Troubled fuel tank operator, Cootes Transport has landed in hot water once again in Victoria due to a number of faults being found by that state’s authorities.
The trucking giant received yet another financial set back after being fined $50,000 for some 67 offences on its Victorian fleet.
The $50,250 fine was issued after the Victorian transport authorities subjected the company’s fleet to an inspection. This is the latest in Cootes legal problems following a spate of penalties and prosecutions since the fatal crash that took place in Mona Vale last year involving one of its tankers.
According to a report on Fullyloaded.com.au the Melbourne Magistrates Court issued the penalty for 67 offences that were discovered on Cootes’ fleet after authorities conducted an inspection. Cootes has had to pay hundreds of thousands in fines since the Mona Vale crash. The latest penalty is in addition to the $440,000 fine the firm received in New South Wales in relation to the fatal crash in Sydney which claimed 2 people’s lives last year.
In addition to the penalties the transport giant had to pay, they also had their fleet grounded immediately following the accident last year. Road authorities in both NSW and Victoria conducted extensive inspections on its operations in those states.
The Victorian road safety authority, VicRoads revealed that several key safety defects were discovered during their inspections including issues with braking systems on some of the vehicles. The following quote by prosecutor David Starvagg explains:
“These vehicles were heavy trucks carrying fuel and the potential for catastrophe could have been enormous had something gone untoward,” prosecutor David Starvaggi told the court.
The article on Fullyloaded.com.au went on to detail the fines issues by Magistrate Graeme Horsburgh who explained that he agreed with the prosecution, but also noted that the company had been very cooperative with authorities which also needed to be considered in his ruling. Cootes also entered an early guilty plea which the magistrates also considered when imposing the $750 fine per charge – the writer of the article noted that this was considerably lower than the maximum penalty.
A spokesperson on behalf of Cootes Transport said that the company was quick to respond to the fatal accident that took place last year and has since worked continuously to enhance its safety systems. The spokesperson went on to say:
Cootes Transport reiterates its commitment to working cooperatively with VicRoads and all authorities to ensure safety on our roads,” the spokesperson says.
“Both the magistrate and VicRoads have recognised the level of cooperation from the company, its commitment to new safety systems, and the improved standards of its present fleet.”
Since the crash, Cootes has undertaken a complete safety audit of all vehicles and decommissioned 174 prime movers and 249 tankers nationally.
The article also went on to note that the company had accelerated a program to retrofit electronic braking systems on its trucks and is expected to be finished by the end of this year. The company has also since initiated a new national and compliance manager to ensure that all vehicles meet quality standards.
Cootes’ story since the October 2013 Sydney accident has become a cautionary tale for other trucking operators who need to ensure that they meet all Chain of Responsibility requirements to avoid a similar fate.