Chain of Responsibility Update: Transport Giant could be banned from NSW Roads

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Transport companies should recognise how important it is to comply with Chain of Responsibility and heavy vehicle laws or face similar woes as transport giant Cootes Transport who may now be banned from NSW roads.

According to media reports moves are underway to expel the disgraced company from New South Wales roads but the dangerous goods operator is intent on fighting the attempts to keep its vehicles off the state’s roads.

The NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay recently announced that he had lost confidence in the transport company and its ability to safely operate a fleet. He then directed his department to issue a show-cause to Cootes requiring them to show why they should be allowed to operate in NSW.

Cootes have been given 14 days by the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to respond if they want to retain their travel rights in the state.

Duncan Gay has reiterated what his opinion on the Cootes matter is, he doesn’t want “unsafe trucks” on NSW roads which is why he wants Coote’s fleet removed. According to Gay, they are repeat offenders and have run out of chances. He said the company had received ample opportunity to show that it was “worthy” of operating on NSW roads but had failed to do this.

Cootes and its parent company, McAleese have been in the news since the tragic tanker crash in Mona Vale last year. Despite it being the subject of scrutiny since the accident, McAleese said it was disappointed to have received the notice, especially because it had been cooperative with the authorities and had done everything asked of it by RMS.

The transport company’s fleet has undergone a number of inspections and according to RMS they have discovered a range of defects on each occasion.

Minister Gay recently ordered another inspection of the fleet and this time 320 of the companies 400 trucks were inspected, revealing a number of minor and major defects. Only around 179 of the trucks inspected passed the RMS tests.

Gay also made it clear that RMS inspectors will be deregistering unroadworthy trucks. According to Gay the move will ensure that the community feels safe on NSW roads again and operators will realise that neglect of safety will not be tolerated.

Cootes however has rejected the claim by Gay that the company disregarded road safety, citing the $5million it spent on upgrading its fleet and improving its maintenance facilities since the Mona Vale crash.

The company has also cooperated with RMS fleet inspections and has since contracted out its maintenance. They have also complied with numerous 3rd party audits of its fleets and operational processes.

If the Cootes New South Wales operation is ceased, hundreds of workers risk losing their jobs. This is the concern of the opposition spokesman on roads, Walt Secord. Although the opposition welcomed road safety moves and the grounding of the Cootes fleet, he said the future of the company’s drivers and employees should be considered.

It seems as if the woes for Cootes and McAleese is never-ending, having already sustained an estimated $47.3million hit following the Mona Vale incident and subsequent scrutiny from road agencies.

It is obvious that Chain of Responsibility is more important than simply evading fines and notices. There is a lot at stake, both monetary losses that can be crippling to a company and job losses for workers.

As the above case proves, an accident can cause serious and far reaching complications for a company and when non-compliance within a company is discovered it affects everyone in the company, not only the driver or those directly involved.

With the recent change in heavy vehicle legislation to ensure one national rule book for operators across the eastern seaboard, transport companies must recognise the importance of compliance to both Chain of Responsibility (COR) and National Heavy Vehicle (NHV) laws.

COR training is of particular importance because it ensures that all those involved in the road supply chain are aware of their duties in terms of the law.

Chain of Responsibility legislation dictates that general liability for offences to road freight extends to consignors, receivers, packers and loaders, rather than lie with drivers alone who often receive all the blame because they are easy targets.

Chain of Responsibility laws cover issues like mass and dimension limits, load restraint requirements, driving hours, dangerous goods laws, fatigue, speeding and vehicle standards. In order to comply with these laws, all workers involved in the chain need to undergo COR training.

Ensuring your transport company is compliant begins by ensuring all employees have received the necessary COR training. Fortunately this doesn’t involve huge costs or large chunks of time off work. The COR course can be completed conveniently and at minimal cost online.

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