Cootes in firing line as safety audit broadens

Public heat on Cootes and owner McAleese ramps up following this week’s deadly tanker fire

Cootes in firing line as safety audit broadens
Cootes in firing line as safety audit broadens
By Rob McKay | October 4, 2013

The public heat on Cootes Transport and its owner, McAleese Transport, following this week’s deadly tanker fire has ramped up while a government safety audit of the fleet widens to Victoria.

In what has become a public relations disaster for the group in the month before McAleese is expected to undertake a share float, New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell took to TV to express his dismay at reports Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) had found vehicles with serious prime mover and trailer brake defects.

"How anyone allows a truck in that condition to get on the road is beyond my imagination," O’Farrell says on Channel Ten news.

RMS also took to the screen put the focus on managerial oversight at Cootes.

"I would suggest that this company needs to have a good look at itself in relation to its maintenance regime," RMS General Manager of Compliance and Enforcement Paul Endycott says.

RMS has reportedly asked VicRoads to examine Cootes’ Victorian fleet, given that the firm’s significant operations there.

Fleet vehicles will continue to be checked at inspection stations at Wetherill Park, Botany and Carrington to ensure they meet all safety and mechanical compliance standards, an RMS spokeswoman says.

Details were awaited from VicRoads at deadline today.

The driver involved has been named as NSW man Shane Day who was hospitalised and who witnesses described as a hero.

The crash has put the spotlight on trucking firms’ self-assessing the roadworthiness of their rigs, with one union calling for the practice to be stopped.

The Public Service Association (PSA) of New South Wales wants an urgent State Government review the safety of outsourcing heavy vehicle checks.

Cootes is enrolled in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) in Victoria and is permitted to carry out its own vehicle accreditations to ensure they meet safety standards.

"The PSA calls on the NSW Government to immediately reinstate regular, scheduled government inspections of all heavy vehicles," senior industrial officer Ian Lambert says.

"Without independent, government oversight, we cannot have confidence in the safety of heavy vehicles on our roads.

"It’s hard to place faith in a model that has outsourced public safety functions without appropriate or regular inspection by Roads and Maritime Services vehicle inspectors."

While the ABC reports Transport Workers Union (TWU) Newcastle and Northern Sub-branch Secretary Mick Forbes expressing shock at the state of defective Cootes trucks and indicating that the union was unaware of the depth of the issue, TWU National Assistant Secretary Michael Kaine touched on the tragedy and took a broader view.

"Definitely a tragic accident," Kaine says.

"We hope the authorities do what they should do in each of these instances and go right to the top of the supply chain to see what pressures are on the company performing their work."

"We just think where particularly where the consequences are so tragic in instances such as these, you shouldn’t just stop at looking at the faults of a particular truck or the faults of a particular fleet, you should figure out what’s going on in that entire supply chain and make sure that there is safety throughout that."

"It’s absolutely tragic. It’s potentially another indication of the economic pressures on companies in the industry and the tragic consequences that can flow from that."

Operation Mona Vale

RMS has updated a breakdown of the inspection outcomes. By 7.30pm last night, 82 heavy vehicles had been intercepted. Overall, 165 notices were issued with 64 for major defects such as brake failures, steering and suspension faults. Five vehicles have been grounded.

Total number of heavy vehicles inspected: 82

Total number of defects: 165

Minor defects: 96

Major defects: 64

Vehicles grounded: 5.


Brakes: 140

Wheels/tyres: 65

Suspension: 73

Ancillary equipment/lights: 26

Oil/fuel leaks: 30

Body/chassis: 20

Steering: 13

Tow couplings: 18

Exhaust/noise: 5

Other: 7.

Issues uncovered

Inefficient brakes

Axle and suspension failures

Steering components defective

Engine/steering box oil leaks

Tread peeling from tyres

Broken engine mounts

Cracked exhaust pipes.

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