Carrier calls for Main Roads inquiry

Bevan EakinsCountryman

The owner of one of the two biggest cattle transport businesses in WA has demanded an inquiry into why Main Roads tried to force the company to put modified, unsafe semitrailers on the road.

The result "could easily be catastrophic", according to an appeal judgment handed down in the District Court last Friday in favour of Mitchell's Livestock Transport.

Running the fully loaded semis "could lead to the driver of the combination losing control, and crashing, causing injury or death to the driver and … to those in other vehicles," Commissioner Michael Gething ruled after an earlier hearing found against Mitchell's.

The decision ends a 3.5-year battle for managing director John Mitchell against Main Roads and the director-general of the Department of Transport.

"It's cost me in terms of money and debt, but more importantly my reputation and credibility have been severely tarnished," Mr Mitchell said last week.

"I want the Minister for Transport to investigate why Main Roads tried to force us into doing this … why heavy vehicle safety was put last in what appears to be a vindictive campaign against us."

Transport Minister Troy Buswell refused to comment except to give a summary of events.

Transport and Main Roads are considering the commissioner's decision.

Mr Mitchell's 70-year-old family company in Waroona runs more than 20 combinations of trailers.

Mr Mitchell said the company had an "impeccable" safety record.

The issue revolved around B-doubles, two trailers which weigh up to 70.5 tonnes when fully loaded with cattle.

Before 2002, Mr Mitchell built eight B-doubles with a total length of about 20m of internal deck space.

The rules were changed restricting B-doubles to 18.8m but the Main Roads granted permits to the company to continue running the units.

At a cost of $280,000 each, Mr Mitchell intended to run his B-doubles until June 2017.

In 2008, Main Roads insisted he modify his B-doubles by putting a partition in the front unit, restricting overall length to 18.5m internal deck space.

Mr Mitchell refused, claiming it would make the rigs unsafe because of the way the load would be distributed, a stand that was upheld by Commissioner Gething after he heard evidence from the company's independent engineering expert.

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