Careers & Training, Driver education, Fatigue management, General freight, News

South Gippsland trucking company moves forward after tragedy and fines

As troubling as the 2020 incidents were that led Peter Stoitse Transport (PST) back into court this week, it is not the same company that is operating today, stresses CEO Mike Munday.

PST was convicted and fined $110,000 in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on August 21 for workplace health and safety offences – and ordered to pay $6358 in costs – after two drivers were injured in separate milk tanker accidents in 2020.

The offending follows earlier convictions and a $490,000 fine against the family-owned and operated South Gippsland company in June 2022 after the 2018 death of tanker driver Rodney Lunson, 50, in an incident at Leongatha.

“All of it’s sad but I’m glad as a company we’re able to now start putting this behind us,” Munday told Big Rigs.

“This has been a cloud over us for a while. It was a tragedy what happened to Mr Lunson and these incidents were terrible on so many levels for the people impacted by them, as well as our other employees.

“Peter Stoitse Transport and the Stoitse family acknowledge that there were errors in the way we were operating and conducting business, and that led to significant changes.”

Munday said he doesn’t agree with the statement made by WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Narelle Beer that the company had not drawn lessons from its “previous failure” after the latest fines and charges.

He said the company simply grew too big too quickly, experiencing “unmanageable” growth for a number of years without the right people in place to manage that properly.

After the 2018 tragedy, he said changes were made but admits they weren’t as effective as they could have been.

In the latest prosecution, the court heard that a truckie raised issues with a tanker he was to drive in February 2020, despite the vehicle being cleared by the local service provider and his supervisor.

While driving in Poowong East, the driver realised the brakes were faulty and, as he attempted to slow, the prime mover and trailers drifted in opposite directions and jack-knifed. The driver was taken to hospital with soft tissue and finger issues.

A few months later, another worker was driving down Korumburra-Inverloch Rd when the trailer suddenly began to sway and the truck lost control before rolling into a ditch. The driver was taken to hospital with bruising and swelling to his foreman.

Today, Munday said PTS is a completely different operation.

It’s divested its milk division, transferring the operations and equipment to McColl’s Transport,

Most importantly, it’s invested heavily in safety and compliance since the 2020 incidents, said Munday.

“Well over a million dollars in safety and compliance, anything from leadership training for our leadership team to training for our drivers to improved technology and equipment.

“We are very confident in how we operate and in all of our safety process and policies and procedures, and have a very strong focus on our employees and providing assistance to them for not only training, but also their mental health, and any other support that they may need.”

Munday said that PST had been audited by WorkSafe [Victoria] since the 2020 incidents – in  2021 and 2022 – and received positive reviews for all of its improvements with no improvement notices, or comments.

“We’ve completely changed the business and these fines won’t impact our business, or deter us, because what we’re doing now is above the industry standard.

“From the Stoitse family perspective, after these incidents they could have closed the doors and moved on, but they decided to continue operating and reform the business and to evolve.

“They have made some significant changes, at a significant cost, in order to continue to be an employer in South Gippsland.”

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