This year has started with a succession of depressing news stories as Cootes are put through the wringer by RMS. Anything which means photos or footage of burning trucks on Australian roads in the media is bad for everyone in the trucking industry. Our biggest problem is the public perception of us, which results in the truckies getting the blame for many issues on our roads.
Nobody is saying there isn’t a problem with poorly maintained trucks in the Cootes fleet and this contributed to two deaths last October in Mona Vale. The industry has to look to itself to solve the problems, if we let the authorities run the show, then it is going to be bad news for everyone.
Now, 540 personnel are losing their jobs as McAleese trim down the fuel hauling fleet in the wake of the loss of contracts due to the safety issues in the Cootes fleet. Many of these are good operators and would hope to pick up work with whoever it is who has picked up the lost contracts. Skilled fuel tanker drivers are not two-a-penny.
The Roads and Maritime Service have entered the fray again this week announcing 300 charges against Cootes. They have gone through the fleet with a fine tooth comb and come up with 222 notices being issued for issues around interstate rego and operating an unsafe vehicle plus more for mass and fuel leaks.
Up until the crash last October, the Cootes fleet were in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme and were having their maintenance systems audited. Is anyone investigating the NHVAS and its auditing system, or is this too big a can of worms to open? Are we scared what we might find?
If we are going to come out of this in good shape the trucking industry needs to work together. We need a single goal agreed by the majority of stakeholders which will improve safety outcomes and satisfy the regulators of of its effectiveness without making too big a dint in the precious productivity everyone is searching for.
Is this possible? People like Lindsay Fox coming out in the press and rowing his own boat is not helpful. Trying to distance ourselves from the issues doesn’t do much good either. We have to engage, get our hands dirty and take the bitter pill, take this issue extremely seriously. Go to the regulators, cap in hand, with pragmatic helpful solutions, not self-serving platitudes, but most of all do it together.