Transportation Safety Board criticized for
OTTAWA (CP) — For the second time in
three years, key players in Canada's transportation industry
have slammed the Transportation Safety Board for its stale
reports on major accidents.
"With only a few exceptions, everyone complained about
the length of time between an investigation and the
availability of the occurrence report," says a summary of a
survey of 125 experts.
"They felt that the information comes out too late to
be really useful to individual organizations and the industry
as a whole.
"Some deemed the timeliness to be totally unacceptable
given that there is no communication during the report writing
process until the release of the draft report."
The survey results were compiled in late February this
year by Sage Research Corp., which was hired by the board to
get feedback from industry experts. A copy was obtained after
a request under the Access to Information Act.
The poll mirrors another survey of 127 players carried
out in 2000 by Goldfarb Consultants.
"Recommendations on these reports when they are finally
delivered are not regarded as useful due to the fact that they
are either out of date or they have been implemented . . .
already," said the earlier survey.
The board's most famously delayed report was on the
Swissair crash of Sept. 2, 1998, which cost $56.8 million in
special funding to investigate.
The final document was released March 27 this year —
more than 4 1/2 years after the disaster that killed 229
But the board also has a massive backlog of other
files. At the end of August, there were 154 active
investigations, of which 74 were more than a year old.
The board's policy is to complete all but the most
complex investigations within a year. But the average
completion time is currently about one year and eight months.
"We recognize that timeliness is a factor," Terry
Burtch, director-general of investigation operations, said in
Since delivery of the latest survey, the board has
decided to spend $3.6 million and hire 13 more staff to eat
away at the backlog, Burtch said.
Even so, that money will cut the average time to
complete a report by three months by March 2005 — to one year
and five months, still a long way off from the target of one
The Sage survey suggested the board release interim
reports on investigations — which Burtch said the board has
rejected — and that it investigate more of the 4,000 incidents
reported each year.
The board has become highly selective in what it will
probe, restricting itself to about 90 incidents each year.
Previously, hundreds of files were opened annually, including
one on every accident in which someone was killed.
The board's new policy is to select only those
accidents where ``there's a good likelihood that (the
investigation) will be identifying safety deficiencies and
things we can use to advance transportation safety," said
"We will investigate those that we think will bear some
fruit," said Maury Hill, manager of macroanalysis. "We
certainly do a far more in-depth look these days."
Nevertheless, the board is reviewing how it chooses
which accidents are worth the time and money, Burtch said.
The board, created in 1990, currently has 249 staff and
an annual budget of $32.8 million.