Cootes to pay more than $500,000 in fines and costs


Magistrate notes guilty plea and subsequent actions tackling fleet deficiencies

Cootes to pay more than $500,000 in fines and costs
A magistrate has ruled on the Cootes fleet compliance breaches

 

Cootes Transport has been fined $440,900 plus New South Wales Government legal costs in a Sydney local court hearing.

The fine was due to registration and safety breaches discovered in the aftermath of the Mona Vale Road tragedy and fire in Sydney last October.

A statement from Cootes’ parent company, McAleese, says Cootes "fully accepts the court findings and penalty".

"The Company notes the Magistrate’s recognition that it has undertaken extensive steps to address the issues identified last year and earlier this year through comprehensive enhancements to its business operations," the statement says of the findings that entailed a guilty-plea discount but costs of more than $80,000.

"Cootes Transport has been fully restructured to become a smaller more modern fleet.

"All servicing and testing procedures have been upgraded and Cootes Transport continues to work closely with Roads & Maritime Services NSW (RMS) and independent certifiers to ensure the ongoing integrity of its fleet."

McAleese revealed in its annual results last month a 16-point outcome of an action plan aimed at bringing Cootes up to scratch and the costs to the company up to then.

This and a number of other reforms came after a litany of faults and deficiencies were discovered in that fleet and early measures fell short, inviting heavy and sustained political pressure from NSW roads minister Duncan Gay.

The tragedy, which claimed two lives in horrific and very public circumstances, and its outcome, which saw the loss of significant fuel distribution contracts, was also a catalyst for major reform in the group.

Gay and RMS safety and compliance director Peter Wells commended the work of heavy vehicle compliance officers involved.

"Hundreds of hours of inspections and investigations have gone into this compliance action against Cootes. Over the three phases of the compliance operations, there were almost 1,000 inspections," Gay says.

"We have the toughest heavy vehicle enforcement and compliance regime in Australia and today's action is a wake-up call to all transport operators – if you don’t meet our safety standards we will pursue you to the end of the road

"The key in today’s case was that most of the trucks inspected were not registered in NSW.

"This brings into sharp focus the need for a national standard for truck inspections to ensure a more stringent regime is adopted across Australia, which I have personally called on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and National Transport Commission to establish."

For Wells, the findings are not the end of the matter.

"While the company is certainly headed in the right direction, Roads and Maritime is continuing to work with Cootes to ensure continued improvements in compliance and make sure vehicles operating on NSW roads are safe," he says.

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