In News, November 201927 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 18, 2019

2019 Mobil Delvac 1 NZ Road Transport Hall of Fame – Inductees

The eighth annual Mobil Delvac 1 NZ Road Transport Hall of Fame was held at Bill Richardson Transport World in Invercargill on Friday 27 September. This year Gavin Abbot, Paul Currie, Bill Hargreaves, Murray Sowerby and Mark McCarthy were inducted into the Hall of Fame, which recognises excellence in the New Zealand road transport industry.

Photo: Another gala Hall of fame event at Bill Richardson Transport World. The industry at its ‘glammed-up‘ best.

More than 500 people from the transport industry were on hand for the prestigious, black-tie gala awards dinner. The event is the brainchild of HW Richardson Group directors Jocelyn and Scott O‘Donnell. Jocelyn says the event aims to honour the outstanding contributions of individuals to the New Zealand road transport industry. “This is a great opportunity to celebrate those within our industry who have contributed a significant amount of time, care and enthusiasm to forging the way for the future of road transport in New Zealand,” she says. “In doing so, everybody in attendance is also contributing towards making New Zealand‘s roads a safer place to be, particularly for our young people. The support of our attendees makes a huge difference in giving young New Zealanders the skills they need to be safe on our roads, so that they can go on and contribute meaningfully to the passions that drive them.” All proceeds from the event, including a charity auction, are donated to the ProActive Drive Youth Driver Education Trust. This year the event raised more than $17,000 for the trust. Since the event began in 2012, it has donated more than $100,000 to the trust.

Bill Hargreaves

Bill Hargreaves was born in Dannevirke in 1927, with ‘diesel in his blood‘ as they say. His father had a trucking company providing transport services to farmers and local businesses. As an only child, it was assumed Bill would take over the business, but he wanted to be a teacher and went to Canterbury to study for a BA. During his last two years at university, he worked for the licensing section of the Transport Department. In 1951 he returned home to Dannevirke. The family business had now grown to four trucks and a service station and his father needed him. While working for his father, Bill purchased his first truck and started his own lime-spreading business. Due to his father‘s ill health, Bill took over the family business and further developed the company by buying more trucks and businesses. He purchased Lindsay Drummond‘s company and then Dannevirke Transport. In 1965, Bill bought Transport Wairarapa in Masterton. With his wife, Bernice, and young son, they moved to Masterton, which then became the head office for the growing company.

He continued to expand the business by acquiring more companies, including Keith Shackelton, R. Robinson, Eketahuna Carrying Company, Manawatu Transport Assets, and P and O Roadways Petone. The business provided services for stock, freight, school and mail runs, fertiliser spreading, wool cartage and fuel tankers as an agent for Atlantic Oil. In 1989 a new company, Fuel Line Distributors, was formed to distribute fuel to farms and some commercial resellers. At its peak, Transport Wairarapa owned more than 300 road vehicles and employed 150 staff, making it one of the largest privately owned transport companies in the Southern Hemisphere at the time. Depots were based in Masterton, Eketahuna, Dannevirke, Feilding, Napier and Petone, as well as a truck parts business in Palmerston North.

Photo: Scott O‘Donnell presented the award to the family of the late Bill Hargreaves, who accepted it on his behalf

With the continuing changes to the rural transport industry, the group of companies had to be flexible as the work was never the same from one year to another. Being very innovative, Bill was always looking for ways to do things faster and smarter. This included incorporating computers into the business, being one of the first in the country to do so. The inductee was an executive of the No. 10 district of the National Roads Board, a member of the Wairarapa RTA, and served on The Wairarapa Regional Development Council. Bill also represented the NZRTA on the national advisory committee on meat hygiene. He was chairman of the NZRTA‘s industrial committee and was involved in many award negotiations, being well respected on both sides of the table. In addition, he was a Rotarian with Masterton Rotary club, including time spent as president, and a Mason of the Rawhiti Lodge in Dannevirke.

Bernice played a large role in the business as company director, and when she died in 1987 it was a huge loss to both the business and the family. In 1990 Bill retired and a manager was appointed to run the company. Unfortunately, the business could not weather cashflow issues and was put into receivership in 1993. The company was able to repay all debt after selling off the rolling assets and traded out of receivership, retaining the properties in Masterton and Dannevirke. Today it is a property investment company run by Bill‘s daughter, supported by her siblings.

In retirement Bill served a term on the Masterton District Council, was the inaugural president of a local Probus Club, travelled extensively and enjoyed his grandchildren. Unfortunately he became ill with cancer and died in 2004. While in business, his prime focus was his staff and the service the company gave to its clients, large or small. Bill knew exactly what was happening in every aspect of the business, arriving at work at 6am to spend the first hour of his day in dispatch talking to clients and drivers. Remembering the names of all his staff, their wives and their children, he touched the lives of many people.

Gavin Abbot

From milking house cows and rearing calves to working in the family grocery business delivering groceries on his bicycle, a young Gavin‘s love of trucks was there from an early age. His drawings of trucks in his childhood prayer book are a testimony to this. Gavin completed his education in Opotiki. In 1945 at the age of 15, he heard Horne‘s Garage was looking for an apprentice motor mechanic. Gavin applied, got the job, and was told to report at 8am the next day. He purchased a pair of overalls and never went back to school. During this time, he became friends with a man working for Ron Smith Limited, a local carrier.

On weekends Gavin worked in their yard doing odd jobs, going on the cream runs and carting slack coal (shovelled on, of course). Gavin spent five years with Horne‘s, sitting his trade examinations and obtaining his trade certificate. His 10,000- hour apprenticeship ended in August 1950 and he left the garage for full-time employment as a driver with Ron Smith Limited. (He left that same truck yard in 1985, 35 years after he began.) In 1951, Gavin purchased shares in Ron Smith Limited from Ron‘s wife, becoming the third shareholder along with Ron Smith and Des Lysaght. The years of truck driving were the best years of his life, he always said.

Photo: Gavin Abot (left) receives his award from Scott O‘Donnell.

However, married and with a young child, he finished driving in 1956 to move his skills into the workshop. In 1960, Ron Smith Ltd purchased the Murupara operations of Ray Carter and formed Radiata Transport Ltd to operate the logging activities. In 1962, Radiata Transport extended its log cartage operations and began carting logs from the forest to Mt Maunganui for export to Japan. The need arose for one of the fleet of Leyland Beavers to be set up as a logging truck. The deck was removed, a swivel bolster fitted and the spare wheel was mounted on the front bumper to help with frontaxle loading.

Gavin designed New Zealand‘s first self-steering spaced 2-axle trailer with extended pole sliding in a box section on the front axle turntable section. This became the forerunner of today‘s spaced axle trailers. Gavin was always thinking of better ways of advancing methods in trucking. Gavin‘s company shareholding increased with the formation of Direct Transport (Holdings) Ltd in 1963, and he continued his employment with Direct Transport after Ron Smith Limited changed its name in 1969. In 1964 he became the East Coast area manager, a title he held until his retirement at 55 in 1985.

Gavin planned his retirement to continue his love of everything to do with trucks. He purchased a 1947 Diamond T and lovingly restored it to its former glory. Thirty more trucks received the same loving care and were also restored, with Gavin doing everything apart from the upholstery. Parts of each truck were found in his shed of parts, items picked up or purchased during years of attending truck swap meets. Some of these trucks are classics in New Zealand, like the White 3000, Guy Invincible, Foden FE4/8 and S21 Foden Mickey Mouse, White WB20 and Mack EH. From 1948, Gavin always had a camera at hand. He has two rooms in his home totally dedicated to his collection of truck photos, manuals, leaflets and books. In 2003 Gavin printed the book The Direct Transport Story in collaboration with Graeme Carter, a Wanganui-based bookseller.

This is the story of Gavin Abbot, Ron Smith Ltd, and Direct Transport. Gavin‘s extensive photo collection and interest in trucking history prompted him to self-publish Urewera Trucks and Truckers in 2014. This book was so well received that seven more books have been published, capturing trucking history in the Central North Island including Thames Valley, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. He has also had several articles published in New Zealand Trucking and Truck & Driver magazines. Gavin is nationally recognised as the go-to person for New Zealand‘s trucking history. In 2015, Mack truck distributors referred the producers of a documentary being filmed on the 1963 Brynderwyn bus crash to him. Gavin supplied photos and information and even loaned them his original brochure of the Mack bus model involved in the accident. Gavin‘s photos, books and truck memorabilia combine a lifetime‘s extensive collection of trucking history in New Zealand. He is a member of vintage truck associations in the UK, USA and Australia, and a 35-year member of the American Truck Historical Society.

Mark McCarthy

Mark McCarthy well remembers the long days sitting at Raetihi School with thoughts firmly focused on his father‘s and uncle‘s log trucks deep in the Waimarino native forests. Little did he realise that, with the formation of his father and uncle‘s partnership in 1948 carting sawn timber from Trunk Sawmill to the railhead at Erua and the expansion into log cartage in 1959, they were laying the groundwork for his family business today. The years 1971 to 1976 saw the death of his uncle, his father buying out all shares, downsizing from four trucks to one, the start of ‘subbies‘ use and the beginning of the first sustainable circuit loading for the company. The period from 1978 to 1988 began with the very first load of logs delivered into Winstone Samsung‘s Pulp Mill in Karioi and is continuing to this day.

The untimely passing of Mark‘s parents in 1997 left a huge void, and determination for him to achieve the vision he and his father shared over a beer. Mark went into partnership with McAlpine Mill and Warwick Wilshier, taking over Transport North Canterbury‘s logging fleet and forming a new company, MWT, of which he took sole control in January 1988. In 1997 the Log Transport Safety Council was formed and Mark was a founding member. Mark was the first operator to design and build a drop chassis trailer and, to his pleasure, these have evolved to be one of the safest trailers on our roads. This innovation has continued throughout his career. He is a true engineering pioneer and is always thinking of ideas to create efficiencies for all stakeholders.

Photo: Mark McCarthy (left) receives his award from Scott O‘Donnell.

In 1989 a considerable volume of cartage was tendered moving pine products from Karioi Forest to Carter Holt Harvey Tokoroa and Tasman Pulp & Paper at Kawerau. In 1994, Paragon Haulage was started at the request of the NZ Forestry Corporation. That business grew, and in 1996 Mark purchased another business in Northland. Rural Haulage in Winton was part of the group, meaning he had New Zealand covered. Mark then grew MWT and set up in Nelson working beside Duncan Borlase to cart for CHH Forests, servicing the local mills and port. MWT was sold to Steve Murphy in 2003, and in 2004 Fearon Logging from Masterton was purchased. Like many, Mark has made poor investments, with a sawmill almost sending him broke. However, through grit and determination he pulled through, and being a true gentleman he made sure all accounts were paid.

Mark has helped out other transport operators over the years. Dave Carr, a silent partner in Tranzcarr, remembers over a quiet beer he needed some help to invest in specialised equipment for the Taharoa Iron Sands Project. The next day Mark called to say he would like to help, so a trip with Dave to Mexico to purchase the trailers took place and a hands-on approach to moving the iron sand plant was a highlight for Mark in specialised heavy haul. Mark now oversees a group of companies that employs more than 240 staff moving around 2.2 million tonnes of logs, and he is proud to have the third family generation involved. He epitomises the company‘s values of ‘Proud People Loyal Service‘.

Murray Sowerby

Born in 1954, Murray Sowerby left school at 15 and started working on the family farm outside Feilding in the Manawatu. He soon realised that farming was not for him and started working for a local cropping farmer where he gained experience driving tractors and harvesters, before moving on to get his HT licence at 17. He carted grain, straw and livestock for the farm in a Thames Trader and TS 3 Commer. In 1972 Murray left the cropping farm and headed into Feilding where he landed a job driving for TJ Cook Ltd, transporting livestock and general goods. His first truck was a 1966 International ACCO V8 Petrol 4×2.

It was in 1972 that Murray met his wife-to-be Jenni and in 1975 he took a slight deviation from trucking and they started a local dairy in Feilding. This venture lasted 18 months, during which time they were married. In 1976 the call of the road was strong, and within a year Murray was back behind the wheel driving for Doughty Contractors, a bulk fertiliser cartage and spreading firm in Feilding.

Photo: Murray Sowerby (left) receives his award from Scott O‘Donnell.

During a chance meeting in early 1981 with the local Mack Trucks sales manager, they had a discussion regarding an opening to become a truck salesman, and soon after this chapter of his life began. Having always been passionate about trucking but at that time wanting to spend more time with his young family, Murray was keen to find something within the industry. The time felt right for Murray to move into truck sales and he accepted a role at Motor Truck Distributors (MTD) in their used truck yard. Murray quickly got the buzz for building a relationship with customers, with many returning over the years to purchase subsequent trucks. This in turn saw Murray overseeing new Mack sales for the Manawatu/Wellington regions before becoming national sales manager for Mack Trucks.

In 1992 Murray took the role of general manager for MTD, which included running the Mack CKD assembly operations in Palmerston North – a role he held until his retirement in June this year. During this time at MTD, Murray went on to oversee the build of the first Tri-Drive heavy-duty, off-highway log truck in New Zealand for that market, be responsible for the development and build of the Mack Quantum 8×4 product for the local market, and he also had a big part in the development of the Mack Super-Liner 685hp 8×4 being the highest horsepower conventional highway truck available in the world.

Murray‘s passion and involvement in this industry has been shown through his drive and passion for the aftermarket support of the Mack and Volvo products, something he has become known for, and his support and attendance for RTA, RTF and HHA industry events and conferences. In 2018 Murray was awarded an honorary membership of the New Zealand Heavy Haulage Association, in recognition of his long-term support.

Paul Currie

Paul Currie‘s early years were spent in Charteris Bay at the family‘s bach, where he developed a love for yachting. He got a P class for his fifth birthday and continued racing for many years in Lyttelton Harbour. In 1965 aged 15 he left St Andrew‘s College and started an apprenticeship as a tool and die maker with Alec Farrar Ltd in Christchurch. Paul‘s ambition was to earn five shillings an hour – this was the top rate for any trade in those days. It‘s safe to say he has now achieved this. On completion of his apprenticeship in 1969, Paul took a year off and went hunting. He spent time culling for DOC as well as hunting for meat and trophy shooting. He completed a taxidermy diploma course and started mounting animals and trophy heads that were then on-sold. He still enjoys a good hunt today.

Completing his time professional hunting saw him take a role at Sinclair Melbourne, a Lyttelton marine engineering company, where he worked as a marine engineer. Jet boat racing had by now replaced the competitive yachting days, and over the next 17 years this became a recreational passion. The love of sailing never waned, and Paul obtained his boatmasters certificate, allowing him to captain many yachting holidays overseas. In 1973 Paul started working for the Trailer Manufacturing Company Ltd (TMC) founded by his father, Ian Currie. He started on the factory floor building trailers, gradually working his way up the chain.

Photo: Paul Currie (left) receives his award from Scott O‘Donnell.

In 1975 TMC had a shareholding change, paying out the remaining shareholders and leaving Ian and Paul to become sole owners in a 50/50 split. With continued growth, 1977 saw the new TMC Trailers Ltd move from Blenheim Road to a purpose-built facility in Lunns Road. Here, Paul ran the workshop during the day and designed trailers using the old drawing machine at home in the weekends. A far cry from the AutoCAD and FEA stress analysis they now use. Sales relied on their strong reputation for calling on customers and fostering that customer/supplier relationship.

Over the years Paul has seen many industry leading milestones achieved, including: in 1972 TMC manufactured its 1000th trailer for Transport Nelson Limited, a 2-axle pull trailer; in 1986 moving into larger premises in Shands Road, Hornby, Christchurch, the site of its head office; in 1988 TMC built the first gull-wing truck and trailer unit in New Zealand for the Apple and Pear Board; in 1989 TMC won the best manufacturing award for its Euro Aro dynamics semi-trailer at the Hamilton transport show; in 2013 TMC gained the rights for sales, manufacturing and service for Steelbro sidelifters for New Zealand and South Pacific; and in 2015 TMC expanded into Auckland, with a workshop in Wiri. In 2017 Paul was awarded a honorary lifetime membership to the TTMF, and in 2018 the company reached its 70th year, making it the oldest trailer manufacturer in New Zealand. It also manufactured its 4000th trailer.