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TRAN Committee Report

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Bus passenger safety has been top-of-mind for many Canadians in the past few years as recent tragic events have raised concerns regarding the safety features and crashworthiness of buses in Canada. To examine this ongoing issue, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities undertook, in April 2019, a study of bus passenger safety.

Although there is room for improvement, testimony from stakeholders demonstrated that buses, particularly school buses, are among the safest modes of transportation available. That said, the Committee heard suggestions to further improve the safety record of buses. These suggestions touched on the collection and publication process for research and test data by Transport Canada and the possibility of expanding the mandate of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB).

Many witnesses also spoke about school bus safety, particularly regarding the installation of seat belts and the potential impacts on children’s safety. Testimony heard by the Committee was clear that, although seat belts do prevent certain types of injuries, they are neither a panacea, nor the only possible solution, to increasing school bus safety. The Committee heard concerns that the installation of seat belts may in fact make school buses less safe. For that reason, some witnesses expressed that further study is needed and stressed that the ongoing Task Force on School Bus Safety must be given time to properly study the issue to ensure that it reaches its overall goal of improving safety on school buses.

Witnesses also identified several regulatory changes that would improve passenger safety on motor coaches, most of which are already being developed by Transport Canada, in collaboration with provincial and territorial authorities. More specifically, witnesses representing the bus industry expressed broad support for the announced regulatory changes to require the installation of seat belts on motor coaches, although they identified some issues to be addressed to ensure a successful implementation.