ARCHIVED — Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Bumpers)

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Vol. 142, No. 12 — March 22, 2008

Statutory authority

Motor Vehicle Safety Act

Sponsoring department

Deparment of Transport


(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)

Issue and objectives

The proposed amendment to section 215 of Schedule IV of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (see footnote 1) would modify the Canadian safety standard for bumpers via incorporation by reference of similar safety standards from the United States and Europe. This would have the effect of aligning the testing speeds with those of Europe and the United States and provide manufacturers the option of meeting the European safety requirements or the safety and no damage provisions of the United States. This proposed amendment would result in one consistent set of globally regulated test speed requirements for the design of bumpers, which would simplify the task of designing bumpers for vehicles destined for North American and European markets. This proposal would also facilitate the introduction in Canada of the impending Global Technical Regulation for pedestrian safety, being developed under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission of Europe (UN/ECE).

Description and rationale

Canada and the United States introduced safety standards for bumpers in the early 1970s. When the Canadian and the U.S. regulations were originally introduced, they were harmonized with a test speed of 5 mph (8 km/h) for front and rear impacts and 3 mph (4.8 km/h) for corner impact tests. However, in 1979, the United States added more stringent requirements that included cosmetic damage criteria, while maintaining the (harmonized) test speed and the original safety components damage protection requirements. In 1982, the United States reduced the speed requirements to 2.5 mph (4 km/h) for front and rear impacts and 1.5 mph (2.4 km/h) for corner impacts, and maintained their cosmetic and safety damage requirements.

In 1983, when the Canadian government proposed an amendment to harmonize the test speeds with those of the U.S. requirements (i.e. 4 and 2.4 km/h), many Canadian stakeholders, such as the public, provincial and territorial governments, media and the insurance industry, were against the proposed test speed reduction. As a result, the harmonization of test speed requirements was not pursued; thus for the past 26 years Canada has had a unique higher speed bumper test requirement for passenger cars.

This higher speed has resulted in some vehicle models not being available to Canadian consumers. In addition, in this period there have been some vehicles sold at the retail level in the United States that have been inadmissible for importation into Canada as they have not met the Canadian bumper requirements.

Manufacturers are presently more concerned with the ability to design vehicles capable of concomitantly meeting the unique higher Canadian test speeds and future pedestrian safety requirements that are being developed internationally, rather than the limitation of vehicle models available on the Canadian market. The Global Technical Regulation is aimed at reducing pedestrian fatalities by requiring that the front upper portion of vehicles be designed to reduce head contact forces when a pedestrian strikes the vehicle. This is accomplished by providing space between the vehicle exterior parts, such as the hood and upper fenders, and the solid structure of the vehicle, such as the motor or frame. In addition to reducing head injuries, the Global Technical Regulation on pedestrian safety will require that the bumpers of vehicles be designed to reduce lower leg injuries.

Manufacturers have strongly noted that a conflict exists in meeting the requirements of the three existing world regulations, ECE regulation number 42, Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 215, and Part 581, Title 49 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations. As the European and Canadian requirements are aimed at improving safety, the intention at the time of introduction of the requirements was to protect the safety equipment of the vehicle, such as the lights, from damage in a low speed collision. The intention of the current U.S. bumper standard is to reduce damage to the bumper system and thus provide American consumers with a lower bumper damage replacement and repair cost, while also maintaining the integrity of the safety systems. Manufacturers have noted that from a design standpoint, there is a conflict between meeting the no damage requirement of the United States, the higher test speed in Canada with no damage to the safety systems and the need for bumpers to be designed to meet impending pedestrian safety requirements. Manufacturers have indicated that it will not be possible to meet all three requirements at once. Further, they have suggested that they would be able to meet the U.S. lower speed and no damage requirements and the pedestrian safety requirements with one design.

This proposal would have a positive impact on international trade as the Canadian requirement for bumper testing would be amended to be the same as the requirements in Europe and in the United States. This amendment would assist Canada with its obligation under the Global Agreement made under the auspices of the UN/ECE. Canada’s commitment to review the Canadian bumper test speed requirements was noted in the summary document of the Global Technical Regulation working group on pedestrian safety that is available at the following site:

It is important to note that the design of the bumper systems and the percentage of passenger cars sold in Canada have changed significantly since the introduction of the bumper requirement in the early 1970s. In 1970, almost 83% of the vehicles sold were classified as passenger cars. Today, that percentage has dropped to less than 52% because of the consumer demand for trucks and multi-purpose passenger vehicles, which are not subject to the bumper requirements. In the intervening years, vehicle designs have also significantly changed. Vehicle designs in the 1970s frequently included metal bumpers with simple replacement of sealed beam headlamps. In comparison current designs usually include hidden bumper protection systems with moulded plastic covers and integral unique headlamps designs.

In the 1970s, the Government estimated that there would be a very small reduction in fatalities and injuries as a result of the benefit that people would no longer continue to drive a vehicle with damaged non-functioning lights following a small collision. The intention was for this requirement to result in vehicle designs where lighting and similar safety systems would be protected in a low-speed collision so that they would remain functional should the vehicle owner continue to drive a damaged vehicle. Today, several factors may alter this conclusion, such as the significant increase in sales of trucks and multi-purpose passenger vehicles (almost 500% increase), the significant design changes in bumpers and lighting systems in the past 35 years and the requirement of most police forces to have vehicles towed away from even minor collisions. It is now impossible to determine if the unique Canadian test speed requirement of 8 km/h provides any safety benefit. As there are over 370 pedestrian fatalities per year (a significant portion of the 2 900 fatalities per year on Canadian roads), it is proposed that it is time to refocus road safety efforts away from a higher speed test requirement that protects the vehicle safety systems, to facilitating future pedestrian safety designs. Pedestrian fatalities have remained stagnant since 2001, despite Canada’s national Road Safety Vision 2010 target of a 30% reduction for vulnerable road users. Further information is available in the Road Safety Vision 2010 Mid-Term Review report, viewable at the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators Web site and in the Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics, viewable at

It is understood that making the front of a vehicle softer to protect pedestrians could result in some additional repair costs, especially considering that most low-speed collisions involve rear-ending other vehicles, such as in bumper-to-bumper traffic. This would have an impact on the insurance industry and, in turn, the consumer. In 2007, the U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a new (non-regulatory) bumper test protocol to better mimic the performance of a car bumper and to assess under- and override during vehicle-to-vehicle low-speed crashes for all classes of light duty vehicles, with the focus being on damageability and cost of repairs. The impact speed for front and rear full-width impacts is 9.6 km/h and the corner impacts are tested at 4.8 km/h.

This proposed amendment would better serve a greater proportion of the public, as it would facilitate the enhancement in safety for pedestrians without reducing the safety of passenger cars. As the IIHS widely publicizes the results of their test program, Canadian consumers will be able to take advantage of this consumer information as part of their decision-making when purchasing a new vehicle.

Strategic environmental assessment

Under the Government’s Strategic Environmental Assessment policy, a preliminary evaluation of the possible effects of the proposed regulation was carried out. It was determined that the proposed regulation would have no impact on the environment.


The intention to review the bumper requirements was announced in the Department of Transport’s Regulatory Plan, which is widely distributed to interested stakeholders, either directly or through various associations on a quarterly basis. A notice of intent was also published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on October 13, 2007, requesting input regarding various options to amend the Canadian bumper requirements. This notice provided until December 31, 2007, for stakeholders to comment on potential solutions to resolve the issue of the unique Canadian bumper test requirement. Six different options were identified in the notice. Comments were received from three different stakeholder groups, namely Canadian consumers, vehicle manufacturers and their associations, and vehicle insurance organizations.

Many Canadian consumers wrote expressing their desire for the Canadian government to harmonize the test speed requirements with those of the United States, indicating that they did not see any safety benefit to the higher Canadian test speed requirement. The current unique Canadian requirements have resulted in some vehicle models from the United States being inadmissible for importation into Canada. Many Canadian consumers noted that this restriction not only limits their choice but also increases the Canadian price of some specialized vehicle models that are sold in limited numbers in Canada. In other instances, consumers noted a concern with what they perceive to be an excessive cost to modify conditionally admissible vehicles to satisfy the Canadian requirements. This occurs in situations where manufacturers allow for the U.S. bumper systems to be modified to meet the Canadian bumper requirements for the purpose of importation. This modification can often cost several thousands of dollars. One consumer group included a petition requesting the harmonization of test speed requirements, which was supported by about 1 400 Canadians.

Given the strength of the Canadian dollar in late 2007, the importation of vehicles from the United States was at an all-time high and the non-harmonization of bumper test speed requirements resulted in additional concerns with vehicles being blocked from importation. The press and many Canadian consumers indicated their expectation to be able to purchase the same vehicle in the United States as they can in Canada at a similar price. Almost 190 000 vehicles of all classes, less than 15 years old, were imported from the United States in 2007.

Manufacturers indicated that harmonizing the test speed will reduce the design, testing, certification and manufacturing costs, reduce vehicle mass, improve fuel economy as a result of the reduction in mass and improvement in aerodynamics, and will increase vehicle model availability in Canada.

Two negative representations were received following the publication of the notice, from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and from the IIHS. Both of these submissions included the request for the Canadian government to maintain the higher test speed. They also noted in qualitative terms that insurance costs would increase if the Canadian requirements were aligned with the U.S. and European test speeds. The IIHS also noted that the bumper designs of many vehicles manufactured for the United States are significantly influenced by the current Canadian requirements. That is, for models that are currently sold in both countries, U.S. customers often automatically benefit from the Canadian standard’s higher level of protection, since manufacturers tend to build to one design, which encompasses both national requirements.

Both representations noted the existence of a voluntary bumper test program developed by the Research Council for Automotive Repairs (RCAR) and that many current model vehicles do not perform well in this test protocol (i.e. requiring the bumper system to be tested at 9.5 to 10.5 km/h). Both the ICBC and IIHS noted concern that the design of bumpers may degrade and vehicles may perform worse in the RCAR tests if the higher Canadian test speed were dropped. They suggested that the Canadian bumper regulation should be expanded to include requirements for trucks and multi-purpose passenger vehicles instead of reducing the test speed for passenger cars.

While these comments suggested that the current regulation provides repair cost reduction and safety benefits and that Canada should wait until further scientific evidence is available before making a decision, they did not provide detailed, quantifiable evidence that safety would be compromised if the test speed requirements were harmonized with the United States and Europe.

Compliance and enforcement

Motor vehicle manufacturers and importers are responsible for ensuring that their products comply with the requirements of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations. The Department of Transport monitors 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 defect in a vehicle or equipment is identified, the manufacturer or importer must issue a notice of defect to the owners and to the Minister of Transport. If a vehicle does not comply with a Canadian safety standard, the manufacturer or importer is liable to prosecution and, if found guilty, may be fined as prescribed in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.


For further information, please contact

Matthew Coons, P.Eng.
Senior Regulatory Development Officer
Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate
Transport Canada
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N5
Telephone: 613-998-1961
Fax: 613-990-2913


Notice is hereby given, pursuant to subsection 11(3) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (see footnote a), that the Governor in Council, pursuant to section 5 (see footnote b) and subsection 11(1) of that Act, proposes to make the annexed Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Bumpers).

Interested persons may make representations with respect to the proposed Regulations to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities within 30 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 Matthew Coons, Senior Regulatory Development Engineer, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate, Department of Transport, Place de Ville, Tower C, 8th Floor, 330 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N5 (tel.: 613-998-1961; fax: 613-990-2913; e-mail:

Ottawa, March 11, 2008

Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council



1. Section 215 of Schedule IV to the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (see footnote 2) is replaced by the following:

215. A passenger car shall be equipped with bumpers that conform to either

(a) the requirements set out in paragraph 6, and the low-speed-impact test procedure set out in Annex 3, except for paragraph 4 of that Annex, of ECE Regulation No. 42, Uniform Provisions Concerning the Approval of Vehicles with regard to Their Front and Rear Protective Devices (Bumpers, etc.), in the version dated June 12, 2007, as amended after that date by any amendment in the 00 series of amendments; or

(b) the requirements, conditions and test procedures that are set out in title 49, part 581 of the Code of Federal Regulations of the United States (revised as of October 1, 2006).


2. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.


Footnote 1
 C.R.C., c. 1038

Footnote a
 S.C. 1993, c. 16

Footnote b
 S.C. 1999, c. 33, s. 351

Footnote 2
 C.R.C., c. 1038