2nd double-decker bus involved in fatal crash in 5 years

The front end of an OC Transpo double-decker bus was heavily damaged in Friday's devastating crash, similar to the fatal collision between a double-decker bus and a Via Rail train in 2013.

After the tragic crash five years ago, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) recommended public transit buses have more robust crashworthiness standards — standards that would help vehicles withstand high-impact collisions.

The city's buses meet the requirements in place but the TSB argued that existing standards should be improved to further protect passengers.

In the case of the 2013 crash, the TSB found the design of the double-decker provided little protection when the bus collided with a Via Rail train near Fallowfield Station. 

"In this occurrence, the bus had no front bumper, and its front-end frame was not designed to provide impact protection," read the board's report after the crash investigation.

The TSB found that putting crashworthiness standards in place for buses could offer protection to passengers in a similar crash.  

"Although not required by regulation, a more robust front structure and crash energy management design might have reduced the damage to the bus and prevent the loss of a protective shell for the occupants."

The city did not know Friday night if the model of the bus in the crash is the same model of bus in the 2013 crash, but it is the same make and from the same manufacturer.

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Crashworthiness federal mandate

John Manconi, the head of OC Transpo, said the city is not responsible for crashworthiness standards.

"With respect to the crashworthiness piece, that is a federal, general mandate. That is not something we govern," he said. "The new double-decker buses do have bumpers on them. I don't know if that was one of the more current buses. And that was the designer who did that on their own."

He said the TSB report on the Fallowfield crash was clear the city maintained the double-decker buses well.   

"The TSB report was very crystal clear that there was no issue with the double-decker bus from a maintenance perspective and from OC Transpo's requirements," he said.

The TSB is only empowered to make recommendations following crashes. Transport Canada would have the ultimate say on putting new crashworthiness standards in place.

The TSB report pointed out that school buses must meet additional standards "such as increased body strength, rollover protection, reinforced joints, and an interior free of sharp edges. Such features are designed to improve accident survivability by absorbing or directing impact forces away from occupants."

Public transit buses do not have to meet these standards.

City buses have stringent requirements

Transport Canada said in a statement sent to CBC late Friday that city buses must meet standards, but there was no mention of how they would handle a crash. 

"City transit buses must meet a stringent set of requirements ... such as brake and accelerator control systems, mirrors and visibility systems, and emergency exit requirements," said spokesperson Marie-Anyk Côté in an email. 

She said they are always looking at ways to improve safety.  

"Transport Canada is working closely with all levels of government and industry partners on a number of road safety initiatives, such as adoption of collision avoidance technologies, regulations to improve motor vehicle safety, and measures to prevent driver distraction and fatigue."