'You’ve got to be kidding': $1.2m fine stunned former Scott's boss Peter Anderson

By: Steve Skinner and Rob McKay


VTA boss says in hindsight his former employer wouldn’t have pleaded guilty to 165 speeding offences.

'You’ve got to be kidding': $1.2m fine stunned former Scott's boss Peter Anderson
Peter Anderson says Scott's could not believe the size of the fine it received for speeding offences in NSW.

 

The former head of Scott’s of Mount Gambier says the company wouldn’t have pleaded guilty to numerous speeding offences in New South Wales if it knew how big the fine was going to be.

In May last year a NSW local court magistrate fined Scott’s Transport Industries around $1.2 million for 165 speeding offences under chain of responsibility law. That penalty was an Australian record at the time.

However, as Owner//Driver revealed, the million dollar-plus penalty was reduced to just $85,000 after the company appealed in the NSW District Court.

In the original case, Scott’s CEO Peter Anderson pleaded guilty to eight speeding offences and was fined $7,500, which the company paid.

Anderson is now CEO of peak trucking body the Victorian Transport Association (VTA).

He tells Owner//Driver he can understand why NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) investigated Scott’s after one of its trucks with a new driver behind the wheel was caught doing 142km/h at the bottom of a hill on the Hume Freeway near Sydney in March 2012.

He says that 142 km/h incident "really shook the RMS and the police and [roads minister] Duncan Gay and they said ‘We’re going to target speeding trucks and trucks out of control,’ and rightfully so".

But when Anderson checked the known speeding offences committed by his drivers for the month before, there were only two.

"In February we had two speeding offences out of nearly 500 interstate line-haul movements a night, so how would anybody think they got a speeding issue within their business?" Anderson asks.

Owner//Driver asked Anderson that considering the successful appeal, does he regret pleading guilty?

"In law it comes down to which is the worst of two evils," Anderson replies.

"I'm not going to tell you how many hundreds of thousands of dollars that this system made Scott’s go through in defence.

"The amount of time that lawyers and barristers and SCs put in to making sure they had the story straight; the amount of interviews; the amount of times we went over and over evidence; the amount of times we had to produce evidence and go through old records.

"It just went on and on and on for two years. It just wears you down, so we get to a point where we say ‘OK, we’ve decided to plead guilty, get this thing out of the way, let’s get on with life’.

"If we’ve got to pay a fine, OK, we’ll put up with the embarrassment, we’ll put up with the slur on the name, but we’ll work our way through it and we’ll come out of it as a better business.

"So we come out the other end and we couldn’t believe the size of the fine. We said ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’. If we knew this was on the table, we wouldn’t have pleaded guilty."

Many of the 165 speeding offences were freeway hill over-runs at less than 110km/h, and were picked up in a NSW RMS audit of the Safe-T-Cam fatigue enforcement system. Scott’s vehicles had only received infringement notices for 15 of the 165 incidents.

"The real issue is the hills themselves," Anderson says.

"Rolling off the backs of hills is from my perspective a serious offence … And we shouldn’t condone it."

You can read much more on the Scott’s case in the May issue of Owner//Driver

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