SGI is pushing for more stringent regulations for municipal transit services in Saskatchewan in light of last year's fatal Regina Transit accident.

Barbara Supynuk was fatally injured in a bus crash Feb. 15, 2013.  A coroner's report recommended that municipal bus services be required to adhere more closely to the National Safety Code.

skpic cari donaldson

Cari Donaldson is SGI Assistant Vice-President of Licencing and Customer Services. (CBC)

Right now the rules apply to semi-trucks and bus lines that cross provincial boundaries, but not to municipal bus services in Saskatchewan. That means safety regulations are more demanding for vehicles hauling tomatoes than for some vehicles moving people. 

SGI says that should change. 

"There should be a higher standard of care with bus fleets, with those vehicles that are not hauling vegetables like you said but hauling passengers," Cari Donaldson, assistant vice-president of licensing and customer services at SGI, told CBC News in an interview. "That is a higher responsibility and there should be a higher standard of care."

A pattern of transit troubles in Regina

Recently, CBC's iTeam revealed that over the past three years Regina Transit buses have failed a series of audits by SGI. The most recent audit, in April 2013, found that all 15 buses inspected had safety-related problems. 

skpic bus regina transit

Regina Transit is responsible to inspect its own buses, in this facility, and ensure they meet national safety standards. (CBC)

SGI required that the city repair the buses, but it was unable to apply a penalty. 

"It's not currently a violation that they would have any sort of consequence or sanction for," Donaldson said.

SGI is revising these regulations for the first time since 1991. It will be recommending that Saskatchewan follow the lead of BC and Alberta and require all municipally run bus fleets, from a 10 passenger paratransit bus to a city bus fleet, be required to follow the National Safety Code. 

Donaldson said municipal buses were excluded because the National Safety Code was developed primarily for heavy trucks and motor coaches taking buses across provincial lines, and not for slower moving buses confined to cities and towns. But she says the code now represents best practices and should apply to all buses.

Changes will improve bus safety, SGI says

SGI says this will improve passenger safety by adding a whole new level of accountability.

"We'd be looking overall at their safety programs, looking at their driver records, looking at their accident history and their history of tickets." Donaldson said. "And we would have more avenues available to sanction fleets that were unsafe."

For example, SGI would have the ability to fine a municipal bus service, to order a full facility audit or, in extreme cases, deregister all vehicles in the fleet and order them off the road. 

In addition, Donaldson said bus services would be required to conduct daily inspections on every bus that carries passengers.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be a mechanic but it does have to be a trained person that would be able to identify those defects," she said.

Donaldson said SGI is just about ready to send the draft regulations to the responsible provincial minister for the government's consideration.

She said the enhanced responsibilities for SGI would not cost any extra money but could be accomplished using existing personnel.