Pressure builds for Cootes, but not up the chain

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.