Monday, April 6, 2015

Van Angels: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Multifunction School Activity Buses (MFSABs) in Canada

Sample MFSAB Certification Label Courtesy of Micro Bird by Girardin

Q & A:  The MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS (MFSAB) in Canada

1.  What is the background history of the MFSAB definition in Canada?

On February 11, here in Canada, the MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS (MFSAB) became a new definition under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act regulations in order to address the needs of school boards, organizations and bus service operators for an alternative vehicle to a 15-passenger van that would provide the same level of crash safety as a school bus. In 2003, the US, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) had already adopted the new definition of a MFSAB, as a sub-category of a school bus.


In 2006, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) submitted a proposal to Transport Canada for a new standard called a multifunction activity bus (MFAB) CSA D-270. The standard was developed to create a type of multi-passenger vehicle (11 or more) that could be classified under a school bus category but did not require traffic control devices (flashing lights and side signal stop arm), as it was not intended to be used for the transport of students to and from school. The CSA saw the need for a safe mode of transport for extra-curricular school activities, as well as, a safer vehicle to accommodate community organizations and bus service operators. In 2008, without managing to get the new standard adopted, the CSA published their own voluntary standard which Canadian manufacturers could use as this standard met and surpassed minimum Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) because it was built to the higher school bus requirements.

The Van Angels transportation safety advocacy group fully supported the CSA and the CSA D-270 standard as it would bring a safer alternative vehicle into the Canadian public's choice of transport for student and non- school groups use. It could carry more than 10 passengers, was built to yellow school bus standards and was not a 15-passenger van.  In September 2010, the Van Angels group spearheaded a committee that requested the Minister of Transport and his provincial/territorial counterparts to take the necessary steps to work with the CSA to recognize the MULTIFUNCTION ACTIVITY BUS (MFAB) CSA D-270 as a sub-category of a school bus.

On February 11, 2015, after four and a half years in the regulatory process, a new definition called the MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS (MFSAB) emerged and became a part of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. It now harmonizes with the US definition. The CSA intends to withdraw their 2008 publication of the CSA D-270 standard and instead incorporate the MFSAB requirements as an optional mode in their next revision of their school bus safety standard.



2.What is Transport Canada's role in motor vehicle safety compliance?

Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, Transport Canada proposes, establishes, regulates and enforces national motor vehicle safety standards for the safety performance requirements of all new and imported motor vehicles. The regulations set the minimum Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) required by law to be met by auto manufacturers. They do not address licensing or the use of after market modifications. Transport Canada does not have the mandate to ban a vehicle if it meets all the minimum required safety standards but can initiate investigations if motor vehicles are suspected to be defective.


3.What is the role of the Provinces/Territories in motor vehicle safety compliance?

The Provinces and Territories are responsible for the regulation and enforcement of the licensing, operation, modification and maintenance of all vehicles on public roads in their jurisdictions. They do have the regulatory power to ban a vehicle. For example, after several fatal accidents, including the very high profile Bathurst Tragedy in 2008, 15-passenger vans are now prohibited for student transportation in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Labrador and Newfoundland, Quebec and many individual school districts across Canada.

4.What is the definition of a "bus" in Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act?

Under the regulations of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act, a "bus" is loosely defined as a class of motor vehicles that have the seating capacity of 10 or more occupants. It covers a broad range of vehicles, including 15-passenger vans, shuttle/activity buses, school buses, multifunction school activity buses and coach-style buses. 

5.What is the definition of a "school bus" in Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act?

A "school bus" is further defined as a bus that is designed or equipped to carry students to and from school and/or to and from school related events/activities. A school bus is required to meet its own set of safety standards that are over and above the minimum safety standards for buses in general. It includes a reinforced steel rollover cage (CMVSS #220) , strong body joint strength (CMVSS #221) and emergency exits (CMVSS #217) plus several other features specific to a school bus body build.

6.What is the definition of a "MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS" (MFSAB) in the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act?

The "multifunction school activity bus' (MFSAB) is in the same structural category as a school bus but is designed to pick up and drop off students under circumstances that do not require the need to control traffic. They are meant to commute passengers from point to point, rather than the designated frequent and repeated road-side pick-up and drop off necessary to transport students to and from school. These vehicles do not require the flashing signal lights (CMVSS # 108) or the side signal stop arm (CMVSS # 131) but otherwise conform to the same high safety standards as the familiar yellow school bus. They are not built exclusively for student transportation and can be used by any group or organization looking for a high standard of transport.

7.What is a VEHICLE CERTIFICATION LABEL?

In Canada, motor vehicles must meet all applicable minimum Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) to be allowed on our roads. (CMVSS harmonize with most of the US Federal Motor Vehicle Standards/ FMVSS.) Auto manufacturers are required by law to comply with all applicable CMVSS's in the production of new vehicles and it is their responsibility to affix a compliance label. This is called the VEHICLE CERTIFICATION LABEL and should not be confused with the vehicle identification number (VIN). The Vehicle Certification Label is usually located either to the hinge pillar, door latch-post or the door edge that meets the door-latch post, next to the driver's seat. It can also be found on the inward facing surface of the door next to the driver's seat or even to the left of the instrument panel. The label will include the identity of the manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) of each axle, the TYPE of vehicle and other pertinent information. Whether a vehicle is a "bus", "school bus" or "MFSAB", it will be clearly identified under the Type of vehicle heading. If a vehicle is built in more than one stage, (like a bus and MFSAB) then more than one vehicle certification label will be affixed to confirm that each stage manufacturer has complied with the applicable safety standards and the final stage label will indicate the completed vehicle type. Canadian manufactured vehicles also require a national mark which shows a number specifically assigned to the manufacturer.



8.What do the abbreviations mean under TYPE of VEHICLE on the Vehicle Compliance Label?

CANADA:  
B/A - to refer to a bus/autobus
SB/AS - to refer to a school bus/autobus scolaire
MFSAB/AMAS - to refer to a multifunction school activity bus/autobus multifonction pour les activities scolaire


US:              
BUS
SCHOOL BUS
MFSAB

Canadians have the right to demand the safest mode of transport for students and other non-school group organizations.

Christian Science Monitor: Georgia van crash kills three. Are large vans inherently dangerous?


The Georgia van crash comes as federal officials are investigating a 15-passenger van crash a week ago that killed eight members of a Florida church.

COMMERCE, GA. AND WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. — Authorities say three people have been killed and at least six others injured when a van careened off an interstate and down an embankment in northeast Georgia.

The Georgia State Patrol said the 15-passenger van was carrying 12 people when it wemt off Interstate 85 near the town of Commerce around 7 a.m. Monday. Georgia State Patrol Capt. Mark Perry says that authorities have confirmed three deaths. Perry said six people have been taken to local hospitals. The crash site is about 65 miles northeast of Atlanta.

The Georgia van crash comes as federal transportation officials are investigating a crash a week ago that killed eight members of a Florida church who were riding in a type of van that has raised safety alarms for many years.

Probes into the accident in Glades County are underway by the Florida Highway Patrol as well as the National Transportation Safety Board, which sent two investigators to the scene.

Peter Knudson, an NTSB spokesman, said investigators will look at whether the unlit T-intersection set amid farmland had a history of accidents, whether the van's safety features worked as they should have, the 18 occupants' use of seatbelts and any factors affecting the driver.

The driver, 58-year-old Volsaint Marsaille, was among those killed in the crash. He was a longtime St. Lucie County school bus driver with a good record who had driven for the Independent Haitian Assembly of God for many years, his son-in-law Philippe Dorce said.

The pastor of the Fort Pierce church was among 10 survivors rushed to hospitals after the accident. By Friday four had been released, and the Rev. Esperant Lexine and five others remained hospitalized, Lexine's daughter said.

The church is seeking donations to pay for funerals for the dead, said Dina Lexine Sarver, the pastor's daughter.

Newspaper clips are full of stories of crashes similar to the one near the sugar fields of Moore Haven, and many included blown tires and overturned vans. Those factors were not at play in Monday's crash of a 2000 Dodge Ram wagon, but watchdogs say the crash that followed a missed stopped sign illustrates how such vans are hard to control in an emergency.

"Some insurance companies refuse to insure them because it's so dangerous," said Joan Claybrook, who headed the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration under President Jimmy Carter and is a past president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. Though Marsaille went through a stop sign and his vehicle had too many people on board, Claybrook said such vans have inherent safety issues that make them more prone to tragedy.

Claybrook and other safety advocates have pointed to numerous issues in the vans that make them more susceptible to fatal accidents, from the height and width of the vehicles, to the structural integrity of seats and seatbelt availability and quality. Older models are particularly maligned, lacking stability controls and tire pressure monitoring features of newer vans.

Federal transportation officials have warned about the potential instability of 15-passenger vans for over a decade. The NHTSA has warned colleges and church groups, among others, that overloading the vans increases the risk of rollover and makes the vehicles difficult to maneuver in emergencies. Officials also urge all occupants in the vans to wear seatbelts and all owners to check the tire pressure for every trip.

Some 521 people died in crashes involving 15-passenger vans from 2004 through 2010, according to federal statistics.

___

Kay reported from Miami. Associated Press writer Kyle Hightower in Orlando, Florida, also contributed to this report.

FOX News: 3 Killed When Band Travelling in 15 Passenger Van Crashes

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

JACKSON COUNTY, Ga. - Authorities confirm three people have died and several others are injured after a 15-passenger van carrying 12 people crashed in Jackson County Monday morning. Georgia State Patrol says the single-vehicle-crash took place on Interstate 85 southbound at Hwy 98 (exit 147). The van, carrying nine men and three women, veered off the highway about 300-feet and slammed into a tree after the male driver, who survived, lost control.

Click here to read original article on FOX News website

FOX 5 News has learned three men were ejected from the vehicle and died as a result of their injuries. Eight others were taken to nearby hospitals to be treated for injuries. Two of the victims' injuries are considered life-threatening.

FOX 5's Marc Teichner says two different rock bands were in the vehicle traveling from South Carolina to metro Atlanta for a gig at The Basement in East Atlanta Monday night. Wormreich is a heavy metal band based out of the Huntsville, Alabama area. We have not confirmed who the second band was at this time.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Centre for Auto Safety: Canadian Van Angels


Van Angels is a Canadian advocacy group which has campaigned to educate the public, change regulations and ban the use of 15-passenger vans for all student and small group transport for over 5 years.  The Van Angels are a group of mothers who lost sons in two separate 15-passenger van accidents and have dedicated their independent website to honour their beautiful Boys and to save other lives.  

Click here to read original article on The Center for Auto Safety website

Stella Gurr, one of the founders who lost her son Michael in a 15-passenger Ford van rollover explains:

“As safety advocates we have educated ourselves on the history and current status of 15-passenger vans through extensive research and active lobbying at all governmental levels. The recent tragedy in Florida is not only upsetting but extremely infuriating as the carnage continues and no one will take responsibility for these 'death traps'. Yes, they were built over 50 years ago to carry cargo on the floor and when the auto manufacturers chose to install seats and windows, they did not redesign the vans for human transport! It was a marketing decision to create an inexpensive mode of transport that was larger than a mini-van and smaller than a larger bus. It was basically 'profit over people'.

Our Van Angels group pressured Transport Canada (NHTSA in the US) to test the safety of the vans. As far as we are concerned they did not reveal anything new as it is pure physics and design that determines how the 15-passenger van handles in real-world emergency situations (and as far as we know , physics hasn't changed.) The Safety Review was an exercise in electronic stability control standard testing in certain multi-passenger vehicles. But ESC is not fail-proof and does not help in certain handling manoeuvres. It is a good safety standard but there are approximately 25,000 registered 15-passenger vans on Canadian roads and government documents show that almost 80% do not have ESC! Both industry and government praise this safety addition but fail to mention all the vehicles on our roads that are lacking this feature.”

www.vanangels.ca 

New York Times: Safety of Some Vans Questioned in Wake of Florida Crash

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Federal transportation officials are investigating a crash that killed eight members of a Florida church who were riding in a type of van that has raised safety alarms for many years.

It's unknown what caused the overloaded 15-passenger van to plunge into a ravine on a dark stretch of rural roadway Monday, but the tragedy is giving fresh exposure to repeated warnings about the vehicles popular with budget-minded houses of worship, schools and other nonprofits.

Click here to read original article in The New York Times

Probes into the accident in Glades County are underway by the Florida Highway Patrol as well as the National Transportation Safety Board, which sent two investigators to the scene.

Peter Knudson, an NTSB spokesman, said investigators will look at whether the unlit T-intersection set amid farmland had a history of accidents, whether the van's safety features worked as they should have, the 18 occupants' use of seatbelts and any factors affecting the driver.

The driver, 58-year-old Volsaint Marsaille, was among those killed in the crash. He was a longtime St. Lucie County school bus driver with a good record who had driven for the Independent Haitian Assembly of God for many years, his son-in-law Philippe Dorce said.

The pastor of the Fort Pierce church was among 10 survivors rushed to hospitals after the accident. By Friday four had been released, and the Rev. Esperant Lexine and five others remained hospitalized, Lexine's daughter said.

The church is seeking donations to pay for funerals for the dead, said Dina Lexine Sarver, the pastor's daughter.

Newspaper clips are full of stories of crashes similar to the one near the sugar fields of Moore Haven, and many included blown tires and overturned vans. Those factors were not at play in Monday's crash of a 2000 Dodge Ram wagon, but watchdogs say the crash that followed a missed stopped sign illustrates how such vans are hard to control in an emergency.

"Some insurance companies refuse to insure them because it's so dangerous," said Joan Claybrook, who headed the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration under President Jimmy Carter and is a past president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. Though Marsaille went through a stop sign and his vehicle had too many people on board, Claybrook said such vans have inherent safety issues that make them more prone to tragedy.

Claybrook and other safety advocates have pointed to numerous issues in the vans that make them more susceptible to fatal accidents, from the height and width of the vehicles, to the structural integrity of seats and seatbelt availability and quality. Older models are particularly maligned, lacking stability controls and tire pressure monitoring features of newer vans.

Federal transportation officials have warned about the potential instability of 15-passenger vans for over a decade. The NHTSA has warned colleges and church groups, among others, that overloading the vans increases the risk of rollover and makes the vehicles difficult to maneuver in emergencies. Officials also urge all occupants in the vans to wear seatbelts and all owners to check the tire pressure for every trip.

Some 521 people died in crashes involving 15-passenger vans from 2004 through 2010, according to federal statistics.

___

Kay reported from Miami. Associated Press writer Kyle Hightower in Orlando, Florida, also contributed to this report.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eight killed in 15 passenger van in Florida: Another avoidable tragedy with countless victims

Our hearts go out to the families of yesterday's 15 passenger van accident in Florida. Once again, we find ourselves commenting on yet another avoidable incident involving a 15 passenger van.



PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Video from Youtube.com shows inside a 2000 Dodge Ram van 3500, the same year, make and model as the passenger van that crashed this morning, killing 8 Fort Pierce church-goers and injuring 10 others on board.




Equipped with four rows of seating, vans like the one involved in Monday morning's crash have fueled more than a decade of debate and scrutiny because of its history of problems.
In 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA, started issuing warnings about 15- passenger van.  Among those warnings, that the vans can be difficult to control in emergencies and lack adequate passenger protection, according to NHTSA.
"Why they're still on the roads is beyond me,” said Sean Kane, founder and President of Safety Research & Strategies Inc., a nationwide research firm that analyzes consumer injuries.  Kane has reported on the dangers of 15-passenger vans and the government's concerns about them.
"Seatbelts frequently don't function properly.  They're hard to use and geometry is very poor so we've seen people get ejected out of the vehicle when they're wearing a seatbelt,” he explained to the Contact 5 Investigators.
In 2001, NHTSA conducted a study to better assess the tendency of 15-passenger vans to roll over.  As a result of that study, NHTSA concluded that 15-passenger van occupied with 10 or more passengers had three times the rollover ratio than those occupied with fewer than 10 passengers.
"So the government was saying don't use them with more than 10 people in a vehicle yet they were sold in the market as a 15-passenger vehicle,” said Kane.  "It's unprecedented to see that kind of product where it's advertised in the market for one thing but the government has found it's not safe to use it in that practice," he said.
Early Monday morning, a 15-passenger van was overloaded with 18 church-goers from the Independent Haitian Assembly of God in Fort Pierce.  The group was traveling back from a retreat at the Eglise De Dieu La Jerusalem Celeste church in Fort Myers when, investigators say, the driver ran a stop sign and crossed all lanes of U.S. 27 before landing in a canal in Moore Haven. The circumstances surrounding the crash remain under investigation.  It is not known at this time if the crash resulted from driver error or if a technical issue contributed.  A survivor told NewsChannel 5 that the driver couldn't brake and that's why he went through the stop sign.  At this point, there is nothing to indicate the van rolled over or that the vehicle's design was a factor in this accident.
Lt. Gregory Bueno, spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol told the Contact 5 Investigators on Tuesday, "the crash remains under investigation, we are going to process the vehicle more closely,  assess damage and examine for any mechanical defects in coming days. For the integrity of the investigation that is all I am releasing at this point regarding any more in depth dynamics of the crash." 
Eric Mayne, spokesperson for Fiat/Chrysler, the manufacturer of the 2000 Dodge Ram van carring the church-goers said, “the vehicle meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards. FCA US LLC advises all motorists to follow the operating and maintenance instructions outlined in their owners’ manuals, particularly with regard to seating capacity. Every occupant should have and use his or her own seatbelt, as provided.”
Mayne also told the Contact 5 Investigators that Fiat/Chrysler stopped producing that version of the 15-passenger van after the 2003 model year.  The company nows sell a full-size van based on a design that originated in Europe and has a lower center of gravity.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mothers Say Changes to Motor Vehicle Safety Act A Lasting Legacy

Isabelle Hains and Stella Gurr
Two mothers, who fought for safe student transportation, after their sons were killed in 15-passenger vans, are calling an amendment to Canada’s Motor Vehicle Act a lasting legacy to their Boys’ memory.

Isabelle Hains of Bathurst, New Brunswick and Stella Gurr of Nanaimo, British Columbia announced today that the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act has been amended to include the MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS.

The “MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS" (MFSAB) is now officially a new and distinct definition under Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act effective February 11, 2015. 

"MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS" means a school bus that is designed to pick up and drop off students under circumstances in which there is no need to control traffic.

These vehicles are built to the same high safety standards as the familiar yellow school buses but do not require the signal stop arm and flashing lights safety features (Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #108 and #131).  MFSAB’s are meant for commuting passengers from point to point, rather than the repeated and frequent road-side pick up and drop off necessary to transport students to and from school.

Amendment to the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations finally defines a Multifunction School Activity Bus In Canada

Canada Gazette Part II,
Vol. 149, No. 3 — February 11, 2015
Registration
SOR/2015-23 January 30, 2015
MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY ACT

Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Interpretation and Standards 108 and 131) 
http://canadagazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2015/2015-02-11/html/sor-dors23-eng.php

On September 30, 2010, the Van Angel mothers, Isabelle Hains and Stella Gurr, travelled to Halifax, NS, to meet with the then Minister of Transport, Chuck Strahl to request that Transport Canada recognize the multifunction school activity bus (MFSAB) as a sub-category of a ‘school bus’ under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

Isabelle and Stella lost their sons, Daniel and Michael, in two separate fatal 15-passenger van incidents in 2008.

17 year-old Daniel was one of the seven teen-aged basketball players with the Bathurst High School Phantoms who were killed in a collision between their 15-passenger van and a transport truck in the early morning hours of January 12, 2008.

Michael (age 26) was killed in a single vehicle 15- passenger van roll over on September 25, 2008 outside Brandon, Manitoba while on a cross Canada tour with the band, The Hotel Lobbyists.

The Van Angel mothers’ formal presentation in Halifax in 2010 between the Transport Minister and his provincial/territorial counterparts was a beginning of a long 4 ½ regulatory journey. Since 2008 the Van Angels have actively advocated the banning of the 15-passenger vans for school and small group use. The presentation included strong support from two CUPE school bus drivers (NB and BC), two original members of the CSA D270 working committee as well as New Brunswick safety advocate, Melynda Jarratt.

The Canadian Standards Association Technical Committee on school buses had already developed and introduced the CSA D270 Multifunction Activity Bus (MFAB) standard in 2008. The CSA had already recognized the need for a single federal definition for a vehicle with a school bus body built (CSA D270) but without the signal stop arm and flashing lights. The CSA fully supported the mother’s move to establish a new definition in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. School bus manufacturers also supported the move towards a new definition, as it would facilitate cross border trade. The MFSAB definition was approved in the US in 2003, and the logical step is to harmonize the regulation with the States.  

The Bathurst tragedy in 2008 shocked the nation and led to calls for changes in the way students were transported for co-and extra- curricular activities, which led to the banning of 15 passenger vans for school use in New Brunswick. To date the 15-passenger vans are banned for all school use in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Quebec and many school districts across Canada.  It is a provincial/territorial responsibility to decide which vehicles are used for school transportation.

According to the Van Angel mothers, the introduction of this new definition of the MFSAB provides school boards, commercial bus operators, and the general public with an alternate choice of vehicle that would offer a similar safety standard as a yellow school bus.  For decades, Transport Canada and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration both agree that the safest mode of transport for students is a yellow school bus.

Both Isabelle and Stella have always believed that choosing a vehicle that is built to provide the best chance of survival is the key to saving lives and that it is the public's right to demand the safest transportation available.

The mothers want a Van Angels law implemented by all the Provinces and Territories that only allow a yellow school bus or a  Multifunction School Activity Buses for students participating in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

The Van Angels have spent the last 7 years honouring their Sons' lives through their advocacy work.  

In Loving Memory and Never Forgotten: Javier Acevedo (17) Codey Branch (17) Nathan Cleland (17) Justin Cormier (17) Daniel Hains (17) Nikki Kelly (15) Nickolas Quinn (16) Michael Gurr (26)