Transport icon Ian Cootes passes

Industry great and innovator Ian Cootes has passed. He was 82.

A well known Australian road transport identity, Cootes was a key figure in the development of the bulk tanker industry having helped to improve the sector’s operational standards, making it one of the safest in the world.

A former policeman, Cootes commenced operations with a single, self-funded tanker, before growing his fleet significantly to become a dominant player in the transport industry.

He would later sell the business in 2000 to national corporation, McAleese.

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

From an early age he had enjoyed being taken for a short trips around Kyabram with his grandfather.

In 1960, Cootes joined the police force and was stationed at South Melbourne.

His love of trucks, however, continued to the point he left the force and by 1965 he had saved enough money to put down a deposit on his first truck.

An enquiry made of BP in St Kilda Road where the company affirmed it had work for him if he purchased a truck soon led to service station deliveries across metropolitan Melbourne in an AB184 International.

With that IR Cootes Transport was born.

Over the decades the fleet, always immaculately presented, expanded rapidly on the back of a strong employee culture, respecting his customers and providing the highest of safety standards.

As Director of the Australian Road Research Board in the 1990s, Cootes took an active role in raising safety and efficiency standards for dangerous goods transport.

“Ian’s dedication and commitment to our industry has been outstanding,” said the Victorian Transport Association in a statement.

“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.”

Cootes is also a former President of the Australian Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association and served on the board of the National Bulk Tanker Association (NBTA) as well as on the Advisory Board of Melbourne-based truck manufacturer, PACCAR.

In 2003, he was inducted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame.

Cootes was also awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for his contribution to charity, namely the Alfred Hospital, where he served as Chair from 2003 – 2008, and the transport industry.

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