’s extremely unlikely that these nonprofit groups will be driving the newer, safer vans due to cost considerations, so citing the decline due to new safety features is kind of beside the point.

    As mistermix said, some of the factors in this crash — like overloading or poor loading — are addressed in the CDL training and so could potentially have been mitigated by having a driver with a CDL.

    Given how often these groups are driving older, less-safe and poorly-maintained vehicles, I would be willing to be convinced that the solution is a mandatory annual or bi-annual safety inspection for the vehicle prior to it being re-registered rather than requiring the drivers to have a CDL.

  36. 36
    Brachiator says:

    I don’t know if the driver in yesterday’s crash had a CDL, and I’m certain that a CDL is no panacea. I’m just offering this case as an example of a serious public safety issue where licensing could help, and government isn’t stepping in.

    We don’t know the facts and circumstances behind this crash, so you cannot say much about whether this is a serous public safety issue, let alone offer remedies. And, yeah, it would be irresponsible not to speculate, but still….

    Where government is useful is almost taken for granted: accident investigation organizations. Libertarians take a childish pleasure in bleating about how risk is a feature of life, but they rarely can accurately assess the risk of anything, and strangely get their panties in a twist whenever you bring up examples of how government services are used to help reduce risk.

  37. 37
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @Kirk Spencer: and I also meant to add:

    And besides the rate is GOING DOWN already — and going down fairly rapidly.

    If it’s already declining, is it a problem?

  38. 38
    Jager says:


    If it was a “commercial vehicle for hire” it would have the crap inspected out of it, I think church ownership slips through the cracks. Driver training would help, the big vans don’t drive like a Honda Civic, they are long, heavy and aren’t nimble. When I was looking at the specs, I noticed Ford moved the fuel tank to the middle of van from the end, better balance and it does address the issue of morons tossing a lot of heavy shit behind the last seat! My Dad had a Class A diesel motorhome (36 feet long) and pulled a Ford Ranger pickup behind it, the entire rig was over fifty feet long. My Mom learned to drive it without any problems, as the old man said, slow and easy and don’t cut any corners. She drove the rig up Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur all the way to the Oregon border, she loved driving the damn thing.

  39. 39
    Bill Hicks says:

    15 passenger vans are prone to rollovers because they are top heavy and if you pack more people (15 as opposed to 10) in they get even worse. If the back end of the van veers more than 15 degrees (a very slight amount especially compared to what other vehicles can handle) due to a tire blowout, turning too fast, or slippery conditions you are likely to roll. I have frequently driven 15 passengers vans at two different institutions of higher learning and both places required a training course (not a CDL though) that involved training in defensive driving, inspection of the vans including tires, packing advice like keeping materials low in the van, and specifics on how to avoid rollovers (basically never take a turn at more than 30 mph, never go above 55 mph, if it is slippery slow down even more). The current place I work for had to remove the back seat allowing at most 12 people in order to get insurance. The sad truth is that 15 passenger vans are crazy dangerous, but they are the cheapest way to frequently transport medium size groups. School bus type vehicles are much safer but more expensive.

  40. 40
    WereBear says:

    If a problem was a blown tire, the most immediate solution would be ensuring a minimal qualification to drive them.

    Yes, they need better maintenance, but handling is so important because it’s not like maintenance prevents all such accidents.

  41. 41
    sven says:

    @Kirk Spencer: C’mon you’ve got to see the flaw in that argument… It’s not the trend (rising or falling) but the absolute level that we use to evaluate the value of a program.

    The rate of childhood mortality is falling faster in Mali than in Denmark. By this reasoning the next dollar spent on say water treatment should be in Denmark….

  42. 42
    Comrade Darkness says:

    McClaren, Seriously, it’s not in the government’s purview to protect 15 people from stepping into a fully preventable death trap? Esp given that no other mechanism exists to prevent it beyond the government stepping in. If it did, it would have been fixed decades ago. In your glorious, injury-free fantasy 50s in fact.

    The average driver of one of these things WILL forget it’s a van and will drive it like it’s a car. It WILL flip over when the driver does this. This isn’t a maybe, it’s an absolute. It’s not an “accident” when that happens, it’s organizational failure cause by greedy cheapskates and laziness.

    Regulation, which spreads the cost of safety out over every unit produced, is the only mechanism that can make safety cheap enough that it is accessible to the majority. There is no capitalist mechanism that will do this other than legal suits and and that is an arbitrary way to manage public safety, after the carnage and based on who find a lawyer.

    No company individually benefits from building safety into their mid to bottom line products, leaving safety strictly for the wealthy. Which is not a downside but a benefit of that glorious libertarian utopia we are supposed to pining for.

    And, btw, the 50s were horrific for auto accidents. People used to get speared through the chest by the steering column (the first safety feature drivers got was collapsible steering wheels) Now, admittedly, that did save the trouble and expense of long hospital stays, keeping health care costs low.

  43. 43
    Jager says:

    @El Cid:

    On a cost per mile basis they are very efficient. Even more so than if the 15 people all rode individual Honda 90 motorbikes…get diesel power in one of these big vans and you are hauling 15 people with mileage in the mid to high teens. Of course unless you have a mega church, you aren’t going to spend 50k or more on a fully loaded diesel van. You’ll end up with a worn out ’97.

  44. 44
    Comrade Darkness says:

    @Jager: While driving an RV you never forget you are driving an RV. That alone makes it safer. There are interaction effects between driver type, driver perception of a vehicle’s handling, and accident rates. Vehicles that drive like cars, but don’t actually have the handling of a car, lead to higher fatalities.

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Comrade Darkness:

    It’s the typical libertarian fantasy where the success of regulation (government requiring seat belts and airbags, etc.) proves that regulation isn’t necessary anymore because shut up, that’s why.

  46. 46
    Joey Maloney says:

    Every state I’ve ever lived in requires an annual safety inspection for all vehicles. Sadly, most of the time this amounts to “is there a wheel in each corner? twennybucksthankewdrivethrough” But start insisting that safety inspections actually require the vehicle to be, you know, safe, and the voters scream.

  47. 47

    I drove handicapped and 12- to 15-passenger vans for the VA hospital in Tucson, and as a civil service motor vehicle operator was required to have a CDL. Working alongside us were volunteer (non-CDL) Disabled American Veterans drivers, operating 15-passenger vans and bringing in patients from outlying communities. The DAV drivers were not allowed to transport more than 10 passengers at a time, and had to keep the back seat empty (they couldn’t even put luggage back there) — the instability associated with fully loaded 15-passenger vans is due to weight in the rear. We, OTOH, were not restricted.

    I will also note that the private handicapped van industry — and it is a large industry — is exempt from CDL requirements. They pay their drivers only slightly more than minimum wage and no overtime (though they normally require them to work 10- to 12-hour days). The argument is that their industry would be crippled if they had to hire CDL drivers and pay living wages.

    I’m a huge supporter of state-mandated education, training, standards, and testing for commercial drivers and wish that all professional driving jobs required a CDL. If I were king there would be no exemptions, and I would also require CDLs for private operation of recreational vehicles and vehicles towing trailers. Good thing I’m not the king, right?

  48. 48
    Allan says:

    God simply can’t resist the opportunity to destroy so much evil in a single gesture.

    That’s why tornadoes always head for trailer parks and churches.

  49. 49
    RedKitten says:

    Those vans ARE statistically more likely to roll over when fully occupied. I know that a lot of school boards here in Canada voted to ban them after 7 members of my high school’s basketball team got killed in one several years ago.

  50. 50
    RandyH says:

    I suspect that the rental industry is behind maintaining lax licensing requirements on 15-person vans. They’re available for rent from Hertz, Enterprise, etc. Expecting people to get a special license to rent one would be burdensome. Also, there’s little difference in the vehicle from an RV or a rental moving truck. You don’t need a special license for those and if the rules change for one… slippery slope and all that.

    Perhaps the regular driver’s license should have a little more training about the difference between regular cars and vehicles with a high center-of-gravity and how to drive defensively in one vs the other.

  51. 51
    sven says:

    @RedKitten: Another issue is that these vehicles frequently carry far more than the 15 passenger rating. One college I attended used these vehicles as ‘safety shuttles’. The legal maximum of 15 passengers is posted but I’ve counted up to 38 people in a single van (seated and standing). I suspect this problem is not uncommon considering the roles such vehicles often fill.

  52. 52
    Kyle says:


    Conservatives have a point when they talk about the nanny state.

    No, they don’t. Consistent libertarians might have a point. Conservatives are full-throated supporters of a nanny state when it comes to drinking laws, uterus policing, gay marriage, law-n-order issues and strip-mining the Constitution for profit in the name of “protecting us from terrism”, like Dick Cheney’s “one percent chance” that Saddam would give “nookyular weapons” he didn’t have to terrorist groups he hated, justified a $3 trillion invasion that cost thousands of lives.
    Much more at stake here than a few stupidly overzealous government regulations and some paperwork.

    At a certain point, you have to recognize that bad things are gong to happen at a very low rate.

    Like the current teabagger bedwetting over, “They want to impose Sharia law in the United States!” shows such a firm grasp of politics and probability.

  53. 53
    erinsiobhan says:


    If that was the Bathurst team, I remember that accident well. Coach driving a fifteen car van, no snow tires, close to midnight, fairly major winter storm happening. A terrible tragedy for the whole town.

    I’m not sure what the solution would be in New Brunswick – lack of funding means that eliminating this kind of travel would hurt a lot of sports programs. Bad roads, a dispersed population, nasty winter storms and not much cash mean that coaches often have to make hard decisions and take more risks than they really want to.

    Perhaps the best thing that came out of that was a number of hotels stepped up and said they would lodge traveling teams overnight for free in the event of a winter storm. I hope that they are continuing to make the offer.

  54. 54
    RedKitten says:

    @erinsiobhan: I hope so too. And yes, that was the Bathurst team. And like you said, it’s a tough call, especially where the weather can often turn on a dime. I do think that the hotels’ offer is a great solution, but as an example, when driving up to Bathurst, you can leave Miramichi (45 minutes south) and the weather’s fine, and 10 minutes later, you’re in a hard blizzard. And at that point, there ARE no hotels.

  55. 55
    jefft452 says:

    ”You have to ask: How the hell did people get along back in the 1950s, before all the licensing?”

    You think that we didn’t have licensing in the 50’s?

    But to answer your question if it was edited for factual accuracy “How the hell did people get along back in the 1880’s, before all the licensing?”

    Well, mostly they got maimed in industrial accidents, got sick from eating tainted canned goods, then died of poisoning from the patent medicines they bought from the traveling medicine show

    But at least they were free!, right?

  56. 56
    fcc says:

    I’ve driven one. These suckers are top heavy and unwieldy empty, and they get worse as they fill up. Nothing wrong with big vans, but much wrong with poorly designed ones.

  57. 57
    Nancy Irving says:

    We should also license the church picnic ladies as caterers, especially wrt the proper handling of mayonnaise.

    As common as church van fatalities are church picnic potato salad mishaps.

    But they’ll all go straight to heaven, so no harm.

  58. 58
    tkogrumpy says:

    @El Cid: I’d be willing to stipulate that we are.

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