Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moncton Times Transcript: Government to probe bus safety issue in province

Times Transcript
Education minister expected to address issue this week following incident in Nova Scotia


The union representing New Brunswick school bus drivers is calling for an end to the use of private buses for extra-curricular events after a recent incident in which two such vehicles carrying a group of middle school students from Sackville were pulled off the road in Nova Scotia because of bald tires.

Click here to read original article in the Moncton Times-Transcript

The buses, owned by Prestige Bus Service of Sackville, were stopped by Nova Scotia motor vehicle inspectors Wednesday in Halifax. The officers ordered the defective tires immediately replaced.

"Last week's incident ... only reinforces the need to use school buses for those trips," said Delalene Harris Foran, president of the New Brunswick Council of School District Unions, which represent 1,100 school bus drivers in the province.

"Professional Class 2-B school bus drivers are among the most regulated drivers in New Brunswick.

"Our safety record is second to none in North America, and we're proud of that."

School bus drivers, she said, are specially trained to perform daily visual inspections of their vehicles, which are inspected twice yearly by licensed mechanics.

Education Minister Jody Carr has ordered schools not to use Prestige until a review of the Nova Scotia incident is complete.

A coroner's inquest into the January 2008 crash that claimed the lives of seven members of the Bathurst High School boys' basketball team, along with their coach's wife, recommended the sole use of school buses driven by drivers with a Class-2 licence for extra-curricular activities. A group of mothers who lost their sons in the Bathurst High School crash is calling on the province to step up and lay charges over this most recent incident.

Isabelle Hains, whose son Daniel was killed in the January 2008 Bathurst crash, wants to see charges filed in this case.

"I'm just so upset with everyone's loopholes, and answers, delays and defending themselves."

Hains plans to travel to Fredericton this week to meet with Education Minister Jody Carr.

Donald Estabrooks, whose family owns Prestige Bus Service of Sackville and who was driving one of the buses, told the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on the weekend that two worn tires on the tag axles of each bus were identified prior to departure and a decision was made to replace them the following day.

Tires on tag axles "provide additional support when there are exceptionally heavy loads," he said.

"There was never, at any time, a safety risk," he said. "We are a small company that is completely dedicated to safety."

Estabrooks said publicity about the incident has been devastating for the chartered bus operation. Officials with New Brunswick School District 2 have already cancelled future contracts, he said.

The education minister says details of the incident have caused him great concern.

"I have instructed staff at the department to work in co-operation with the Department of Public Safety to gather information and review the facts surrounding this situation. I will report on the facts this week," Carr said in a statement yesterday.

Click here to read original article in the Moncton Times-Transcript