Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cowichan BC School Trustees Phase Out 15 Passenger Vans: Bus driver's push to ban 15-passenger vans gains traction

By Jenn Marshall - Nanaimo News Bulletin

This article appeared in the Nanaimo News Bulletin on February 25, 2010. Click here to read the original article.

A Nanaimo school district bus driver and mechanic on a mission to get 15-passenger vans off the roads can chalk up at least one victory.

Bryan Murphy, treasurer of CUPE Local 606 and long-time school bus driver, has been travelling around B.C. on behalf of his union, speaking to school officials and parents about the dangers posed by the vans.

So far, he’s spoken with officials in Nanaimo, Cowichan and Nelson school districts about research that shows the vehicles are more prone to fishtailing and rollovers.

And his words hit home with Cowichan Valley trustees.

Last month, Cowichan trustees decided to phase out use of the controversial vehicles by September.

The vans came to the public’s attention after a 2008 crash in New Brunswick killed eight people.

Following the crash, Murphy researched the vans and found statistics from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that showed when carrying between five and nine passengers, vans involved in a crash rolled over 20 per cent of the time, or 16 of 77 crashes.

Transport Canada has not issued any recommendations regarding the use of the vans, but Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have banned them for school use.

Murphy spoke to Nanaimo trustees last April and plans to continue lobbying the district to ban use of the vehicles altogether.

The vans can be used for district-sponsored events as long as certain requirements are met – keeping the passenger load below 10 people, requiring the use of seatbelts and placing cargo and passengers forward of the rear axle.

Trustees have requested more information from staff about the vans and the frequency of their use for district-sponsored events, as well as information about cost-effective alternatives.

Murphy said in Nanaimo, the vans are sometimes used to transport students to events like sports tournaments because they are a more cost-effective mode of transportation – rent is lower and parents can drive the vans, saving on the cost of hiring a school bus driver.

“Most economical is not most safe,” he said. “My issue is the safety of the students.”

Murphy’s next step is to speak to Island labour councils.