Transport Canada has told school districts in New Brunswick to outfit their multi-purpose vehicles with winter tires by the end of this week.
The federal agency acted after concluding an investigation into the safest tire options for 21-passenger buses used by many school districts for sports and extracurricular activities. Transport Canada undertook the investigation at the request of the New Brunswick Departments of Transportation and Education.
Provincial Transportation Minister Denis Landry said the province would act immediately to comply. “New Brunswick is making winter tires mandatory on these vehicles. I commend Transport Canada for working with us to help inform all jurisdictions on the safest tire configuration.”
According to CBC, the change came after a two-year battle with parents of several students from Bathurst High School who were killed in a highway crash involving a school van.
Mothers of three boys who died in the Jan. 12, 2008, van crash near Bathurst, N.B., had arranged to have the tire configurations currently used on activity buses in the province’s schools privately tested in Michigan.
The testing was to take place at Continental Tire’s test facility on Feb. 24. Continental volunteered its services.
"The new policy is based upon tests completed by Transport Canada that showed this was the safest option," said provinces transportation department in a news release.
“It’s great that we know that the children now have the proper tire configuration," Isabelle Hains, whose son Daniel died in the crash, told local media after the announcement. But she still complained that the decision took too long. “They delayed with us all the way through, since we started in October and the result is exactly what we said in the beginning," she said.
The province had previously argued that having winter tires on the rear axle and all-season tires on the front axle was the safest tire combination. Provincial transportation officials said they were following the advice of an independent consultant and two unnamed tire manufacturers.
There are 14 such multi-purpose vehicles being used for school activities in New Brunswick and the 28 new tires are expected to cost a total of $5,000.