The potential for massive fines for transport operators for legislative breaches is highlighted by the recent case in New South Wales involving Cootes Transport (Cootes).

All transport operators will recall the tragic accident at Mona Vale in October 2013 where two people were killed and five injured when a Cootes tanker rolled on its side, burst into flames and collided with several cars.

On 10 September 2014, Magistrate Lee Gilmour ordered Cootes to pay fines totalling $441,000 and court costs of $84,000 after the company pleaded guilty to 255 defects, mass and registration offences. According to the NSW Minister for Main Roads, over the three phases of the compliance operations involving Cootes, the department conducted almost 1,000 inspections of Cootes’ vehicles. The most serious concerns arising from the inspections were major brake and steering defects.

According to media reports, since compliance operations began Cootes has also spent $9 million on vehicle maintenance.

After the Court decision, the Minister noted that most of the trucks inspected were not registered in NSW. He has called for ‘a national standard for truck inspections to ensure a more stringent regime is adopted across Australia’.