A perfect storm of bad weather, articulated buses that struggled up hills and an ill-timed loss of data made for a nightmare day for OC Transpo Wednesday, when more than 200 vehicles were delayed.
More than 60 buses, many of them articulated buses, became stuck or were involved in collisions on Wednesday, leading to delays for other buses stuck in a queue waiting for the road to be cleared.
The incidents led to questions Thursday to OC Transpo general manager John Manconi about how to make the buses handle better in wet, slippery conditions.
Manconi said OC Transpo buses do not use snow tires because there aren't any to be had. In 2007 the transit agency hired a third party to find better tires, without any luck, he said. The transit agency is currently piloting three different treads for existing tires, he said.
Gatineau's bus fleet doesn't use snow tires either — Quebec's snow tires requirement applies only to vehicles weighing less than 4,500 kg.
Articulated buses may have fared worse with tires with more traction, said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 head Craig Watson.
The drive wheels for the buses are at the back, said Watson, and when those wheels are pushing articulated buses up a hill with any kind of bend, the bus may jackknife, he said.
OC Transpo's issues were exacerbated when a contractor accidentally cut a data cable that caused the GPS tracking system on the buses to fail, making it difficult to know how severe the delays were.