What kinds of things do transportation providers need to consider when choosing commercial wheelchair vans? An obvious place to start is meeting federal, state, and local regulations for wheelchair transportation vehicles.
Federal regulation of commercial wheelchair vans is the same across the USA
ADA requirements are the same throughout the United States. Every commercial wheelchair van in the USA must have:
- ADA-compliant lighting
- Gearshift interlock
- Four-point tie downs with lap and shoulder belt
- 30"- wide lift
- 56" door opening height
States may impose additional requirements for registering wheelchair transportation vehicles
Your state Department of Transportation may have additional requirements. California, for instance, also requires every commercial wheelchair van to be equipped with:
- At least a single standard-sized wheelchair.
- An emergency exit accommodating a standard-sized wheelchair. This cannot be the most-used entrance to the van.
- A locking device for each door and locking latches that are operable from both outside and inside the van.
- Seating for at least two patients in wheelchairs of standard size.
- A ramp or lift that can hold at least 450 pounds. It must be secured to the vehicle.
- An extra step or footstool for loading.
- A battery-operated, portable light or flashlight.
- Seat covers of an impermeable material that can be sanitized.
- Spare wheel, tire tools, and jack unless the van is operated in an area where emergency roadside assistance is readily available.
- Fire extinguisher. The fire extinguisher cannot be liquid. It must use carbon dioxide or regulation dry powder.
- Controlled heating and air conditioning in the patient compartment.
- Street maps for the area where service is provided. GPS is not adequate.
- Readily visible display of the company operating the van on the rear and sides of the vehicle.
Regulations of vehicles in general will also cover tire tread, first aid kits, and brake lights, head lights, and turn signals.
State requirements can greatly exceed federal requirements. It's important to research state and local requirements before you buy a commercial wheelchair van. Careful attention to the demands of government and the needs of your clients will enable you to avoid costly and time-consuming modifications before registering your vehicle.
It's also essential to consider the unique requirements of your service population. Your vans may need to be adapted to transporting service animals, provide WiFi for longer trips, or include special equipment for bad weather. But there are additional important considerations beyond providing equipment options and meeting the mechanical specifications for registering your vehicle.
Government requirements are not your only concern
Injuries during commercial transportation of patients in wheelchairs are rare, but their consequences are significant. Most injuries and fatalities in crashes involving patients in wheelchairs, an analysis of National Electronic Injury Surveillance System crash data shows, occur in ambulettes, ambulances, buses, and smaller wheelchair vans.
When a van makes a sudden stop, the transported patient may fall forward or fall out of the chair. When a van is involved in a collision, the wheelchair may tip backward, or the patient may fall out of the chair.
There is a general rule for estimating patient and driver survival in wheelchair van crashes: Larger is safer.
The fatality rate is 59 times higher for wheelchair-bound passenger in cars than it is for wheelchair-bound passenger in buses. But the survival rate for wheelchair-bound passengers in crashes in fully modified wheelchair vans approaches the survival rate for wheelchair-bound passengers in crashes in buses.
Crashes of larger commercial wheelchair vans are less likely to yield tragic results for passengers with enhanced health vulnerabilities and drivers devoted to patient care. And those crashes are less likely to result in financial catastrophe for the company operating the van.
There's a lot to consider just to meet regulatory requirements and safety needs when choosing vans to accommodate wheelchair passengers for assisted living facilities, resorts, hotels, campus transportation, airport shuttle services, assisted living facility transportation, and non-emergency medical transport. It's best to rely on expert assistance in choosing your next wheelchair van.
Let Nor Cal Vans take care of all the details for you
Nor Cal Vans has nearly 40 years experience selling and servicing wheelchair vans. Nor Cal's wheelchair vans offer flexible seating configurations that can be switched with a "step and lock” latching system in seconds without any tools. Their vans can come with flip seats and fold-away seats in a variety of styles and colors. And Nor Cal Vans can sport a variety of luxury options such as USB ports, PA systems, and a side or wheelchair ramp that stands up to loads of up to 1,000 pounds. Our goal is to build a van that fits your needs.
Nor Cal Vans is ready to convert your vehicle for all your wheelchair transportation needs.