NSW authorities probe Cootes compliance


Tanker firm cooperating with inspections following the deadly and spectacular incident on Mona Vale Road

NSW authorities probe Cootes compliance
NSW authorities probe Cootes compliance

By Rob McKay | October 3, 2013

New South Wales authorities are putting fuel tanker firm Cootes through the wringer following the deadly and spectacular incident on Mona Vale Road on Tuesday.

Two men died and five were injured including the driver in the fiery incident.

"We have been in contact with our driver and his family to provide assistance and support," a spokeswoman for Cootes parent firm McAleese Transport says.

"Our driver remains in hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

"We continue to assist authorities with the clean-up.

"The relevant authorities are investigating the incident and we are cooperating fully with those investigations."

Assistant Commissioner John Hartley of Traffic and Highway Patrol Command says the investigation into the crash is complex and will take some time.

He reiterates that police need all witnesses to get in contact.

"Police are looking at the possibility of mechanical failure or driver error as a cause, however, the investigation is expected to take a couple of weeks," Hartley says.

Police and Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) officers have undertaken an "audit" of Cootes trucks at Wetherill Park, Botany and Carrington heavy vehicle inspection stations, with 80 trucks in their sights.

By 8.30am today, 55 have been intercepted with 90 defects notices, about half of them described as "major", issued for a range of issues including brake failures, steering and suspension faults.

"The total of 90 defects detected over Operation Mona Vale is an alarming result," Hartley says.

"Given the horrific crash in Mona Vale on Tuesday, we could lose many more lives on the roads due to trucking companies not complying with safety regulations.

"I hope this is a reminder to all heavy vehicle operators and drivers: safety should be the number one priority when on the roads and their actions can impact countless other lives.

"The work of the joint heavy vehicle taskforce has highlighted the importance of these operations in helping to keep our roads as safe as possible."

The audit is occurring concurrently with a broader initiative targeting mechanical compliance.

RMS Customer and Compliance Director Peter Wells (pictured) says every vehicle of the fleet will be inspected to ensure they meet compliance regulations.

"Where they don't, they will be taken from the road - it is as simple as that," Wells adds.

"We've told the company to get all of their vehicles into our stations as soon as possible or they risk being grounded.

"We are serious about this and will be targeting the entire Chain of Responsibility in our investigations.

"At this stage, the company is fully cooperating with RMS on these inspections.

"Heavy vehicles with brake or other safety issues should not be on our roads.

"Tuesday's terrible crash was a clear example of what can happen when things go wrong."

McAleese has pledged that it will ensure that any issues identified with its subsidiary are addressed.

"The company takes its responsibilities very seriously and is working closely with NSW Roads and Maritime Services and NSW Police to undertake a rigorous inspection of its NSW fleet," the spokeswoman says.

"The company will subject its fleet to an ongoing and independent assessment until such time as it is satisfied with the maintenance regime."

She points out that, since acquiring this business in 2012 from private equity firm Champ, "the company has committed $33 million to upgrade the fleet and the Board has approved a further $46 million over the next three years as part of this fleet renewal program".

Operation Mona Vale

RMS has released a breakdown of the inspection outcomes as of late yesterday.

Total number of heavy vehicles inspected: 52

Total number of defects: 104

Minor defects: 55

Major defects: 46

Vehicles grounded: 4.

Defects

Brakes: 87

Wheels/tyres: 41

Suspension: 50

Ancillary equipment/light:s 23

Oil/fuel leaks: 20

Body/chassis: 15

Steering: 9

Tow couplings: 8

Exhaust/noise: 5

Other: 3.

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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