Trucking scrutiny: Generous rights to Cootes have been allowed despite tanker deaths. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
Cootes Transport - the trucking company whose vehicles have been repeatedly hauled off the road because of major safety defects - continues to be allowed to roster drivers onto longer shifts and load trucks with more weight than others in the industry.
Cootes, whose tanker ran out of control at Mona Vale in October, killing two people, retains several of the advantages of being signed up to a national safety accreditation scheme. These advantages include being allowed to roster drivers for 14-hour shifts, as opposed to the general industry limit of 12 hours, and give it a more generous mass allowance for its trucks.
Since the crash, Cootes has been pilloried by state authorities for its lax maintenance regime. Cootes' parent company, McAleese, will on Monday morning present to the sharemarket an update on the financial implications of its chequered safety record.
NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay has made repeated threats to the company, including grounding its fleet, as its vehicles have continued to be found to have major mechanical faults.
Last week, Mr Gay ordered all Cootes petrol and gas tankers that run through NSW to undergo a full compliance inspection. The order followed the inspection of 35 Cootes vehicles at Wetherill Park and Port Botany, which resulted in 17 vehicles with major defects being ordered off the road.
In Victoria on Friday, major defects were discovered in 25 Cootes vehicles by VicRoads officers, forcing the company to ground its fleet for inspections.
Nevertheless, the chief executive of the national trucking regulator has confirmed that Cootes still holds accreditation to operate with mass and fatigue management levels beyond the general industry standard.
These accreditations are under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme. After the October crash, Cootes opted out of this scheme for maintenance, meaning it had to undergo more stringent maintenance inspections.
But Cootes' vehicles ''will be eligible to carry extra weight'', National Heavy Vehicle Regulator chief executive Richard Hancock said, provided they meet ''prescribed management standards'' and had extra audits.
Further, ''an operator that is accredited under the NHVAS [National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme] Basic Fatigue Management is permitted to allow [only] selected drivers to work for a maximum of 14 hours in any 24-hour period, rather than the 12-hour limit that would otherwise apply'', Mr Hancock said.
A spokesman for Mr Gay said the accreditations were the responsibility of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. But he said the state's 280 heavy vehicle inspectors would examine drivers' log books and whether trucks were correctly loaded when they were inspected.