Monday, April 6, 2015

Van Angels: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Multifunction School Activity Buses (MFSABs) in Canada

Multi Function School Activity Bus and MFSA Certificaton Label

1.  What is the background history of the MFSAB definition in Canada?

On February 11, here in Canada, the MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS (MFSAB) became a new definition under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act regulations in order to address the needs of school boards, organizations and bus service operators for an alternative vehicle to a 15-passenger van that would provide the same level of crash safety as a school bus. In 2003, the US, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) had already adopted the new definition of a MFSAB, as a sub-category of a school bus.

In 2006, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) submitted a proposal to Transport Canada for a new standard called a multifunction activity bus (MFAB) CSA D-270. The standard was developed to create a type of multi-passenger vehicle (11 or more) that could be classified under a school bus category but did not require traffic control devices (flashing lights and side signal stop arm), as it was not intended to be used for the transport of students to and from school. The CSA saw the need for a safe mode of transport for extra-curricular school activities, as well as, a safer vehicle to accommodate community organizations and bus service operators. In 2008, without managing to get the new standard adopted, the CSA published their own voluntary standard which Canadian manufacturers could use as this standard met and surpassed minimum Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) because it was built to the higher school bus requirements.

The Van Angels transportation safety advocacy group fully supported the CSA and the CSA D-270 standard as it would bring a safer alternative vehicle into the Canadian public's choice of transport for student and non- school groups use. It could carry more than 10 passengers, was built to yellow school bus standards and was not a 15-passenger van.  In September 2010, the Van Angels group spearheaded a committee that requested the Minister of Transport and his provincial/territorial counterparts to take the necessary steps to work with the CSA to recognize the MULTIFUNCTION ACTIVITY BUS (MFAB) CSA D-270 as a sub-category of a school bus.

On February 11, 2015, after four and a half years in the regulatory process, a new definition called the MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS (MFSAB) emerged and became a part of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. It now harmonizes with the US definition. The CSA intends to withdraw their 2008 publication of the CSA D-270 standard and instead incorporate the MFSAB requirements as an optional mode in their next revision of their school bus safety standard.

2.What is Transport Canada's role in motor vehicle safety compliance?

Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, Transport Canada proposes, establishes, regulates and enforces national motor vehicle safety standards for the safety performance requirements of all new and imported motor vehicles. The regulations set the minimum Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) required by law to be met by auto manufacturers. They do not address licensing or the use of after market modifications. Transport Canada does not have the mandate to ban a vehicle if it meets all the minimum required safety standards but can initiate investigations if motor vehicles are suspected to be defective.

3.What is the role of the Provinces/Territories in motor vehicle safety compliance?

The Provinces and Territories are responsible for the regulation and enforcement of the licensing, operation, modification and maintenance of all vehicles on public roads in their jurisdictions. They do have the regulatory power to ban a vehicle. For example, after several fatal accidents, including the very high profile Bathurst Tragedy in 2008, 15-passenger vans are now prohibited for student transportation in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Labrador and Newfoundland, Quebec and many individual school districts across Canada.

4.What is the definition of a "bus" in Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act?

Under the regulations of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act, a "bus" is loosely defined as a class of motor vehicles that have the seating capacity of 10 or more occupants. It covers a broad range of vehicles, including 15-passenger vans, shuttle/activity buses, school buses, multifunction school activity buses and coach-style buses. 

5.What is the definition of a "school bus" in Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act?

A "school bus" is further defined as a bus that is designed or equipped to carry students to and from school and/or to and from school related events/activities. A school bus is required to meet its own set of safety standards that are over and above the minimum safety standards for buses in general. It includes a reinforced steel rollover cage (CMVSS #220) , strong body joint strength (CMVSS #221) and emergency exits (CMVSS #217) plus several other features specific to a school bus body build.

6.What is the definition of a "MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS" (MFSAB) in the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act?

The "multifunction school activity bus' (MFSAB) is in the same structural category as a school bus but is designed to pick up and drop off students under circumstances that do not require the need to control traffic. They are meant to commute passengers from point to point, rather than the designated frequent and repeated road-side pick-up and drop off necessary to transport students to and from school. These vehicles do not require the flashing signal lights (CMVSS # 108) or the side signal stop arm (CMVSS # 131) but otherwise conform to the same high safety standards as the familiar yellow school bus. They are not built exclusively for student transportation and can be used by any group or organization looking for a high standard of transport.


In Canada, motor vehicles must meet all applicable minimum Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) to be allowed on our roads. (CMVSS harmonize with most of the US Federal Motor Vehicle Standards/ FMVSS.) Auto manufacturers are required by law to comply with all applicable CMVSS's in the production of new vehicles and it is their responsibility to affix a compliance label. This is called the VEHICLE CERTIFICATION LABEL and should not be confused with the vehicle identification number (VIN). The Vehicle Certification Label is usually located either to the hinge pillar, door latch-post or the door edge that meets the door-latch post, next to the driver's seat. It can also be found on the inward facing surface of the door next to the driver's seat or even to the left of the instrument panel. The label will include the identity of the manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) of each axle, the TYPE of vehicle and other pertinent information. Whether a vehicle is a "bus", "school bus" or "MFSAB", it will be clearly identified under the Type of vehicle heading. If a vehicle is built in more than one stage, (like a bus and MFSAB) then more than one vehicle certification label will be affixed to confirm that each stage manufacturer has complied with the applicable safety standards and the final stage label will indicate the completed vehicle type. Canadian manufactured vehicles also require a national mark which shows a number specifically assigned to the manufacturer.

8.What do the abbreviations mean under TYPE of VEHICLE on the Vehicle Compliance Label?

B/A - to refer to a bus/autobus
SB/AS - to refer to a school bus/autobus scolaire
MFSAB/AMAS - to refer to a multifunction school activity bus/autobus multifonction pour les activities scolaire


Canadians have the right to demand the safest mode of transport for students and other non-school group organizations.