TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA --- Canadian Standards Association (CSA), a leading developer of standards and codes, has published a standard for multi-functional activity buses (MFABs).

This is the first Canadian standard developed to provide voluntary requirements for the new proposed class of vehicle. MFABs are intended to be used as safer alternatives to vehicles that are not classified as school buses but are still used to transport groups of school-aged passengers to sporting events, community activities or other such educational or childcare facilities and outings.

"CSA has extensive expertise in developing national standards for school buses," said John Walter, vice president of standards development for CSA. "We have applied that same expertise to the new multi-functional activity bus standard. The intent was to develop a standard for a type of vehicle that is not classified as a school bus but that is still used to occasionally transport students to events and activities and therefore should be built to very similar standards for safety and construction."

The MFAB standard addresses construction requirements such as joint strength, crashworthiness, rollover protection, emergency exits, compartmentalization, and numerous safety features. The new standard does not include requirements for traffic and pedestrian control devices such as warning lamps or stop arms since these buses are not used for roadside pick-up and drop-off of passengers.

The CSA D270 Multi-functional activity buses standard was initially proposed in 2006 as members of the CSA Technical Committee (TC) responsible for school bus standards began seeing non-conforming vehicles, or those not classified or tested to school bus standards, being increasingly used for the transportation of students for school-related activities in Canada.

Currently, there are no Canadian federal regulations pertaining specifically to new non-conforming vehicles that can carry 11 or more persons and are sold for the purpose of transporting students to or from school or school-related events.

Following more than a thousand accidents in 10 years, American federal requirements now regulate that such vehicles are required to meet the same federal standards as school buses.

It will be at the discretion of Canadian provincial governments to determine whether they will adopt the new standard in whole or in part and how they will enforce the requirements. It will be up to interested manufacturers to generate sufficient test data to support a self-declaration that their vehicles meet the CSA D270-08 multi-functional activity buses standard. The vehicles could then be subject to inspection by regulators that recognize the MFAB class of vehicle to ensure they comply with any relevant legislation.

Of course, CSA school bus and MFAB standards alone cannot prevent accidents and they are not substitutes for thorough, ongoing and comprehensive safety training of drivers and monitoring of passengers. Road conditions, weather, vehicle maintenance, traffic laws, speed, driver fatigue and health, and other risk factors must also be taken into account when operating any vehicle, CSA pointed out.