A good year

In Rigs of, October 202228 MinutesBy Cark Kirkbeck and Gavin MyersNovember 22, 2022

As the country woke to the first day of January 2012, the kids were dropping Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call me Maybe into the iPod nano, while most of us were in a state of physical discomfort. Less than 24 hours in, we had already broken at least three New Year’s resolutions.

Although the new chronological calendar started with promise and anticipation as we steadily worked out of recession, there were a couple of exceptions to this rule. Some experienced a sinking feeling instead. A balmy evening on 13 January set the scene off the coast of the Tuscan island of Giglio, where Captain Francesco Schettino decided to perform the nautical version of a flyby and steered the 60,000-tonne Costa Concordia cruise ship off course and close enough to the island to ground it on jagged coast.

The ship capsized, becoming the largest shipwreck in history, twice the size of the Titanic at more than 900ft long. Thirty-two people paid the ultimate price for this stupidity in the ship’s chaotic evacuation. Schettino became the lightning rod for international disdain due to abandoning the ship well before everyone else was off. What is it again that they say about rats and sinking boats?

On 20 January, barely a week later, another sinking feeling hit a little closer to home, this time for infamous internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom. One day before his 38th birthday at 7am, police officers stormed his home in a military-style raid. Dozens of officers swooped the estate in helicopters, squad cars, motorbikes and pizza delivery vans. Included in the raid were several members of New Zealand’s elite counter-terrorist force – as well as Gary, ex-Team America.

Dotcom’s bodyguard later recalled that the officers were seen to be armed with assault rifles, sidearms and Twinkies when they entered the premises. “I heard loud banging noises. I was just scared and worried. I thought I’d better wait for them to come to me rather than popping out and scaring someone who might shoot me,” Dotcom said.

While the raid was being carried out in New Zealand, law enforcement started to pull the plug on file-sharing website, MegaUpload. Hundreds of servers were taken offline and other Mega properties, such as Megavideo, disappeared, leaving many around the globe wondering where they would now watch free informative and educational human biology videos.

The year 2012 was also a big one for big social media numbers, with the global interweb running red hot. PSY showed us all how it was done ‘Gangnam-style’, and Facebook proudly reported it had achieved one-billion plug-ins to the matrix.

Meanwhile, back at the coalface in the real world, the transport industry was humming with an abundance of work post-recession. However, the increasing driver shortage problem was beginning to make its presence felt, and it’s fair to say it’s an issue that, 10 years on, has become the daily thorn in the side for many. As far as new trucks hitting the road, sales numbers were increasing and respectable, giving us here at New Zealand Trucking a great selection for the front cover and pages of the magazine.

Some of our classmates are still with their original purchasers, whereas others have moved on once or twice, so join us now as we call the roll for our class of 2012, and let’s see how their working careers are panning out.




Iveco Powerstar ADN 6×4 450
Then: FZF766, Texco Excavating, Christchurch
Now: Same company, now Texco Groundworks

“I’ve been waiting for your call,” laughs Jason Stephens, fleet manager at Texco Groundworks. Jason was with the company (then Texco Excavating) when we first featured FZF766. “We still have the truck; it’s still exactly the same – same paint, same trailer, exactly the same work.”

When we featured it, the Powerstar was employed in the post-earthquake clean-up of the Christchurch CBD, with the late Doug Milne behind the wheel. At the time, we reported that Doug was quite taken with the truck. “I’m more impressed with this than I thought I would’ve been,” we quoted him as saying.

Doug was specifically impressed by the ZF-based EuroTronic II 16-speed automated transmission. Jason says that, after 23,532 hours and 676,258km, towing the two-axle Guy Norris Engineering tipulator at 35 tonnes (and a bit of backup transporting work now and then), the truck has been incredibly reliable.

“It’s had no engine work, and the gearbox is still original. That’s it, other than two clutches and regular maintenance and servicing. It’s been in the hands of five drivers, with Darren Bone currently behind the wheel,” Jason says.

“It’s been a marvellous truck to have in the fleet. Others have come and gone since we got it, but we’ve kept it because it’s just been such a good truck.”

Photo: Photo: Jason Stephens.




Volvo FH16-700
Then: GCQ988, Craig Johnson Carrying (Courier Post)
Now: Scaife & Sons, Waikanae

Our big-hitter of 2012 was a Volvo FH16 700 in Courier Post livery, driven by Craig Johnson, a regular on the Taupo- Auckland, Taupo-Wellington run. A fan of big horsepower, Craig opted for the 700hp Swede in B-train configuration to “pull the heaviest loads on the most time-critical run”.

Craig had owned a succession of FH16s and said: “I can’t fault them on how they perform. They are just bullet-proof.” Evidently, GCQ988 remained in its Courier Post colours right up to 2021, when in October, it was bought from MTD Palmerston North by Robin Scaife of Scaife & Sons, Waikanae.

Based on the Kapiti Coast, Scaife & Sons is a pile-driving company working in Wellington and the lower North Island. “It has a three-axle transport trailer to pull a 16-tonne digger around with. Otherwise it’s loaded with poles,” says Robin.

Like Craig, Robin was also attracted by the high horsepower. “I saw it on Trade Me and thought, ‘Ooh, it has 700hp, I’ll have to go have a look at that.’ We liked what we saw…”

At the time, the Volvo had covered 2,250,000km. “I believe it has had a significant amount of work, the latest being a brand-new motor before we bought it,” Robin says.

“It has heaps of power to do what we need it to – and also auto, which was brilliant. The ride’s what I was mainly looking for, and it rides nicely,” he adds.

Photo: Robin Scaife.




Freightliner Argosy FRL
Then: GEY39, Ferndale Farms, Maramarua
Now: Chris Angus Transport, Matatoki

Some readers will recognise this Freightliner Argosy, though not for positive reasons.

Put on the road by Derek Tremewan of Ferndale Farms, the Argosy attracted attention with its “eye-catching looks” and bold chrome grille, introduced with the Series 2 generation. Not that that was a deciding factor for Derek – he’d already owned six of them and had a good run with them.

In our article, we commented: “The new Argosy is a big improvement over the past model […] this is far more than a facelift,” and continued, “it’s the improvements in finish, quietness, the ride and appearance that make this Argosy so exciting.”

It was fitted with the 560hp DD15 and 18-speed Roadranger combo, and as an eight-axle log unit, was more than up for the task.

Chris Angus Transport of Matatoki bought it off Derek in June 2014 with 330,000km on the clock to run in the central and upper North Island.

“We converted the trailer to five axles in April 2015, and the engine had a full in-frame rebuild in October 2018 at 964,217km,” says Chris.

Unfortunately, GEY39 rolled over in May 2020, having covered a commendable 1,144,217km in its lifetime. “It was a real shame that truck went over,” Chris says solemnly.

Photo: Chris Angus.




Kenworth T909
Then: T909KW, Daniel Smith Industries
Now: Same owner

Can you believe it was 2012 when the T909 was the ‘new kid’ in Kenworth’s T900 series? As they say, the classics never die and while a new era of styling was permeating for the Bug, we prized the T909 for maintaining its heritage and being as iconic as its predecessors.

“While it’s as brutal as its predecessors, there are subtle changes that make a great thing even better,” we commented.

Those changes “dragged the truck into the 21st century”, as we put it at the time. So what better chance to put Kenworth’s new big-hitter to the test than to join the crew at Daniel Smith Industries for a run in what was New Zealand’s very first T909 6×4 heavy-haul truck tractor? It had all the looks and, with a 130-tonne GCM rating, was well up to the task.

We commented that while Daniel’s T909 might look like a throwback to the classical ages, this truck was “no neanderthal build”.

The truck entered service with the Euro 5-rated Cummins Signature EGR engine rated at 447kW (600hp) and 2779Nm (2050lb/ft) driving, of course, though an 18-speed Roadranger. “With a truck this traditional, anything else would be sacrilege,” we said.

T909KW remains with the Daniel Smith Industries fleet and is still running strong. While we were able to reach out to Daniel, he was unfortunately unable to supply an update or current pictures of it in time for print.




MAN TGX 26.540 6×4 BLS
Then: GDU604, Guy Small (AF Logistics)
Now: A&R Rust Contracting, Whakatane

In the June 2012 issue, directly after the story on the MAN TGX 26.540 that appeared on the cover, came the Rigs of 2002 feature. At the time – in 2002 – just four of the covers were European trucks (one of which was a double-up), and none were MAN. That might have been because, as we noted in the MAN story, just 120 MANs were sold locally between 1992 and 2005 – less than 10 a year.

There’s no doubt that the brand was in a much stronger position by June 2012, when our spotlight fell on the TGX owned by Guy Small and leased to AF Logistics. Guy had also run a 460hp and a 530hp MAN TGA – which we reported had clocked up 1,000,000km. The TGX presented a case of evolution over revolution.

Whakatane-based Allan Rust of A&R Rust Contracting bought GDU604 about four years ago off Penske Tauranga.

“It has about 980,000km on it now, and I only do about 10,000km per year. It’s in semi-retirement,” he chuckles.

Allan uses it as a transporter to shift his gear around locally. “For what I’m using it for, it’s fine. Mechanically it’s been good. I believe Penske gave it an engine rebuild just before I bought it.”

Unfortunately Alan could not supply a recent image of the MAN in time for our print date.




Mitsubishi Fuso HD Euro FV470K1
Then: GEZ269, Barry & Brian Watts
Now: JB Earthmoving, Greytown

It may be a common sight on the road today, but when it arrived in the fleet in 2012, the Fuso HD Euro presented buyers with a greater proportion of European componentry within its Japanese skin. After time in the FV470 tipper unit with Gisborne-based Barry Watts, we concluded, “It’s hard to see how this truck can’t be a winner in the long term for Fuso.”

Owned at the time by Barry and his brother Brian – who was also the local Mitsubishi car/Fuso truck dealer – the Fuso was a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ proposition. “We’d been buying them long before we had the franchise,” Brian said.

Today, run by JB Earthmoving of Greytown, GEZ269 is still configured as it was in 2012. Owner Jeremy Bennett bought it from the Watts brothers and the mileage remains quite low at 350,000km.

“It runs pretty much around the Wairarapa. We haven’t done many kilometres with it,” says Jeremy. “We do a lot of farm work, so it probably does more time under the digger than on the road.”

Jeremy says the Fuso has gone well, with only “little niggles and bits and pieces” to keep on top of. “However, it just had a major gearbox overhaul. It was covered by insurance because they put it down to the PTO being installed incorrectly,” he says.

Photo: Jeremy Bennett.




Western Star 4864FXC
Then: GEQ710, Brendon Young Transport
Now: Central Demolition, Palmerston North

If you like something, why not buy it? That was true for Brendan Young when he put this 4864FXC on the road back in 2012, and it was also true for Ian Butcher of Central Demolition in Feilding when he purchased the truck roughly five years ago.

“Ian likes American trucks, and he’s always had a passion for Western Stars. It’s a big truck for what we do, but he likes them, so we buy them,” explains fleet manager Aaron Wiseman.

“We have four or five stars now and have had a good run out of them. One is up to 1,400,000km and never had an overhaul. That’s got lots to do with scheduled servicing. They’re smooth running.”

Aaron says GEQ710 has clocked 883,000km and has been reliable, with only general wear and tear and minor fixes to be done. “It’s had a clutch and a couple of injectors. The usual stuff for a truck of the era and mileage,” Aaron comments. The truck operates as Central Demolition’s bulk unit, towing a 45-cube trailer, mainly between Wellington and Rotorua, with a bit of local work.

When Brendan bought the Western Star, the brand was still new to the trucking scene Down Under. However, it quickly made an impact.

“In some ways, the old dilemma of what to buy is becoming easier for the traditionalists that appreciate the American trucking tradition…” we commented.

Photo: Bill Mallinson via Central Demolition.




Kenworth T408
Then: GFL997, TDL Group
Now: BP Rowlands Trucking, New Plymouth

September 2012 saw us feature the second Kenworth T408 to occupy a cover spot, this time an 8×4 tractor unit belonging to TDL Group.

The new-look bonneted Kenworth had been on the road for more than a year by this point and by all accounts, had gained quite a following. “Judging by the numbers that have gone out the door, the styling exercise was a big success,” we commented.

GFL997 also featured a new piece of mechanical componentry bolted to its Cummins ISX EGR motor – Eaton’s latest UltraShift Plus 18-speed automated transmission. We described it as “a revelation” compared with the previous generation. “Eaton finally seems to have caught up with their European competitors,” we commented.

The truck’s driver at the time, Paul Le Gros, agreed. “It just knows what to do,” he said.

Records indicate that GFL997 has passed through numerous hands since it left the TDL fleet. While we managed to contact its current owner, unfortunately he declined to give us an update on the truck.




Mercedes-Benz Actros MP2 3246L/45
Then: GLD284, Westland Milk Products
Now: Metal Solutions BOP, Kawerau

The only Mercedes-Benz to grace the cover in 2012 was the Actros 3246 driven by George Simon for Westland Milk Products. Spending the first years of its life based out of Hokitika and with a preference for Euro trucks, Westland had big expectations of the Actros. George was especially impressed by the Voith retarder and the G330 PowerShift transmission.

Now with 899,000km under its wheels, Metal Solutions BOP has been running it since December 2019.

“The truck is still running strong but quite a different machine than it was,” says managing director David Fretwell. “It’s been able to grow with our business, especially now that we have the five-axle trailer behind it. It mainly does hook-truck work and it’s H-rated.

“With the 22-tonne Palfinger hook unit on this truck, it’s a super-versatile unit. We have hook bins for it, a flat deck, and recently put together a special-build Hardox bin that fits a new 10-tonne Yanmar digger. This gives us the versatility to arrive at a site, hook the bin onto the ground and drive the digger out, and then load the hook bin on the truck. We also transport our Merlo telehandlers and forklifts to sites on the flat deck and drive them off at ground level,” Dave says.

The Actros received a new clutch and retarder kit when it was bought, and Dave says it’s been a reliable unit since then. He’d like to acknowledge Chris Phillips from East Coast Heavy Diesel in Whakatane, CDS in Mt Maunganui and Coastline Auto Electrical for doing their bit to keep it reliable.

Photo: Dave Fretwell.




Hino 700 FY2945
Then: GHZ340, McCarthy Transport, Whanganui
Now: Dowman Contracting, Whanganui

In what was probably a first for a ‘Rigs of’ feature, the McCarthy Transport Hino 700 cover star from our November 2012 issue had just changed hands as we were compiling this story. Having been in the McCarthy fleet all this time, GHZ340 was bought by fellow Whanganui business, Dowman Contracting, to be converted into a transporter. The reconfigured rig should be on the road by the time you read this.

“Ex-log trucks tend to be good options for transporters because they have a relatively long wheelbase. They lend themselves to a good conversion. We know the McCarthy family relatively well, and we know their gear is well looked after and well serviced. It’s a truck we could know the history of,” says Scott Dowman.

McCarthy’s engineering workshop has even built the beavertail transporter deck for Scott.

In 809,000km (as we reported at the time, exactly what McCarthy was expecting from it), Scott believes the 700 has had just a new gearbox and top-end rebuild.

Spec’d for log work, the 700 had Hendrickson Primaax suspension and 1.44:1 Dana cross-locked rear axles. It was praised for being easy to drive and manoeuvrable – and punching above its weight.

When it enters operation with Dowman Contracting, GHZ340 will transport the company’s gear around the Whanganui region and out to Rangitikei.

Unfortunately as the Hino’s new colours were being applied at the time of writing, Scott could not supply a recent image.




Renault Premium 460.26 6×4 Lander T3S
Then: GMF327, Ballie Transport (Foodstuffs)
Now: Far Freighters, Pukenui, Kaitaia

Not many Renault trucks were sold in New Zealand, but those who have owned them know how good they really were. When we tested GMF327 new in December 2012, owner John Baillie was impressed by the Lander’s package and optimistic about operating it. The truck’s current owner, Greg Gemmell, says that when he bought it, John told him: “it was a bloody good truck.” Three years down the road and Greg reckons “it’s wonderful”.

“It’s probably the most underrated truck I’ve ever owned. If they were still making them now, I would buy more of them. The comfort leaves my new Volvo FM for dead. It’s coming up to 800,000km now, and there’s not one rattle in the cab – it’s quiet.”

Greg says he’s used the Renault for all sorts of things. “It’s run a 50Max B-train curtainsider down to Auckland and back, it’s towed logs with a bailey bridge, it’s done reefer work, did a kiwifruit season… It punches way above its weight. I really rate it.”

Greg bought it through Carl Capstick at MTD on a guaranteed buyback. “When the time came, they took it back… and I bought it straight back off them,” he says.

Greg says GMF327 has never failed a COF and he’s had no mechanical issues with it. His one criticism is that the retardation provided by the exhaust brake isn’t as strong as he’d like when descending a hill.

“People laugh at you when you tell them you’ve got a Renault, but they’re not shit,” he says matter-of-factly. Unfortunately Greg could not supply a recent image of the Renault in time for our print date.