As Kiwi as it gets

In Top Truck, UD7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJuly 29, 2019

There might still be a number of operators in the New Zealand transport scene who predate the Y2K bug, but ones who remember the Beatles‘ hits on the wireless are fewer on the ground.

Photo: Fleet number 136, firmly looking towards the next 60 years of journey for Waiuku-based Knight & Dickey Ltd.

This month‘s Top Truck is the latest addition in a fleet that harks back to an era where life was less complicated and it was a simply case of digging in and getting on with the task at hand. A time without the need to look at social media to see if your efforts garnered a handful of ‘likes‘ from someone you barely know and who is far less qualified than yourself to even comment. The Knight & Dickey story is a Kiwi as it gets, a grassroots novel on how a straightforward approach to doing the basics in business extremely well has built a solid reputation that has now grown three generations deep, and shows no indication of letting up. The year is 1958 and a young Graham Dickey working at a local service station was a front-row witness to the increasing potential of the fledgling road transport industry. It was Jack Knight, a customer of the station where Graham worked, who initiated a discussion around opportunities within the industry, and the eventual formation of Knight & Dickey Ltd, a 50/50 shared partnership between the two.

The business has its roots proudly entrenched in Waiuku and has grown organically through the years as the demands from the local farming and horticulture communities and associated industries presented themselves. Savvy business decisions have been at the heart of the operation throughout the 60-plus years of operation. The hands-on management style has helped to build wellestablished relationships with clients and staff alike, with many now measured in decades. We meet Bill Cockburn, driver and caretaker of the UD Quon bulk combination, and immediately find an operator with true pride for the company he is a part of, as well as an opinion based on solid experience in the industry he has a passion for. Early days riding around in an old Commer with his Dad led Bill and his older brother into the transport industry as drivers. Bill started out with Knight & Dickey the best part of 40 years ago. He completed nine years as a fulltime driver then the call of the sea was too great, leading to 18 years at sea on mullet boats. During the time at sea Bill retained relief driver status with Knight & Dickey, especially through the winter months. After the stint at sea it was back to the driving with Knight & Dickey full time; that return now 10 years ago.

Photo: Driver and caretaker of the new UD Bill Cockburn – Knight & Dickey good sort, complete with new shirt on his back.

Bill‘s first steed in the fleet was a D series Ford with a 3-axle trailer. Driving this was a substantial challenge back in the day on bobby calves or hay, with a grand total of 150hp at his disposal. “We got the job done; big days but the work got done,” he said. From the Ford Bill was promoted to a cabover 1319 Mercedes-Benz with a staggering 180hp. “I thought I was king; 30hp more and it got me away from the hay and bobby calves. We would do nine loads a day out of Stevenson‘s Drury to the steel mill; again, big days,” said Bill. Present day Bill finds himself at the helm of this month‘s Top Truck, the latest iteration of the UD Quon, a GW 26-460 with the GH11TD engine producing 338kW (460hp), and he could not be happier. At first he was unsure how he would find operating the ESCOT-VI 12-speed AMT transmission, but this apprehension has dissipated, giving way to a point of view where he can see the merits of the concept. There are still those times where Bill will not hesitate to shift the selector to manual mode when there is a need for human control over the proceedings.

Photo: The command centre of the UD Quon, with a well executed installation of the tip controls in the top left of the wrap.

The Quon is a striking unit in the fleet colours, especially with the main grille being colour-coded to match the scheme on the cab. In an age of digitally cut vinyl signage it is refreshing to see the ‘old skool cool‘ touch of enamel-based signwriting that has been skilfully applied with a brush. There is something about the appearance of texture generated by ox hair in an ornate scrollwork or pinstripe. The Transport & General Transport Trailers build is firstclass, with crisp alloy bins on both the truck and the matching 4-axle trailer. Both bins are raised and lowered with Edbro hoists. The trailer is outfitted with ROR SL9 air suspension axle sets with disc brakes, and Wabco EBS assistance also in place.

With that, John Dickey, director/workshop manager, wanders over to see how we are getting on with the interview. He immediately notices the new shirt Bill is wearing for the occasion and comments, “Good to see you put a nice shirt on for the mugshot mate, one without holes in it”. With this simple comment in jest, a healthy dialogue of good old-fashioned ribbing between the two ensued. It is this down to earth style of management and camaraderie that is, most definitely, one of the golden ingredients for a business to successfully achieve the milestones that Knight & Dickey Ltd have.

Photo: ‘Old Skool Cool‘ – pinstripes, scrolls and signage applied by brush, a true art form.