A 15 passenger Ford Econoline Van like the one used by the Bathurst High School Phantoms Basketball team on the night of January 12, 2008.
"While we were pleased in our audit to note these guidelines were developed, we found that the Department does not in any way ensure these guidelines are indeed implemented." Excerpt from the 2001 Audit of the New Brunswick Department of Education. Click here to read report online at the NB Department of Education website.
As early as 2001, the New Brunswick Department of Education was audited by the Auditor General and there were many problems found with the maintenance and monitoring of extra curricular activity vehicles owned by the Student Council, as well as vehicles driven by volunteers and parents.
Here is an excerpt from the Audit, which can be found on line at http://www.gnb.ca/oag-bvg/2001/chap3e.txt
Student council owned vehicles
3.300 During our audit it came to our attention that various schools in the Province have student council owned vehicles. These are vans or cars that the student councils own and operate for the purpose of transporting students to and from various school related activities. In some cases local service organizations have donated vehicles, and in some cases student council has raised the funds and purchased them. Both new and used vehicles can be acquired in this fashion. We noted one vehicle was as old as a 1988 model year.
3.301 During our discussions with Department officials we discovered some confusion over responsibility for these vehicles. Officials we interviewed admitted to us concern over this area. In some respects, no one is sure who would be held accountable if anything were to go wrong. Department officials we interviewed were unable to determine for us if student councils are a part of the Department of Education or a separate entity. We would encourage the Department to verify this issue. If student councils are indeed a part of the Department of Education, any vehicles owned and operated by the student council would in reality be the responsibility of the Department.
3.302 In keeping with safety concerns, the Department developed a document called “Provincial Guidelines–Student Council Vehicles”. While not strict policy, these guidelines were forwarded to all principals for their use. The guidebook contains various suggestions for acquiring vehicles, registration/licensing, vehicle operation and maintenance, driver qualifications and training, liability and insurance coverage.
Seven years after this audit of the New Brunswick Department of Education's student transportation was released, the guidelines and policies were still not being followed.
3.303 While we were pleased in our audit to note these guidelines were developed, we found that the Department does not in any way ensure these guidelines are indeed implemented.
3.304 The Department does not monitor the condition or maintenance of these vehicles. Motor vehicle inspection, maintenance, replacement of tires, etc. is left up to the student council or an assigned teacher. Though we did not audit the servicing aspect of these vehicles, most principals informed us that a Physical Education teacher or another assigned teacher usually “looks after that”. We were told that teachers and principals are signing the vehicle registration.
3.305 The Motor Vehicle Act requires drivers of vans of more than ten passengers to obtain a class 4 license. For all other passenger vans and cars, a regular class 5 license is required. The Department does not monitor the validity of licenses of drivers of these vehicles. They informed us it would be up to the individual school principal to do this. One principal we spoke with informed us they had three licensed drivers and was indeed able to produce copies of valid licenses kept in their files. Another principal we spoke to wasn’t clear on who was authorized to drive their student council owned vehicles, or what licenses they were required to have.
3.306 The guidelines produced by the Department state that drivers must possess basic defensive driving skills and shall be trained in emergency first aid. While the Department informed us it encourages drivers of student council vehicles to obtain some training in these areas, it is not mandatory. While we did not audit this aspect of training, the Department admitted to us they are “quite sure” no training has been done. The Department informed us they would like to consider making a defensive driver training course mandatory, but again haven’t brought this to fruition yet.
3.307 We recommended that the Department establish responsibility for student council owned vehicles.
3.308 We recommended that the Department ensure drivers of student council owned vehicles are following the guidelines provided by the Department.
3.309 We recommended that the Department monitor the number, types, age, and condition of student council owned vehicles to ensure the safety of this mode of transportation.
3.310 We recommended that the Department consider an appropriate form of driver training for drivers of student council owned vehicles.
3.311 In February 2000, the Department published a series of guidelines for the use of student council vehicles. The guidelines were the results of discussions with two ad-hoc committees (English and French) composed of school principals, school districts student services coordinators, physical education teachers and department staff. Copies of the guidelines were provided to all middle and high schools across the Province. Following the publication of those guidelines and feedback the Department is now developing a formal policy on these issues. This policy will be finalized during the 2001-2002 school year and will establish minimum training for the drivers of those vehicles and set safety standards.
Parent and volunteer owned vehicles
3.312 Given the fiscal constraints of Government today, the use of parent and volunteer owned vehicles to transport students to and from school has increased over the last number of years. The Department informs us that parents and volunteers are invaluable in transporting students to and from various field trips and sporting activities.
3.313 Similarly to student council owned vehicles, the Department developed some guidelines for parent and volunteer owned vehicles. The guidelines were meant to assist school administrators in this endeavour. Guidelines are provided on qualifications of drivers, drivers license requirements, basic safety rules, pre-trip inspection check list, etc.
3.314 These guidelines are on a page at the back of the student council owned vehicle guidelines. Because of this, principals we interviewed were often not aware of these particular guidelines. Principals from schools with no student council owned vehicles informed us they filed the document in a drawer, thinking it was not pertinent to them. They were not aware of the guidelines available for parent/volunteer drivers. While we do not wish to deter volunteer drivers from assisting in this manner, we would encourage the Department to provide drivers with the guidelines and a copy of Policy 701 (Pupil Protection Policy).
3.315 We recommended that the Department ensure all parent/volunteer drivers are provided with Policy 701.
3.316 We recommended that the Department ensure parent/volunteer drivers are provided with guidelines as developed by the Department.
3.317 A process will be developed to ensure parents/volunteers are made aware of Policy 701.
3.318 Guidelines for parent/volunteer drivers will be included in the formal policy on the use of vehicles for student council activities scheduled for release during the 2001-02 school year.