Monday, August 13, 2012

Van Angels Group Urges NB Government to Ban 15-passenger vans for inter-city transportation

(Bathurst, NB - August 13, 2012 ) - News of Acadian Lines' plans to cease operations as of November 30, 2012, in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., has the Bathurst-based, Van Angels safety advocacy group concerned about the future of intercity transportation in the Maritimes.

(Please see presentation on 15-passenger vans to NB Energy and Utilities Board in March, 2012

Isabelle Hains' and Ana Acevedo's 17 year old sons, Daniel and Javier were killed on January 12, 2008 in a horrific highway collision between a 15-passenger van and a semi-tractor trailer just outside Bathurst, New Brunswick. The Boys in Red Tragedy took the lives of seven young Bathurst High School basketball players and the coach's wife and brought to light the dangers of 15-passenger vans and inadequate student transportation in New Brunswick and the rest of Canada. After the collision, the NB Department of Education banned 15-passenger vans for transporting students and the province of Quebec soon followed. The province of Nova Scotia already banned 15 passenger-vans for student transportation in 1996.

In an interview with CBC, NB Minister of Transportation Claude Williams said the government will be looking into changing regulations governing intercity bus service in response to Acadian Lines move to discontinue operations. Williams said regulations could be changed to encourage a sustainable bus system and to allow for fair competition in the private sector.

Although the exact intent of the proposed regulatory changes are unknown, Hains and Acevedo of the Van Angels advocacy group feel that the closure of Acadian Lines will create a void in intercity transportation and private 15-passenger van shuttle services will rush to fill the gap.

Hains says the future of safe intercity transportation in New Brunswick is now in the hands of the NB Minister of Transportation, Claude Williams, NB Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors and the NB Energy and Utilities Board.

"We are not against private enterprise but the New Brunswick government must keep the safety of intercity passengers paramount," says Hains, adding that the NB Department of Education already banned 15-passenger vans for student transportation. "If these vehicles are not good enough for students than they shouldn’t be used to transport anyone else in New Brunswick."

B.C. Van Angel safety advocate, Stella Gurr, who lost her 26 year old son, Michael, in a single vehicle 15-passenger van rollover in 2008, is also concerned about the situation in the Maritimes. Gurr says 15-passenger vans were originally designed to carry cargo and agrees they should not be used for human transportation.

Gurr explains that in Canada, a 15-passenger van is defined as a 'bus' for regulatory purposes "but that is simply a term used to describe a motor vehicle that has a seating capacity of more than 10 passengers," she says. "It does not mean that every ‘bus’ has the same, mandatory safety standards such as those found in Multi-Function School Activity Bus (MFSAB) and yellow school buses."

The Van Angel safety advocacy group encourages the public to demand the best and safest options for intercity travel and strongly urges New Brunswick's Ministers of Transportation and Public Safety as well as the NB Energy and Utilities Board to guarantee that only the safest type of fleet vehicle is allowed on provincial roads and highways.

"It took the deaths of our sons to set a higher bar for student transportation safety in NB and across Canada," say Hains and Acevedo. "Now is the time for our provincial government to say that New Brunswick is where 15-passenger vans will never be allowed to transport the public in a government regulated intercity bus system."