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.