Top News

Changes to regulations for school bus inspections a ‘joke’: Dave Callahan

 ..
..

Dave Callahan didn’t mince words when asked his thoughts on changes the province has made to the Official Inspection Station Regulations for school buses.

“It’s an absolute joke,” said Callahan, president of the province’s bus operators association, from St. George’s on Tuesday afternoon.

While the vast majority of inspection stations comply with regulations, some don’t. Earlier this fall charges were laid against one such station for fraudulent activity related to school bus inspections.

That led the province to commit to changes to ensure students travelling on school buses are safe.

Eddie Joyce, minister of Service NL, announced those changes at a news conference in Corner Brook on Tuesday morning.

The changes focus on an increase in penalties — doubling of fines for official inspection stations and authorized inspection mechanics — longer licence suspensions and spot audits.

Joyce is confident measures will improve the system.

“We are clamping down very hard on this,” he said during the news conference. “With the measures of deterrence, more inspections, more follow-ups, we’re hoping to catch as many as we can.”

But Callahan disagrees and said the regulations don’t go far enough.

“It does nothing to protect. This is only an attempt to deflect where the true blame for the state of school busing belongs.”

He said the responsibility lies with the province for allowing 12-year-old buses to be on the road, for accepting every low bid it gets on operator contracts through the Public Tender Act and promoting “crap” busing by doing so.

“Anybody with that frame of mind that allows that to happen shouldn’t be trusted with busing.”

He said the problems from this fall came from government not doing its job on the east coast as well as they do on the west.

Callahan said the tendering of contracts has to end and negotiated contracts put in place and the age and kilometre limits for buses in service need to be reduced.

Among the key changes to the regulations

Doubling of fines for official inspection stations and authorized inspection mechanics convicted of Highway Traffic Act offences, including providing false inspection certificates. The maximum fine will go from $1,200 to $2,400 for a first offence. Second offences could result in a maximum fine of $4,800.

Licence suspensions for authorized inspection mechanics convicted of providing a false inspection certificate will increase from nine months to 12 months for a first offence.

A second conviction within five years and/or a conviction under the Criminal Code may now result in a permanent suspension.

Certificate of appointment suspensions for owners of official inspection stations will increase from nine months to 12 months for a first offence. The current permanent suspension in the case of a second offence within five years remains.

Suspensions will also be applied to the location of the official inspection station, to prevent the owner from reopening under another name or operator.

For both the official inspection stations and authorized inspection mechanics a new provision is being added that will allow the minister of Service NL, at the recommendation of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, to suspend a licence or certificate permanently at any time.

Some facts

83 — number of school bus service providers in the province

43 — number official inspection stations

More than 1,060 buses have been inspected across the province since September, 94 per cent have passed inspection

All school buses, including those operated by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District are required to be inspected before the school year begins and again in December

Service NL inspectors inspect 100 per cent of the buses between September and November

More spot audits will now be conducted with 30 per cent of each operators fleet inspected between January and the end of the school year, if issues are identified the whole fleet can be inspected

Inspection results will be published biannually, in the spring and fall, at www.servicenl.gov.nl.ca

“It’s an absolute joke,” said Callahan, president of the province’s bus operators association, from St. George’s on Tuesday afternoon.

While the vast majority of inspection stations comply with regulations, some don’t. Earlier this fall charges were laid against one such station for fraudulent activity related to school bus inspections.

That led the province to commit to changes to ensure students travelling on school buses are safe.

Eddie Joyce, minister of Service NL, announced those changes at a news conference in Corner Brook on Tuesday morning.

The changes focus on an increase in penalties — doubling of fines for official inspection stations and authorized inspection mechanics — longer licence suspensions and spot audits.

Joyce is confident measures will improve the system.

“We are clamping down very hard on this,” he said during the news conference. “With the measures of deterrence, more inspections, more follow-ups, we’re hoping to catch as many as we can.”

But Callahan disagrees and said the regulations don’t go far enough.

“It does nothing to protect. This is only an attempt to deflect where the true blame for the state of school busing belongs.”

He said the responsibility lies with the province for allowing 12-year-old buses to be on the road, for accepting every low bid it gets on operator contracts through the Public Tender Act and promoting “crap” busing by doing so.

“Anybody with that frame of mind that allows that to happen shouldn’t be trusted with busing.”

He said the problems from this fall came from government not doing its job on the east coast as well as they do on the west.

Callahan said the tendering of contracts has to end and negotiated contracts put in place and the age and kilometre limits for buses in service need to be reduced.

Among the key changes to the regulations

Doubling of fines for official inspection stations and authorized inspection mechanics convicted of Highway Traffic Act offences, including providing false inspection certificates. The maximum fine will go from $1,200 to $2,400 for a first offence. Second offences could result in a maximum fine of $4,800.

Licence suspensions for authorized inspection mechanics convicted of providing a false inspection certificate will increase from nine months to 12 months for a first offence.

A second conviction within five years and/or a conviction under the Criminal Code may now result in a permanent suspension.

Certificate of appointment suspensions for owners of official inspection stations will increase from nine months to 12 months for a first offence. The current permanent suspension in the case of a second offence within five years remains.

Suspensions will also be applied to the location of the official inspection station, to prevent the owner from reopening under another name or operator.

For both the official inspection stations and authorized inspection mechanics a new provision is being added that will allow the minister of Service NL, at the recommendation of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, to suspend a licence or certificate permanently at any time.

Some facts

83 — number of school bus service providers in the province

43 — number official inspection stations

More than 1,060 buses have been inspected across the province since September, 94 per cent have passed inspection

All school buses, including those operated by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District are required to be inspected before the school year begins and again in December

Service NL inspectors inspect 100 per cent of the buses between September and November

More spot audits will now be conducted with 30 per cent of each operators fleet inspected between January and the end of the school year, if issues are identified the whole fleet can be inspected

Inspection results will be published biannually, in the spring and fall, at www.servicenl.gov.nl.ca

Recent Stories