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Cootes Transport truck driver Shane Day cleared of charges

Shane Day has been found not guilty of dangerous driving charges.


The truck driver behind the wheel of a fuel tanker that crashed and killed two people has been cleared of dangerous driving charges.

Jurors found Shane Day not guilty of two charges of dangerous driving causing death and the charge of driving causing serious injury.  

Day was behind the wheel of a Cootes Transport truck when it rolled at Mona Vale on Sydney’s northern beaches and burst into flames. The accident killed Peter Wern and Graham Holfreter and injured five others.

Day’s defence successfully argued the truck’s brakes were faulty and were the cause of the accident, as opposed to the prosecution which alleged Day drove too fast and ignored signs to use low gear.

The 2013 crash led to authorities in New South Wales and Victoria issuing thousands of dollars in fines against Cootes after investigations revealed defects throughout the company’s fleet.

The NSW Government also considered banning Cootes from operating on its roads.

The incident prompted Cootes’ parent company, McAleese, to implement a number of changes in the business to improve safety and modernise the fleet, and sparked a review of vehicle maintenance requirements.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has questioned why Day was prosecuted for the accident.  

“The driver carried the entire burden for an industry in crisis when facing these charges. Neither the transport company nor the client whose fuel he was carrying were in the dock over corners they cut which led to safety risks,” TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says.

“If someone is killed because a vehicle is not maintained properly or because the driver is pushed to work long hours then justice can only be served when those responsible are held to account.”

The TWU blames companies high up the transport supply chain for many of the ills afflicting trucking operators. It claims major retailers and manufacturers contracting work to transporters force down rates, leading to operators cutting corners to try and make a profit.

The union wants a national auditing, education and industrial rights fund established and for transport customers to pay for it. The TWU says the money should be used to ensure companies are meeting their safety obligations, to educate employers about their responsibilities, and train drivers on safety and their workplace rights.

“Responsibility for carnage on our roads needs to go all the way up the supply chain. Prosecutors, governments and regulators must look at the chain of responsibility (COR) laws and ensure they are capable of holding those ultimately to blame for the daily tragedies to account,” Sheldon says.

COR, which holds all parties in the supply chain accountable for making sure freight is delivered safely and legally, is due to extend to cover vehicle maintenance.

At the moment, businesses and individuals can be held liable if a truck driver is caught speeding, breaching fatigue management laws or behind the wheel of a vehicle that exceeds mass and dimension requirements.


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