Bus’s 'check engine' light on 103 times before crash
Jon Woodward, CTV Vancouver
Published Sunday, October 5, 2014 6:45PM PDT
Bus drivers complained of problems with a BC Transit bus’s engine more than 100 times in the year before it overheated and rolled backwards into cars and a house in Mission, according to records obtained by CTV News.
Residents say it was lucky that no one died in the August crash, and one woman injured that day is now calling for the bus company involved to get to the bottom of continued mechanical problems with the 16-year-old New Flyer bus’s engine – or retire the bus.
“Super scary. It should be totally taken off the road,” Christina Anderson told CTV News.
It was a hot day in August when bus #9843 was climbing the hill on Cade Barr St. The bus lost power and rolled down the hill, barely missing the Anderson family’s house, but destroying part of their hedge and fence.
“My mom and son were coming out of the door. 30 seconds later they could have been in the path of that bus,” Anderson said. She injured her leg fleeing as the bus approached. The Andersons are waiting for an ICBC settlement to fix about $5000 in damage on their property.
The B.C. Transit investigation showed two main problems that led to the accident: that the engine overheated and stopped, and that the driver did not properly apply the brakes until the bus had picked up significant speed going downhill.
“The fact is that the engine overheated and the result is it quit. The driver didn’t pull over as she probably should have,” said Bob Allen, the director of operations for First Canada ULC, the private company that operates the Mission bus network for B.C. Transit.
He said engineers had looked at electronic information stored within the bus to conclude the brakes weren’t applied right away.
“There was no brake application from when the engine quit until the bus stopped,” Allen said.
But the records obtained by CTV News through a freedom of information request show the bus also has a troubled history.
In August 2013, drivers noted that the “bus died.” In February, the engine stopped. In July, one driver noted that the “bus was slowing down (overheating)…front end shimmies and shakes around 55.” A mechanic found that the steering kingpin was worn and took the bus out of service.
Drivers record what they notice about their bus on every trip. They noticed the “low transmission fluid” light on 27 times in the year before the bus crashed. They noticed the “check engine” light on 103 times.
That’s a sign that the regular maintenance that First Canada is doing is not good enough, said bus drivers’ union president Nathan Woods.
“103 occurrences of the same check engine light coming on is appalling,” he said. “If it’s coming up more than 5 times in a year, that would be a time to take it out of service and find out if there is an underlying issue.”
Allen said that mechanics are checking into why that light was on so often, but says there’s no indication that the lights or the worn kingpin are connected to the overheated engine.
“It was purely an accident,” he said. “The buses are meticulously maintained. They are inspected every 5000 km.”
The driver is still off work but did not face any discipline. Mechanics have worked on the bus in a yard in Victoria and the bus is expected to return to the road soon, Allen said.