Safety is our number one concern!

In January 2008, eight passengers died after the 15‐passenger van they were travelling in was struck,  at  highway  speed,  by  a  tractor‐trailer  near  Bathurst,  N.B..  On  September  30,  2010,  former Transport Canada Minister Strahl committed the department to conduct a crash test of a 15‐passener van as requested by a lobby group of concerned citizens with a strong personal interest in van and bus safety for student transportation (www.vanangels.ca).

The  15‐passenger  van  is  a  preferred  mode  of  transportation  for  a  broad  spectrum  of  applications and passenger types including; school and/ or senior outings, community events, and various shuttle services. An alternative mode of transportation for school related activities is the multi‐functional bus (MFAB). The structure of these buses is similar to that of small school buses except that they are not equipped with certain safety features that are required for the secure  embarkation  and  disembarkation  of  school  children,  for  example,  stop  lamps  and  extendable stop signs.

 

The intention of the crashworthiness testing was not to replicate the tragic Bathurst collision. Because of the high speed at which the collision occurred (the closing speed was estimated by the collision investigators as being about 160 km/h) and the extreme difference in size between the striking transport truck and the 15‐passenger van in question (the mass of the truck at the time of impact was estimated by the investigators to be more than five times that of the van), the crash was likely, far too catastrophic, for any known crashworthiness countermeasures to have  prevented  the  loss  of  life.  The  objective  of  the  test  program  therefore,  was  instead,  to  compare the protection available to restrained occupants of a 15‐passenger van to that available  to  restrained  occupants  in  an  MFAB  in  a  severe  side  impact  crash  test  involving  a  bullet vehicle that is representative of the type that has typically been associated with causing serious injury in side impact collisions in the field. The bullet vehicles were of similar mass to both  struck  vehicles.  These  collisions  nevertheless  exceeded  the  severity  of  regulatory  compliance and consumer‐focussed vehicle rating programs used world‐wide.

This report describes the test methodology for the paired test program, presents the results of the crash tests and discusses the implications of the findings with respect to possible countermeasures.

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