NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The hazy, lazy days of summer may mean long afternoons by the pool for many, but for others, the welcome break from school or work means a chance to hit the road.
That’s especially true for churches, where the changing season marks a time of record travel as members take to the roads in the church bus or van for various activities such as mission trips and recreational outings.
Safety may have always been an issue, but this summer it’s even more important, as churches, colleges and other organizations consider the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s cautionary warning in April to users of 15-passenger vans.
The NHTSA is warning users of an increased rollover risk for 15-passenger vans, especially those carrying more than 10 passengers. Other significant factors are heavy loads and inexperienced drivers.
Through its Christian Stores Division, LifeWay is a distributor of church buses and other vehicles, said Terry Butler of LifeWay Church Buses. It uses Carpenter Buses of Brentwood, Tenn., as its endorsed provider of bus and van product lines, and churches mentioning LifeWay get a discount off the base price of buses.
“The church vehicles LifeWay endorses meet all federal safety requirements,” Butler said.
Butler said the job of LifeWay Church Buses area is to find the best vehicle for the church.
“A lot of the work we do is consulting with churches to help them design the type of vehicle they need, depending on frequency of trips and who goes. We provide the safest and most economical vehicle within the church’s budget.”
Henry Headden, president of Carpenter Bus, said several transportation options are available to churches. Those options include 15-passenger buses and Type A school buses, a vehicle that seats 12-20 adults and meets federal regulations regarding rollover and impact safety specifications.
“When churches call up and are concerned about safety, we tell them two things,” he said. “Number one, we will take a van in on trade. Number two, if they are concerned about transporting their children, youth or adults and they’re really concerned about safety, we have three or four vehicle alternatives.
“A Type A school bus meets all school bus safety specifications, and we know without a shadow of a doubt that they meet all federal safety specifications,” Headden said. “But a lot of churches don’t want to buy a school bus. They want something for multipurpose use.”
School buses today can be equipped with air-conditioning, comfortable high back seating and custom interiors, Butler said.
Multipurpose options include several products Butler describes as being “between a bus and a van,” such as the 15-passenger compact shuttle that requires no commercial driver’s license. The vehicle meets school bus safety requirements.
With safety and practicality as primary concerns, Butler and Headden offer advice to churches rethinking their transportation options.
They suggest churches adhere to current vehicle and driver safety requirements, analyze their transportation needs before buying, consider who will be traveling and for how long and what type of luggage space is needed. A school bus may be the best option for churches transporting daycare students according to safety and liability standards, while senior adults may prefer more luggage capacity and seating options.
Churches should also consider funding, operational costs, driver license requirements, vehicle storage/security and insurance before purchasing a new church vehicle.