Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Response from Minister Chuck Strahl to our Request for Crashworthiness Testing

January 13, 2011

Dear Ms. Hains:

Thank you for your correspondence of November 23, 2010, further to our meeting in Halifax, in which you requested an update on the status of the 15-passenger van safety review. I have responded to your questions in the same order as in your email.

Recognition of Multifunctional Activity Buses (MFABs) as sub-category of school buses

Transport Canada is developing a regulatory proposal to recognize MFABs within the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSRs) to which appropriate safety standards would apply. Amending the Regulations must follow a multi-step regulatory process.

The necessary testing, research and analysis are conducted during this regulatory development process, including consultation. As with all regulatory proposals, this proposal must be assessed and approved by the Regulatory Affairs Sector of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. If subsequently approved by Treasury Board, the proposed amendment would then be published in Part I of the Canada Gazette, followed by a 75-day consultation period for all interested persons to comment on the proposal.

Your group, the Van Angels, may wish to provide comments at that time. The feedback received will help to determine whether the amendment is proposed to the Treasury Board as a final regulation to be written into law. If approved by the Treasury Board and the Governor General, the final regulation would then be published in the Part II of the Canada Gazette.

Contact with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA)

The CSA committee on school buses includes members from industry, operators, school boards, provincial and territorial governments and Transport Canada. The Department has been an active member of the school bus committee for many years and participates in CSA meetings every six months. The school bus committee also developed the recent MFAB D-270 standard. I should add that Transport Canada participated in the development of the D-270 standard. In addition, the CSA has been informed that the Department is developing a regulatory proposal to recognize MFABs within the MVSRs.

Development of a national approach to school transportation safety

As you may be aware, the provinces and territories, and not the federal government, have jurisdiction to consider banning the use of 15-passenger vans in their respective jurisdictions. On June 18, 2010, my predecessor, the Honourable John Baird, sent letters to his provincial and territorial counterparts to encourage them to review the legislative and regulatory instruments under their authorities that guide the use of vehicles for the transportation of school children in general. Furthermore, the provinces and territories, through the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), have established a Working Group to develop policy and guidelines to address the issue.

The Working Group will be developing a framework for a recommended national approach regarding the use of 15-passenger vans, including a series of recommendations as to the proper use of these vehicles if used for student transportation. You may wish to contact the CCMTA by telephone at 613‑736-1003, or through its website at .

Recommendations on licence classes

Since the licensing of drivers is a provincial/territorial responsibility, Transport Canada does not have jurisdiction on what class of licence or training drivers must have. The Department does not issue driver’s licences or register vehicles. Skill and experience are key elements to operate vehicles safely; this is particularly true for trucks and buses, which handle differently than cars. This also applies to full-size vans, such as 15-passenger vans, which are classified as buses in the MVSRs. The CCMTA will be studying driver licensing requirements as part of its project.

Crash-worthiness testing on 15-passenger vans

As I had committed to doing in Halifax in September, Transport Canada will be conducting crash testing. The vehicles have been ordered for that purpose and, according to the supplier, they should be available for testing before March 2011. Availability of final report to the public Transport Canada’s study on van safety is ongoing. As you know, the Department performed some stability and brake testing in the summer of 2010, and a technical report on these tests is nearing completion. This report will be shared with the CCMTA once it has been completed. The report will describe the stability and brake testing performed and provide the results of the Department’s analyses. To date, seven different vehicles—a minivan, a 12-passenger van, two different 15-passenger vans, an 18‑passenger school bus, a 29-passenger school bus and a 20-passenger MFAB—have been tested.

Once additional testing is completed in 2011, Transport Canada intends to post the results online. The intent is to publish a non-technical summary of the findings for all interested Canadians. Progress on 15-passenger van safety review This email provides you with a status report on the work that has been ongoing within the Department and of the proposed work ahead. Again, once the testing is completed in 2011, Transport Canada intends to publish a non-technical summary of its findings for all interested Canadian stakeholders. Appointment of a political and bureaucratic liaison As I had noted during our meeting in September, the appropriate Transport Canada contacts on this matter are XXXXXX, Chief of Staff, and Mr. XXXX XXX, Director General, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation. Mr. XXX can be reached at .

Private Member’s Bill C-522

During our meeting, I had indicated that Bill C-522, proposed by Mr. Yvon Godin, Member of Parliament, is subject to the usual Parliamentary procedures with respect to Private Members’ Bills. There is a system by which such Bills are selected and debated if there is broad support among Members of Parliament. You may wish to contact Mr. Godin as your Member of Parliament for further information. While I sincerely appreciate that Mr. Godin has raised the profile of safety on this issue, I believe that the end result of improved safety can best be achieved through working with the provinces and territories in the aforementioned manner I have described.

I hope this addresses your concerns and further demonstrates the Department’s serious commitment to road safety.

Thank you once again for your email and continued interest in safe student transportation.

Sincerely, Chuck Strahl
c.c. Mr. Yvon Godin, M.P.
The Honourable David Alward, M.L.A.
The Honourable Claude Williams, M.L.A.
The Honourable Robert Trevors, M.L.A.
The Honourable Jody Carr, M.L.A.