Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 151, Number 11: Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Bus Seat Belts)

March 18, 2017


(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)


Fortunately, severe highway bus collisions are rare events. Unfortunately, when they do occur, they have the potential to result in a large number of injuries and fatalities. Also, occupants are at risk of ejection in collisions where a bus rolls over. Statistics reveal that the majority of bus occupant fatalities occur in rollover collisions.

School buses are the safest form of child transportation. Canada currently has no requirements for seat belts on any size of school bus. Therefore, there is no means of ensuring that seat belts optionally installed on school buses are installed correctly. In addition, the aftermarket installation of seat belts on existing school bus seats has the potential to compromise the safety afforded by compartmentalization. Further, as there are currently no federal requirements for seat belt installation on school buses, lap-only seat belts can be installed. In certain collisions, lap-only belts can increase injury risk compared to existing compartmentalization features.

In addition, unrelated to the bus seat belt issues, there are redundant requirements in the fuel system integrity and electrolyte spillage and electrical shock protection standards that need to be addressed.


Currently, all buses must have a seat belt (lap, or lap/shoulder belt) in the driver's position. In addition, buses under 4 536 kg gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), except school buses, must have lap/shoulder belts in all passenger positions. Unlike for school buses, which have other extensive occupant protection requirements called compartmentalization, there are no current federal requirements in Canada for passenger protection for newly built, non school buses having a GVWR above 4 536 kg.

Large buses

On November 25, 2013, the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a final rule that requires lap and shoulder seat belts to be installed in all passenger seating positions on certain new buses. This seat belt requirement applies to “over-the-road” buses (a bus with an elevated passenger deck located above a baggage compartment) of any GVWR, as well as any bus over 11 793 kg GVWR, other than a perimeter-seating bus, transit bus, or school bus. The effective date of this final rule was November 28, 2016.

The NHTSA Final Rule indicates that the United States Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), intends to propose a regulation to require large buses, manufactured after the NHTSA's entry-into-force date, that cross state or international borders to have seat belts. This would effectively require all Canadian carriers that operate their vehicles in the United States to meet the NHTSA seat belt requirements.

Medium buses

The NHTSA Final Rule excludes non over-the-road buses under 11 793 kg GVWR, as 88% of the U.S. bus fatalities resulted from collisions involving large intercity buses above this weight threshold. Therefore, in the United States, many medium-sized buses between 4 536 kg and 11 793 kg will not be required to have seat belts.

The NHTSA received several comments in favour of lowering the GVWR limit to 4 536 kg to include medium buses, due to their increasing use in intercity charter and tour bus applications and their similar design to large intercity buses. In the final rule, the NHTSA stated that expanding the rulemaking to include medium buses would delay the final rule and the associated benefits for large intercity buses; it indicated that it may further consider the issue of mandatory installation of seat belts on medium buses in the future.

School buses

School bus travel continues to be the safest means for transporting children to and from school. From 1999 to 2008, only an estimated 1% of all school-age child fatalities that occurred during normal school transportation were in school buses. There have been no school age child fatalities on a school bus in Canada since 2008. The majority of child fatalities, 67%, occurred in light duty personal vehicle accidents. Statistics also show that children are over 16 times more likely to be killed walking to school when compared to taking a school bus.

This safety record is partially due to occupant protection features that have been required on school buses since the 1970s. School buses have unique roof strength, body joint strength and compartmentalization requirements. Compartmentalization, through requirements for high back padded seats that are closely spaced together, protects occupants without the need for seat belts.

The United States introduced mandatory installation requirement for seat belts in small school buses (under 4 536 kg) in the late 1970s. The original rule required lap/shoulder belts in positions next to the vehicle side structure but allowed lap-only seat belts in all in-board seating positions.

In the fall of 2008, the United States published a final rule mandating lap/shoulder seat belts in all seating positions of small school buses and introduced seat belt strength and installation requirements for the cases when lap-only or lap and shoulder seat belts are installed voluntarily in large school buses. These requirements include both seat belt anchorage attachment strength and belt webbing strength, to ensure they function properly in the event of a collision. The final rule also increased the seat back height from 508 mm to 610 mm above the seating reference point to increase the effectiveness of compartmentalization for taller occupants.

In the summer of 2011, the United States published a report on the implications of mandating the installation of seat belts on large school buses. School bus procurement budgets are limited and it was found that the increased cost of the mandatory installation of seat belts would result in fewer school bus purchases. This would lead to fewer children being transported in school buses, placing school children at greater risk of injury and fatality from the use of other modes of transportation.


The objective of this proposal is to amend sections 208, 210, and 222 of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR) to address seat belts on various bus types with the aim of improving bus occupant safety and maintaining alignment with the United States where possible.

It is expected that seat belts will improve bus occupant safety in severe bus collisions, especially in rollovers. In addition, introducing requirements for seat belts that are optionally installed on school buses would ensure that lap-only seat belts cannot be installed and that all seat belts that are optionally installed are installed correctly.

Finally, this proposal would remove redundant requirements from section 305 of the MVSR.


The proposed amendment would modify section 2 and Schedule IV of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations by revising five Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). It is proposed that these requirements come into force on the date of publication in the Canada Gazette.

“One-for-One” Rule

The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to this proposal, as there is no expected change in administrative costs to business.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as there are no significant costs to small business.


The Department of Transport (the Department) informs the automotive industry, public safety organizations, and the general public when changes are planned to the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations. This is done, in part, through the quarterly distribution of Transport Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Regulatory Plan. This gives interested parties the opportunity to comment on the changes by letter or email. The Department also consults regularly, in face-to-face meetings or teleconferences, with the automotive industry, public safety organizations, the provinces, and the territories.

The Department also meets regularly with the federal authorities of other countries. Aligned regulations are central to trade and to a competitive Canadian automotive industry. The Department and the United States Department of Transportation hold semi-annual meetings to discuss issues of mutual importance and planned regulatory changes.

Transport Canada meets face-to-face with the two automotive manufacturing associations (Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association and Global Automakers of Canada) three times a year to discuss current regulations and future regulatory planning. No opposition has been expressed by either of the associations during these meetings.

Motor Coach Canada (MCC), an association representing more than 200 motor coach tour operators and bus line operators, has lobbied Transport Canada to mandate seat belts on motor coaches. In a letter dated December 10, 2013, MCC expressed the position that Transport Canada should implement requirements for seat belts on new motor coaches and other large buses, similar to those in the U.S. final rule. It believes that seat belts would improve bus safety, especially in rollover-type crashes. MCC has written to Transport Canada representatives to support the regulatory initiative as recently as July 2015. In the most recent correspondence, it has specifically mentioned that mandatory seat belt requirements should be extended beyond motor coaches to include all buses, of any size, excluding transit and school buses.

During the meeting of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) in November 2012, Transport Canada presented information regarding the current status of bus safety in Canada, and requested feedback on the challenges and timelines required by the provincial and territorial jurisdictions should Transport Canada move forward with this proposal. Several provinces expressed general support for the proposal, but noted that they would need to review their current seat belt requirements and consult with industry.

Transport Canada has afforded provincial and territorial stakeholders the ability to consult on potential concerns by continuing to update the CCMTA on work related to seat belts on buses. The most recent update took place at the fall 2015 general meeting at which provincial stakeholders were informed that work on the regulatory package had commenced. No new comments or concerns have been received.

In November 2012, a presentation similar to the one made to the CCMTA was made to the Canadian Standards Association CSA D-250 school bus committee. The committee, consisting of provincial, federal, and industry members, is responsible for the CSA D-250 school bus construction standard referenced in most provincial legislation. It is fully expected that the committee will support the initiative, and upon completion of the Regulations, it will commence work to insert references to the requirements in the next version of the CSA D-250 standard. This would ensure that seat belts could not be retrofitted to existing school bus seats and that lap-only seat belts are not installed.


The proposal is expected to result in minimal cost increases and no increase in the regulatory burden, as manufacturers already provide the option of purchasing buses equipped with seat belts across the entire spectrum of bus types.

The mandatory installation of lap/shoulder seat belts on medium and large buses will reduce the risk of ejection when rollovers occur and it will provide improved passenger safety in other collision scenarios. Based on the average annual number of bus occupant fatalities (1.7 in rollovers and 0.6 in other collisions) and using estimated seat belt effectiveness levels from the NHTSA final rule (77% in rollovers, 36% in other types of collisions), it is estimated that the mandatory installation of seat belts on buses could save an average of one to two lives per year.

The proposal would also further align bus safety requirements in North America. Seat belt installation and testing requirements would be closely aligned with current U.S. requirements.

Large buses

Bus line operators are already purchasing new buses equipped with seat belts. MCC has informed the Department that three-point seat belts are effectively standard equipment on all new motor coaches currently being purchased.

Medium buses

Medium buses can hold a similar number of occupants as coach buses. They can also have similar design features, such as coach-style seats and large windows that provide a means for ejection during a rollover. A majority of motor carrier operators who operate motor coaches also own and operate medium buses. Collision investigations have shown that occupants of medium buses are at similar risk of ejection in rollovers as occupants of large intercity buses.

School buses

Even though there is no seat belt installation standard for school buses in Canada, all school bus manufacturers already offer the option to equip school bus seats with seat belts that meet U.S. requirements. No new testing would need to be performed, as the proposed Canadian installation requirements would be harmonized with the U.S. requirements, and they would only apply in the case of voluntarily installed seat belts.

In addition to aligning the seat belt testing requirements, this proposal would align several other occupant protection requirements with FMVSS 222. The proposed increase in seat back height will already be effectively standard equipment in Canada, as it is expected to be required by the new CSA D-250 standard, School Buses, that was published in 2016. The proposed requirements for wheelchair anchorages only apply if they are installed on a school bus and all school bus manufacturers already provide optional equipment that meets the requirements.


This proposal would eliminate subsections 305(4) and(5) of Schedule IV of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations. These subsections were added during the time that crash test speeds in CMVSS 301 and CMVSS 305 were not harmonized. It allowed manufacturers to certify their vehicles to the CMVSS 301 higher crash test speeds, should they so desire. Now that TSD 305 incorporates by reference CMVSS 301 for the crash testing requirements, there is no longer a need to offer this option in CMVSS 305.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

Motor vehicle manufacturers and importers are responsible for ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and its regulations. The Department of Transport monitors the self-certification programs of manufacturers and importers by reviewing their test documentation, inspecting vehicles, and testing vehicles obtained in the open market. In addition, when a manufacturer or importer identifies a defect in a vehicle or equipment, it must issue a Notice of Defect to the owners and to the Minister of Transport. Any person or company that contravenes a provision of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act or its regulations is guilty of an offence, and liable to the applicable penalty set out in the Act.

It is proposed that this amendment come into effect upon publication in the Canada Gazette, Part II.


Kyle Hendershot
Senior Regulatory Development Engineer
Motor Vehicle Safety
Transport Canada
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N5

Please note: It is important that your comments be provided to the attention of the person noted above before the closing date. Submissions not sent directly to the person noted may not be considered as part of this regulatory proposal. An individual response to your submission will not be provided. The Canada Gazette, Part II, will contain any changes that are made resulting from comments received, along with a summary of relevant comments. Please indicate in your submission if you do not wish to be identified or if you do not wish to have your comments published in the Canada Gazette, Part II.


Notice is given that the Governor in Council, pursuant to subsections 5(1) (see footnote a) and 11(1) (see footnote b) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (see footnote c), proposes to make the annexed Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Bus Seat Belts).

Interested persons may make representations with respect to the proposed Regulations within 75 days after the date of publication of this notice. All such representations must be in writing and cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be sent to Kyle Hendershot, Senior Regulatory Development Engineer, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate, Department of Transport, 11th Floor, 330 Sparks Street, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0N5 (email:

Ottawa, March 9, 2017

Jurica Čapkun
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council

Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Bus Seat Belts)


1 Subsection 2(1) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (see footnote 1) is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:

prison bus means a bus that is specially designed for the purpose of transporting inmates. (autobus pénitentiaire)

2 Subsection 2.4(5) the Regulations is replaced by the following:

(5) The number of designated seating positions in a bench type seat in a school bus shall be the number of seating positions determined in accordance with Technical Standards Document No. 222, School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection.

3 (1) The portion of subsection 208(5) of Part III of Schedule IV to the Regulations before subparagraph (i) is replaced by the following:

(5) Every bus, other than a school bus, transit bus, perimeter-seating bus and prison bus, must be equipped

(2) Subsections 208(6) and (7) of Part III of Schedule IV to the Regulations are replaced by the following:

(6) Every school bus, transit bus, perimeter-seating bus and prison bus must be equipped, at the driver's designated seating position, with a Type 2 manual seat belt assembly that

(3) Subsection 208(26) of Part III of Schedule IV to the Regulations and the heading before it are repealed.

4 Section 210 of Part III of Schedule IV to the Regulations is replaced by the following:

210 (1) The following seat belt anchorages must be installed in a designated seating position in respect of which a seat belt assembly has been installed under section 208:

(2) The seat belt anchorages set out in subsection (1), the owner's manual for three-wheeled vehicles, passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, buses other than a school bus, and trucks with a GVWR of 4 536 kg or less, and all rear designated seating positions must conform to the requirements of Technical Standards Document No. 210, Seat Belt Anchorages (TSD 210), as amended from time to time.

(3) Only the strength test requirement set out in S4.2 of TSD 210 applies to enclosed motorcycles.

5 The portion of subsection 217(3) of Part III of Schedule IV to the Regulations before paragraph (a) is replaced by the following:

(3) Every bus, other than a school bus and a prison bus, must be provided with unobstructed openings for rapidly urgent egress, the combined areas of which, when measured

6 Section 222 of Part III of Schedule IV to the Regulations is replaced by the following:

222 (1) Every school bus must conform to the requirements of Technical Standards Document No. 222, School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection (TSD 222), as amended from time to time.

(2) If a school bus is equipped with a seat belt assembly at a rear designated seating position, the seat belt assembly must be Type 2 and it must conform to the requirements of TSD 222.

7 Subsections 305(4) and (5) of Part IV of Schedule IV to the Regulations are repealed.

Coming into Force

8 These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are published in the Canada Gazette, Part II.