09/30/2013 05:53 EDT | Updated 11/30/2013 05:12 EST

Bus drivers should have annual health checks, MPP urges

Drivers of Ontario’s city buses should have stricter rules for monitoring their health like those used for commercial airline pilots across Canada, according to the PC transportation critic.

Currently, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario requires bus drivers younger than 46 years old to submit a medical report every five years to maintain their Class “C” licence. If drivers are older than 46, they have to submit the report every three years.

Doctors must also notify the ministry immediately if there is a significant change to a driver's health, such as a heart condition.

Transport Canada stipulates commercial airline pilots have medical checks each year if they are 40 or younger, and every six months if they are older than 40.

“To me there is not a great deal of difference between what a commercial airline pilot does and what a bus driver does every day,” said MPP Frank Klees, who was also the province’s transportation minister for a short time in 2003.

“I think the Ministry of Transportation here in the province of Ontario would do well to implement a parallel set of requirements."

Bus crash ignites debate on drivers' health

The issue of bus drivers’ health has been the focus of some debate after it was learned the driver of OC Transpo Route 76, which crashed into a Via Rail passenger train on Sept. 18, had been prescribed medication to treat a less severe form of diabetes.

The crash killed six people including the driver, 45-year-old Dave Woodard, and five of his passengers: Kyle Nash and Connor Boyd, both 21; Michael Bleakney, 57; Rob More, 35; and Karen Krzyzewski, 53.

But investigators have not linked Woodard’s health to the crash and it could be months before the public hears about possible factors in the crash.

In Ottawa, OC Transpo verifies bus drivers' licences regularly, but it does not conduct separate medical checks. Klees said no matter what investigators find after the bus crash, city bus drivers across Ontario should be monitored more carefully.

Craig Watson, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 279, agrees with Klees. 

"There is the cost of the time, the effort and the monetary cost of the doctors, which is not covered by OHIP,” Watson said.

“But if it's another safety consideration that the Ontario government would consider … we're all about safety."