Tributes flow for industry great Ian Cootes

Ian Cootes

Victorian road transport legend Ian Cootes has died, aged 82.

Industry luminaries have been quick to offer tributes and praise for Cootes, who was inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame in 2003.

Posting on his company’s Facebook page, Craig Membrey described Cootes as a “true gentleman” and one who was ahead of his time.

“So rightfully well respected in the transport industry,” said Membrey who also shared a selection of treasured photos.

“The company employed over 800 people and was the largest private fleet tanker service in Australia. When I was a kid, I met Ian with my late father Jack Membrey.

“I watched Ian‘s business grow, and I always looked up for him. I wanted to have a company like him one day, a beautiful fleet.

“I used to love watching the drivers’ polished trucks when they were unloading fuel in service stations. It was a standard practice for Ian‘s fleet and a credit to all drivers.

“He has left such an amazing legacy that few, if any, in times to come will ever emulate.”

In a statement to its members, the Victorian Transport Association said Cootes’ dedication and commitment to our industry has been outstanding.

“He was an innovator and demonstrated his leadership in real terms by the way he structured and managed his business. Safety was always at the top and he drove a culture and demonstrated this through every operation of his very successful tanker business.

“Ian led the way in professionalism. He developed the bulk tanker industry in Australia to be acknowledged as one of the safest and most efficient in the world. His fleet was immaculate and his skilled drivers the pride of his business.”

Born on February 5, 1941, Cootes lost his father early after he was killed in action in Malaya during the fall of Singapore.

Cootes loved trucks from an early age and a highlight was being taken for a short trips around Kyabram with his Grandfather.

Around 1960, Cootes joined the police force and was stationed at South Melbourne, but policing wasn’t for him as he always wanted to be a truck driver.

By 1965 Cootes had saved enough money for a deposit on a truck, so he decided to knock on the front door of BP in St. Kilda Road, and asked that “if he bought a truck would they give him some work?” The answer was yes, and that was the start of I.R. Cootes Transport.

The firm grew and grew on the back of a culture of looking after the people that do the work, respecting his customers and providing the highest of safety standards and an immaculate fleet. From there, there was no holding Cootes back.

Cootes Transport, with its loyal team of drivers, workshop and operations staff, developed into a world-class team of professionals. The top 60 longest serving employees had over 1000 years service.

Ian Cootes was also awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for his contribution to charity, namely the Alfred Hospital and the transport industry.

“The transport industry acknowledges the passing of Ian Cootes – one of the great people of the road transport industry,” added the VTA.

“The VTA was proud to have Ian and his company as a member for many years.

“The VTA wishes to pass on its condolences to Maria, Paul, Geoff and families.”

A funeral service to celebrate his life will be held at St Andrews Anglican Church, 228 New Street, Brighton, on November 27, starting at 10.30am.

A private family burial will take place at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

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