Channel 7 went big on the raid by the Roads and Maritime Services on the Coles Smeaton Grange DC. There’s lots of talk of targeting specific company with the RMS’s, normally very diplomatic, Peter Wells specifically naming M and R Transport, Coles and Linfox.
From the point of view of the companies in the firing line, and the transport industry generally, it is not clear quite what the campaign is trying to achieve. The accident at Mona Vale last October set off a major campaign by the RMS against Cootes which was well publicised to ensure the NSW public knew the government were doing something about the deaths in a fireball on the roads of Sydney.
It would appear the events of late 2013 gave an opportunity for the RMS to reassert its reputation for going in hard on trucking companies who misbehave, as well as tie up loose ends on ongoing investigations. This is also happening at a point when the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is supposed to be taking over, nationally, the supervision of chain of responsibility and NHVAS investigations. Does this flexing of muscles have anything to do with sending a message to Brisbane, home of NHVR HQ?
In an announcement, the Minister for Roads in New South Wales, Duncan Gay has said he has ordered all Cootes petrol and gas tankers operating in the state to report for a full compliance inspection. This follows a number of incidents in recent weeks.
In spot checks on the Cootes fleet last week, with 35 inspections overall at Wetherill Park and Port Botany, a number of defects were found. According to the Roads and Maritime Services these checks resulted in 17 vehicles with major defects being ordered off the road for repairs.
“These random inspections uncovered significant failures,” said Gay. “This was in addition to two incidents involving Cootes vehicles late last week which presented major defects. While we acknowledge there have been some improvements in the fleet, it is simply not good enough that in some cases we have seen repairs that don’t meet our standards during a second or third check.
“Despite four months of ongoing work with Cootes and the parent company McAleese, I have ordered all their NSW tankers be subject to Roads and Maritime compliance checks yet again, just as we did immediately after the Mona Vale tragedy. This applies to all tankers that need to operate in NSW, not just the ones registered in NSW.
“I want to assure motorists we have been carrying out extensive inspections and random checks of this fleet since the tragic double fatality on Mona Vale road last October. RMS inspectors have carried out more than 450 checks of the Cootes fleet at inspection stations and on roadsides across the state to ensure compliance with roadworthiness standards.
“As the toughest inspection and enforcement regime in the country, we have taken every possible action including putting the head of the company and the Board of Directors on notice that they are responsible for the safety and roadworthiness of this fleet. NSW will exercise its powers within the full extent of the law to make our roads safe.”
The writing would appear to be on the wall for Cootes, and their owners McAleese, the pressure is unrelenting and the NSW government talks up the chain of responsibility. However, it is interesting to note the threats from Gay are only made to those within the McAleese fold. There is no mention of going further up the chain to see if undue pressure was put on the operation.
Public anxiety about fuel tankers may be assuaged by the unfolding events, but the anxiety on the part of the trucking industry, about the chain of responsibility only being used as a stick to beat transport companies continues.
Duncan Gay, NSW Roads Minister, was stating the bleeding obvious today when he talked about there being no tougher state than NSW when it comes to heavy vehicle enforcement and inspections. The statement comes in the wake of the ABC Four Corners program on Wednesday which focused around the Mona Vale crash last October to quite an extent.
“We have a heavy vehicle inspection force in its own right in NSW, with more than 280 front line inspectors and investigators,” said Gay. ”They carry out more than 3 million screenings through checking stations and more than 300,000 intercepts and detailed inspections each year. This is the largest and most comprehensive enforcement and compliance regime in the country.”
He went on to list all of the facilities both fixed and mobile used by the Roads and Maritime Services in their pursuit of truck offences. The minister was also keen to point out the Cootes tanker involved in the Mona Vale incident was not under the NSW scheme.
“The tragedy led NSW to successfully convince the national transport and infrastructure committee known as SCOTI to undertake work to improve the maintenance regime for heavy vehicles,” said Gay. “I was pleased to take the reforms to SCOTI on behalf of NSW and secure agreement for: a review of the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme to be led by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator; to bring forward the National Transport Commission’s scheduled review of heavy vehicle inspection regimes; and to expedite consideration of the introduction of mandatory requirements for electronic stability control on all new heavy vehicle trailers carrying dangerous goods.”
The NSW Minister brought up the chain of responsibility rules and their effectiveness in tackling mass, dimension, loading, speeding and fatigue offences but would not be drawn to include maintenance into the scope of COR. His advice seems to be suggesting the inspection and enforcement regime is being effective in preventing maintenance issues.