Trucking disaster firm boss Mark Rowsthorn is worth $500 million
- The Daily Telegraph
- October 04, 2013
THE head of the trucking firm which owned the truck involved in the Mona Vale disaster inferno and which has since found to have more than 100 defects in its vehicles in NSW is a businessman worth $500 million.
As it emerged that Mark Rowsthorn the chair of Cootes’ Transport parent firm McAleese was listed in the top 40 richest people in Australia by Forbes, the Victorian government said it would launch its own inspection of the firms vehicles and review its accreditation that allows it to perform its own maintenance.
Fifty-two Cootes vehicles have been inspected since Tuesday’s tanker inferno which killed two men, with more than 100 defects found and five vehicles grounded.
“One truck actually had no front brakes working,” acting roads minister Gladys Berejiklian said.
But the NSW Government has no power to keep the trucks off Sydney roads because the company is Victorian.
Last night a VicRoads spokeswoman said it had been contacted by its NSW counterparts and would launch its own investigation into the company.
“In light of the information received, VicRoads will undertake its own inspections of the company’s heavy vehicles in Victoria and also review the company’s accreditation.”
A spokeswoman for McAleese defended itself yesterday, saying it had spent tens of millions on maintenance since taking over Cootes trucks 18 months ago.
“We have actually committed quite an amount of money in terms of maintenance of the vehicles,” the spokeswoman said.
“Obviously that doesn’t go any way towards what happened.
“The company’s not denying what’s happened is a terrible tragedy.
“I’m not sure how Mark’s personal wealth comes into that.”
Mr Rowsthorn, a former owner of Toll and executive of Asciano, did not return calls.
Among the defects found were inefficient or ineffective brakes,
axle and suspension failures, steering components being defective and tread peeling from tyres.
The McAleese spokeswoman said: “This afternoon McAleese met with NSW Roads and Maritime Services and NSW Police.
“The Company takes its responsibilities extremely seriously. The rigorous inspection of its NSW fleet remains underway and the company is cooperating fully with officials.
“We remain committed to ensuring that any issues identified are immediately addressed.
“Since acquiring this business in 2012 from CHAMP, the Company has committed $33 million to upgrade the fleet and the Board has approved a further $46 million over the next three years as part of this fleet renewal program.”
A spokeswoman for the Roads and Maritime Services department said RMS had “in the past recommended states revoke accreditation for operators who have had a pattern of noncompliance.
“It is the responsibility of each state to determine if it will act on a recommendation.
“Accreditation schemes are not administered by Roads and Maritime Services, they are the responsibility of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.
“The vehicle involved in Tuesday’s crash and its operator are accredited in Victoria under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS), which is managed by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.
“Operators accredited in this scheme are exempt from NSW vehicle inspections for annual registration and must meet compliance standards at all times.
“However, all heavy vehicles travelling on NSW roads are subject to random and targeted inspections at any time.”
Roads and Maritime has carried out random intercepts of 270 Cootes Transport vehicles in the past three months to check compliance.
The truck involved in Tuesday’s crash had not been intercepted.
Across the trucking industry, more than 22,000 defect notices were issued on trucks in NSW last year as part of 1.5 million compliance checks and the state opposition has called for all of the state’s 162,000 trucks to be inspected with high risk vehicles inspected first in the wake of the horrifying Mona Vale.
The Opposition roads spokesman Ryan Park said: “What we need to do is get [inspection of] high risk vehicles that transport high risk product such as petroleum.”
A Transport Workers Union survey of 1,000 truck drivers taken at the end of last year found that 40 per cent of drivers felt they had had to delay vehicle maintenance due to economic pressure, 27 per cent of drivers felt pressure to high speed and 43 per cent felt pressure to skip breaks.
A recent police operation on dangerous trucks, Operation Steel, issued 150 defect notices in two days in April with police at the time shocked to find one in two trucks were dangerous.
HAUNTED BY COAST HIGHWAY TRAGEDY – EXCLUSIVE CAROLINE MARCUS
A RELATIVE of a family killed in a horrific truck crash involving the same transport company four years ago has spoken of the heartache of seeing more people hurt in similar circumstances.
Sheree Montgomery’s sister Debbie Bridge and husband David were travelling in a car with their daughters Jordon, 13, and Makeely, 11, when a Cootes Transport Group truck crossed to the wrong side of the road and exploded at Princes Highway near Pebbly Beach Road on the state’s south coast on December 28, 2009.
The girls were killed in the explosion, along with truck driver David Carolan, while Mr Bridge died six days later at Royal North Shore Hospital from multiple organ failure as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.
Mrs Montgomery and her husband Frank were travelling in a car behind the Bridges at the time of the crash and Mr Montgomery battled flames to try to save his nieces from the wreck.
Mrs Bridge miraculously survived the crash, but tragically took her own life about a year ago.
Her sister told The Daily Telegraph yesterday that not a day passed that she didn’t think of her relatives and Tuesday’s crash brought back terrible emotions.
“If you were in that situation and you lost all four family members, how would you feel?” Mrs Montgomery said.
“Debbie passed away just 12 months ago. It’s every single day we live with it. It’s every single day you see the trucks on the road. Of course you’d hate to see anyone go through what we’ve gone through.”
Among the recommendations made by then Deputy State Coroner Carmel Forbes at the 2011 inquest into the deaths was that amendments be made to the Australian Dangerous Goods Code to mandate the fitting of stability control systems in vehicles used for the transportation of dangerous goods.
The general manager of Cootes Management gave evidence at the inquest that all the company’s fleet would be retrofitted with such systems.
Federal Transport Warren Truss did not respond to queries from this newspaper about whether the recommendation had been implemented before going to press.
TRIBUTES TO LOVELY CHAP LOST IN FATAL ROAD BLAZE – CAROLINE MARCUS
THE elderly north shore man who died after his car collided with an out-of-control fuel truck on Mona Vale Road has been described by a neighbour as a “lovely chap” who was always the first to help.
Peter Wem, 73, died when his Subaru was hit by the Cootes Transport tanker on Tuesday afternoon after a trip to the northern beaches with friends visiting from interstate.
His wife Margaret, 72, was pulled from the burning car’s passenger seat by three bystanders along with a female friend who was sitting in the rear seat behind her.
Another man, 71, who was sitting behind Mr Wem, also died in the crash.
Mrs Wem was discharged from Royal North Shore Hospital on Wednesday but has not returned to the couple’s Turramurra home, believed to be staying with family.
A neighbour told The Daily Telegraph that the family have declined requests to speak to media because not all the Wem’s grandchildren know about the tragedy yet.
“One thing I will say is if you were digging a hole, he would be the first one by your side to help,” the neighbour said. “He was a lovely, lovely chap.
“He was very fit. He would go walking every day.”
Mr Wem, who was a volunteer at a northern Sydney scout group, had just returned with his wife from a three-month caravan holiday when the crash occurred.
A single bouquet of flowers was left in the branches of a charred tree marking the spot where the men lost their lives.
The truck driver Shane Day, 47, remained at Royal North Shore Hospital yesterday.
His former wife, Nikie, said the family were hoping he would “making a full recovery”.