Mona Vale truck deaths: Head of Firm and Directors in Spotlight


The tanker crash at Mona Vale killed two people.

One of Australia’s richest men could find himself prosecuted by the new national trucking regulator  after two deaths in a Mona Vale truck accident and multiple problems  identified with the fleet since the accident.

Transport industry observers believe  the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, established  this year, is likely to pursue a high-profile prosecution that could drag in the directors of Cootes Transport, whose tanker  ran out of control in Mona Vale, on the northern beaches, in October.

Mark Rowsthorn, whose wealth has been valued at more than $500 million, is the chairman of McAleese Group, the owner of Cootes.

Cootes 2

McAleese Group chairman, Mark Rowsthorn. Photo: AFR

Since the accident, NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay has been incensed by repeated problems  identified in the Cootes fleet, the biggest fuel fleet in the country.


Late on Thursday, and  after  leaks found in two Cootes tankers in the past week, Mr Gay said he was losing patience with the assurances of the company’s directors that they were on top of their compliance issues.

”The head of the company has been put on notice under national chain of responsibility legislation that the board of directors and management are responsible for the safety and roadworthiness of its fleet,” Mr Gay said.

Chain-of-responsibility laws, introduced in 2005, allow for the directors of a company to be prosecuted for the safety failings of their fleet. In NSW, 45 directors have been charged under these laws since 2005.

But  this year responsibility for prosecuting chain of responsibility cases passed to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, which, according to  several people in the transport industry, would be keen to make its mark on the safety issues in the trucking  business.

”The regulator has been very clear to us that they are looking for a number of very high profile cases to make people understand they are serious about what they are doing,” said Steven Asnicar, a director with Chain of Responsibility Australia, an industry compliance group.

Mr Asnicar said the implications for Mr Rowsthorn and other directors would depend on what it could be shown they knew.

Since the Mona Vale crash, more than  420 defect notices have been issued to the Cootes fleet, including 224 major-defect notices.

”If it is found that the company was aware of those issues and did nothing about  them, they’ve got real issues  that will go right up to the directors of the company,” Mr Asnicar said.

”I would think they are going to make a landmark case very soon to make it dead serious they are serious about trying to save people’s lives.”

In response to Mr Gay’s comments, McAleese, whose shares fell 4 per cent on Friday, said it had appointed an external adviser to review its maintenance systems, leased an extra service workshop in Sydney, and approved extra spending on new brake testing equipment.

The company has previously said that it was already increasing its investment in fleet maintenance.
Read more:
Read more: