City of Prince Albert files lawsuit against bus supplier for not honoring warranties

·4 min read
One of the six transit buses that were recently acquired through First Bus Canada, the city’s local contractor, as Prince Albert faced a shortage of buses. (City of Prince Alber - image credit)
One of the six transit buses that were recently acquired through First Bus Canada, the city’s local contractor, as Prince Albert faced a shortage of buses. (City of Prince Alber - image credit)

The City of Prince Albert has launched a legal action against a bus supplier for failure to honour quality warranties.

Vicinity Motor Corp is the company responsible for the sale and warranties of the fleet of new transit buses that were delivered in 2019.

"Our action is falling on the warranty. These buses are still under warranty. We've launched a lawsuit to recover our costs, losses and damages," Mayor Greg Dionne said.

One year following the removal of seven buses from the streets after cracked frames were found, Dionne said a full fleet of replacement transit buses were promised through the warranty discussions.

However only three were delivered, two of which have suffered their own operational problems.

"It's been disappointing. They were supposed to supply us with a few more and then notified at the start of the year that they were unable to do so," he said.

"It was a devastating impact for us because when SGI found they were not safe to be on the road, in order to have buses off the road, that left us with no transit."

City of Prince Albert
City of Prince Albert

Dionne said the disruption meant many routes were regularly cancelled during the winter months.

The lawsuit seeks recovery of the purchase price of the seven buses, additional replacement costs for the purchase of a new fleet, reimbursement of costs for repairs and temporary replacement buses, and damages in compensation for the disruption caused to the city and its residents.

Dionne said after coordinating over a year that involved shipping a bus back to Vicinity's head office, no repair plan for when and how the entire fleet would get back into operation was submitted.

"The delay was very disappointing. We were shocked that we had an issue but we were even more shocked at the level of service from them because they're a good, reliable company."

Dionne said it was the right time to take legal action as there is an imminent need of more buses in fall.

City of Prince Albert
City of Prince Albert

He said six transit buses from First Bus Canada, the city's local contractor that operates the buses, are now in their possession.

Since those buses have recently arrived from the U.S., they are presently being prepared to meet the Canadian standards for transit and SGI certification. Three of the six buses are expected to be on the road in June.

"Now, we have six buses and three from Vicinity, so that gives us nine. We only have seven routes, so we can get back to normal and start supplying service to our residents."

City 'bears the weight of this responsibility': Vicinity CEO

In an email statement William Trainer, CEO of Vicinity Motor Corp., said that in 2018 they had a production of 150 units which included seven buses for Prince Albert.

"Upon researching each of the other 143 buses and consulting all the other transit authorities that have the same type of road conditions, none had experienced any of these same issues as Prince Albert. As a matter of fact they are all still running perfectly," Trainer said.

Submitted by William Trainer
Submitted by William Trainer

Trainer said "numerous engineers" inspected the Prince Albert buses.

"Each inspection came back stating that due to severe lack of maintenance, the steel on the buses rusted to such a degree that caused structural damage," he said.

"They show such incredible build up of salt and dirt that each bus could fill four to five 5 wheelbarrows full of caked on road debris."

Trainer said they have specific maintenance schedules and procedures that need to be followed for warranty claims. Their schedule includes washing, inspecting and reapplying undercoating when necessary.

He said that it is required by law to have a yearly inspection for the safety of the passengers and if any party refuses to follow their procedures as per the manual, the warranty is considered invalid.

"The unanimous consensus from all the engineers and professionals is that this happened due to severe lack of maintenance. The City of Prince Albert bears the weight of this responsibility," Trainer said.

"Had maintenance schedules been adhered to, this would not have occurred."

Dionne disagreed with the bus manufacturers' stance as he said they are not proceeding on the legal action based on corrosion, but the "structure that held the bus as the steel cracked."

He also said that the city is not involved in the maintenance of the buses and it is contracted to First Bus.

"In their manual for maintenance, our contractors were told to pressure wash the bus once a year. Once they realized there was a buildup of salt and dirt, they changed it to twice a year," Dionne said.

"I find their argument pretty weak. That's why we will have to leave it up to the court to decide who is right and wrong."

Trainer said they tried to work with the city and their maintenance provider to find workable solutions.

"But obviously they are looking to put the cost of repairs on somebody and we cannot accept that. All we can do is state the facts, I assume the rest will work its way in court," Trainer said.

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