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Hefty fine for Cootes

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In the wake of the tanker crash last year which led to the targeting, by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services, of the Cootes tanker fleet, a court has fined the company $525,000 for defect, mass and registration offences.


The crackdown on the fleet, with RMS officers going through the company’s compliance records and operation with a fine tooth comb, came after an accident in Mona Vale in October 2013. In the crash, two people were killed and the overturned tanker burned for many hours on a Sydney street and on TV news screens.


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Defective brakes were identified as the cause of the crash, prompting the grounding of the Cootes fleet and an RMS investigation. In the case, 255 separate offences were identified when the fleet were inspected in the weeks after the crash


“Hundreds of hours of inspections and investigations have gone into this compliance action against Cootes. Over the three phases of the compliance operations there were almost 1,000 inspections,” said Duncan Gay, NSW Roads and Freight Minister, commenting on the fine. “We have the toughest heavy vehicle enforcement and compliance regime in Australia and today’s action is a wake-up call to all transport operators, if you don’t meet our safety standards we will pursue you to the end of the road.


“The key in today’s case was that most of the trucks inspected were not registered in NSW. This brings into sharp focus the need for a national standard for truck inspections to ensure a more stringent regime is adopted across Australia, which I have personally called on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and National Transport Commission to establish.


“The most serious concerns in the fleet were for major brake and steering defects, for which the court has applied substantial penalties. Since our compliance operation began the company has spent $9 million on maintenance and reduced the size of its fleet, which is a good result for road safety in NSW.


“While the company is certainly headed in the right direction, Roads and Maritime is continuing to work with Cootes to ensure continued improvements in compliance and make sure vehicles operating on NSW roads are safe.”


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