The wording on inspection certificates for school buses in this province is pretty clear.
“The contents of this certificate are true and correct in every detail. Any deficiency noted above has been corrected and the vehicle is fit to be operated as a commercial vehicle in accordance with the Highway Traffic Act,” it reads, with space for the signature of an authorized and certified mechanic to verify that they personally inspected the vehicle.
In the case of the certificates for six school buses inspected by the authorized mechanic at J.J. Services in December 2016, there was a problem: although he had signed them, an investigation revealed he wasn’t even in town when the inspections were carried out.
Janet Jones, operator of J. J. Services was in provincial court in St. John’s Tuesday, where she pleaded guilty to six counts of unlawfully issuing the vehicle inspection certificates. Fifty-two other similar charges were withdrawn by the Crown.
As operator of J.J. Services, Jones was responsible for conducting school bus inspections for Kelloway Investments Ltd. The latter company is owned by her brother, Jim Kelloway, and had a bus contract with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.
When the school district undertook a blitz of surprise bus inspections of its own in January 2017, it found problems with 58 Kelloway Investments buses that had been issued certificates by Jones’ company a month earlier.
Crown withdraws charges against suspended St. John's bus company
The school district identified issues with brakes, steering and emergency exits, and suspended Kelloway Investments’ contract due to safety concerns.
For the six buses in question Tuesday, inspectors found a range of minor problems, including broken lights, loose front-end parts and missing undercarriage pieces. Only one of those buses, which had a broken crossing arm and a light out, was taken out of service pending repairs.
Prosecutor Jude Hall explained the authorized mechanic’s practice was to sign the certificates before the work was done, then rely on other mechanics to do the repairs and fill out the rest of the documents.
Defence lawyer Bob Simmonds pointed out the inspection blitz by the school district happened a month after the certificates were signed, and the issues with the six buses could have occurred within that time period.
Accepting a joint sentencing submission from Simmonds and Hall, Judge Mike Madden fined Jones a total of $8,280 — $1,200 for each of the six buses, plus a victim fine surcharge. Under provincial legislation, her business is suspended under from performing inspections for a year as a result.
“It’s been an eye-opener and I can assure your honour that it will never happen again,” Jones told the court.
Kelloway Investments had been charged with 58 counts of displaying the unlawful inspection certificates, but those charges were withdrawn in January after the Crown determined there was no reasonable possibility of conviction.