Ottawa

Transport Canada orders study into black boxes for passenger buses

Three years after an Ottawa city bus collided with a passenger train, killing six people and injuring dozens more, the federal government is investigating whether it's possible and practical to develop a national standard for placing event data recorders, or "black boxes," on commercial vehicles.

Request for proposals comes after TSB report into Ottawa bus-train crash

The front of the double decker OC Transpo bus was sheared off during the Sept. 18, 2013 collision with a Via Rail train. Six people died and another 35 were injured. (TSB)

Three years after an Ottawa city bus collided with a passenger train, killing six people and injuring dozens more, the federal government is investigating whether it's possible and practical to develop a national standard for placing event data recorders, or "black boxes," on commercial vehicles.

The Sept. 18, 2013 collision between an OC Transpo commuter bus and a Via train happened at a rail crossing near Fallowfield Road and Woodroffe Avenue in Ottawa, with the collision shearing off the front end of the bus and derailing the train.

Six people on the bus, including the driver, were killed, and another 35 passengers were injured.

A Transportation Safety Board report following an investigation made a number of recommendations, including one to require commercial passenger buses to be equipped with dedicated, crashworthy, event data recorders to make it easier to understand the moments leading up to a collision.

RFP for review of black boxes

On Monday, Transport Canada, the federal department in charge of Canada's transportation policies, put forth a request for proposals for someone to study whether developing such a standard is feasible and report back.

The contractor, the RFP noted, will undertake "a thorough review" of what systems are currently available, current international standards and technical and scientific research on the accuracy, reliability and limitations of commercial event data recorders.

Transport Canada's motor vehicle safety division had noted that safety is a secondary benefit of event data recorders, and that it could be difficult to justify mandating their installation. Even if such standards were mandated, any new rules would only apply to new vehicles.

But in their request for proposal, Transport Canada noted that they are in uncharted territory when it comes to determining whether or not the event recorders would make a difference.

Lack of event recorder added months to TSB investigation

"There are no United States or United Nations safety regulations requiring event data recorders on large commercial vehicles of any type," the RFP states, also noting that "currently, motor vehicle safety has insufficient training to fully assess the usefulness of such devices and the ability to correctly read and analyze the data."

The TSB report into the Ottawa bus-train crash found that the lack of a black box on the bus added months to their investigation, and would have helped them more fully understand what happened in the crash.

The TSB report also noted that such black boxes could be used in conjunction with driver training to identify problems before accidents occur.

After the release of the report, TSB chair Kathy Fox had been critical of Transport Canada's lack of timelines for the development of event data recorder standards.

The request for proposals suggests the contractor conducting the study would have a little over a year to complete its final report.