Nfld. & Labrador

Tougher school bus regulations promised by Christmas

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is promising tighter regulations to keep faulty school buses off the road, and to punish inspectors who break the law.

No worse than past years, says Eddie Joyce, but loopholes need closing

Service NL Minister Eddie Joyce is promising new regulations to improve school bus safety before the end of the year. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is promising tighter regulations to keep faulty school buses off the road, and to punish inspectors who break the law.

"Absolutely we will make changes to strengthen the regulations and the punishment," said Eddie Joyce, minister responsible for Service NL, on Tuesday.

"As of today there's 44 buses taken off the road," he said, adding that number is not as high as in some past years, in 2014 for example, when 74 buses were pulled.

Nonetheless, Joyce said regulatory changes are needed and his department is looking at that now, "to ensure that if there are buses breaking the rules and if there's mechanics or inspection stations breaking the rules we will try to strengthen the regulations to deter such activities."

44 school buses have been pulled off the road this fall because of problems found during inspections. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Closing the "loopholes" could mean stronger punishment for mechanics who are convicted of providing false inspection certificates, Joyce said.

Under existing regulations, a mechanic is prevented from working on school buses for nine months after a conviction, but he or she can inspect other vehicles.

Joyce said his department is looking at including all vehicles, and implementing a lifetime licence suspension for a second conviction.

Additional changes

Other changes contemplated include a crackdown on inspection sites, to prevent them from opening in another name.

Joyce said inspection results should also be put online, so the public can read them.

He disagreed though, that the system is broken. He said 95 per cent of buses are safe under a system where private inspections are done in the summer, and Service NL follow ups done after the school year starts.

Joyce said the inspections should all be finished by Friday. He said regulatory changes should be introduced before the legislature shuts for the Christmas break.

With files from Mark Quinn