SGI audits obtained by CBC's iTeam identify a history of serious safety problems with Regina's transit buses.
Those documents reveal that safety problems continued even after a fatal accident involving a city bus with brake problems.
SGI has imposed a host of changes on the city's bus service due to "serious shortcomings of the City of Regina's transit fleet preventative maintenance program."
Audits find a pattern of safety problems
In an April 2013 letter to the city, SGI outlines the history of Regina's "ongoing problems." It says in 2010, SGI audited 37 buses and placed 19 of them out-of-service "due to excessive structural corrosion."
In 2012, 13 buses were audited and seven "exhibited out-of-service failures," meaning safety problems that had to be fixed before the bus could be put back out on the road. Then in January 2013 SGI inspected 10 buses. Nine were placed into "restricted service for various safety defects" and one bus was placed out-of-service because of structural corrosion. The 2012 and 2013 audits highlight a range of safety concerns including leaking fuel tanks, defects with steering systems, and problems with emergency exits, tires or brakes.
SGI points out that it is Regina Transit's obligation to self-inspect and ensure that its buses meet national and provincial safety standards at all times. In that April letter SGI warned that if these concerns were not addressed, "Regina Transit risks decertification."
Fatal bus crash flagged maintenance concerns
On Feb. 15, 2013, a Regina Transit bus veered off the road and hit a sign which fell on Barbara Supynuk's head. The 50-year-old woman died from her injuries just over a month later. Subsequent investigations by SGI, the Regina Police Service and the coroner raised a number of concerns about the braking system of Bus 548, which was involved in the accident.
And it's not just authorities who raised concerns.
The coroner points out that in the six weeks leading up to the accident, bus drivers filed 11 vehicle defect reports about Bus 548. Five of those reports raised issues with the brakes.
Regina's Deputy City Manager, Brent Sjoberg, was asked about the brakes in September 2013, immediately after Regina Police fined the city for faulty brakes, but prior to the coroner's report.
At the time Sjoberg argued that "the brakes were not the cause or a contributing factor to the accident," though he acknowledged that "the brake drums were ready to be replaced." The coroner deemed the death to be an accident.
When asked recently about the coroner's conclusions about the brakes on Bus 548, Sjoberg explained that he can't answer because the matter is before the courts. The family of Barbara Supynuk launched a lawsuit against the City of Regina on Feb. 18, 2014.
Problems continued after fatal accident
Immediately after the Feb. 15, 2013 accident SGI temporarily suspended the city's authority to self-inspect its bus fleet. SGI conditionally reinstated that authority on March 25, 2013, the day that Supynuk succumbed to her injuries and died. Less than a month later SGI conducted yet another audit on city buses and found additional safety concerns.
A June 7, 2013 letter to the city says "The results of their [SGI inspectors] finding indicate that all 15 buses inspected failed to comply with the national safety standards." All of the buses had "mechanical and structural defects of varying degrees of severity."
SGI expressed particular concern about two of those buses which had out-of-service defects "rendering the vehicles unfit for passenger transportation." And SGI points out that all 15 of those buses were being used to transport Regina Transit customers immediately prior to the inspection.
SGI imposes changes on Regina Transit
In light of Regina Transit's history of non-compliance, SGI is now requiring the bus service to adopt and follow a series of new procedures. Regina is now obligated to conduct more frequent inspections of its buses and provide quarterly updates to SGI detailing its preventative maintenance work.
In a written statement to CBC, SGI says the city of Regina has adopted the new approaches it has required.
"These changes address the concerns SGI had regarding Regina Transit’s preventative maintenance program," the statement says. SGI points out that it is continuing to monitor progress and is planning another audit in April.
City of Regina says 'safety is paramount'
When asked about SGI's concerns, Sjoberg responded, "I can't speak to SGI's view of the world. What I can speak to is what we've done and what our program entails."
Sjoberg says the city has invested in more staff training and has strengthened the ongoing inspection system. And, Sjoberg insists, despite the history of problems, "We have practices in place where our operators are addressing issues. They're corrected before they're put back out on the street."
Sjoberg says one of the problems is that the city has been dealing with an aging fleet of buses.
"We're dealing with mechanical equipment," he said. "It's going to break down from time to time."
Right now, of the 103 buses in service in Regina, 17 of them are 15 years old or older. Sjoberg says the city is spending millions over two years to buy new buses: 18 in 2013 and 15 more in 2014.
"We are not standing still on this. We are not ignoring this by any stretch. It's actually the opposite," he said. "It's really helped us put additional focus, work with staff and others to find out how we can continue to get better."