Ottawa·BUS CRASH TRIAL

OC Transpo driver, supervisor grilled on brake training

Testimony from an OC Transpo driver and supervisor during the Westboro bus crash trial has raised questions about the consistency of training at Ottawa's transit agency, especially when it comes to emergency braking.

Defence questions whether Aissatou Diallo was properly trained on use of double-decker's emergency brake

Three passengers died and several more were injured when this double-decker OC Transpo bus struck a steel awning at Westboro station on the afternoon of Jan. 11, 2019. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Testimony from an OC Transpo driver and supervisor during the Westboro bus crash trial has raised questions about the consistency of training at Ottawa's transit agency, especially when it comes to emergency braking.

Aissatou Diallo, who was behind the wheel of the double-decker bus involved in the fatal 2019 collision, has pleaded not guilty to all 38 dangerous driving charges against her, including three counts of dangerous driving causing death.

On Wednesday, court heard from Allan Smith, the OC Transpo operator who had driven the same bus on the morning of Jan 11, 2019, the day of the collision.

During cross-examination, Smith was asked if he remembered being trained on emergency braking, including any exercises during which he had to deploy the vehicle's emergency brake.

Smith said he had no firm recollection, but said it may have been covered during class. He said he didn't remember ever deploying the emergency brake during training.

Smith, who has worked at OC Transpo since 2017 and drove transport trucks before that, already had an air brake endorsement on his licence, and said he was allowed to skip some of the training because of that.

Training checklist

The defence has raised questions about whether Diallo was ever shown the emergency hand brake on the double-decker.

On Wednesday, assistant Crown attorney Dallas Mack filed a double-decker training checklist that Diallo had signed on July 28, 2018, acknowledging she understood and had handled features of the bus including the hand brake.

This photo of the emergency brake lever, located to the left of the double-decker's steering wheel, was shown at the Westboro bus crash trial. (Trial Exhibit/Ontario Court of Justice)

During previous testimony, OC Transpo's training manager said he couldn't find any indication in Diallo's daily training records that she had received specific instruction in the use of the hand brake.

Lindsay Toll, OC Transpo's manager of training and education, told court drivers are instructed on emergency braking in their first two days of training. Both Toll and Christopher Chenier, another trainer who testified, said the training takes place at low speeds in controlled environments.

The defence has raised the findings of the 2020 auditor general's report on OC Transpo's new bus operator training, which concluded more standardized instruction was needed.

'No issues' with bus on morning shift

Smith, who drove double-decker 8155 during the 6-9 a.m. shift on Jan. 11, 2019, testified he'd found "no issues" with the vehicle during his pre-trip inspection. Diallo drove the same bus later that day.

Court heard that Smith had told police he found the brakes on the double-deckers sensitive and prone to locking, especially in icy conditions.

He added in court that he felt the brakes were less problematic by 2018, when OC Transpo began inspecting them every six months instead of annually, as instructed by Ministry of Transportation guidelines. 

Smith also told police that in his opinion, the Transitway speed limit between Tunney's Pasture and Westboro station, which increases to 90 km/h, is too high. In court, he said that stretch is too short for those speeds in most situations.

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