BUSINESS UPDATE – Master Drive now Master Class

In Business Update8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 5, 2018

Three years down the track following TR Group‘s outright purchase of Master Drive Services Ltd, New Zealand Trucking magazine received an invitation to pop along to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park to revisit the fresh new look, see where things are at, and find out what‘s just down the road.

Twenty-six years ago Master Drive Services Ltd was established as a Private Training Establishment (PTE) accredited by the NZQA, specialising in education and hands-on training for the commercial transport industry. In 2014 TR Group Ltd purchased a majority stake in the business with the mindset to continue building on its ethos and industry following. In 2015 the balance of the shareholding was acquired, making Master Drive a fully owned part of TR Group.

Culture and vision
In 1992 there was one simple goal for the fledgling TR Group – to become world class in truck and trailer rental and leasing. Many new companies set out with aspirations of grandeur, but settle instead for mediocrity, rooted in lack of heartfelt passion for what it is they do. That‘s not the case at TR. Twenty-six years on, the original vision still holds true and permeates all aspects of the business.
Neil Bretherton, general manager of TR Master Drive Services, said TR Group‘s guiding principles are based on building long-standing relationships through genuine care for the customer‘s journey, and by assisting them with the people, products and services they need. It was those philosophies that were front of mind throughout the acquisition of Master Drive Services Ltd.

Natural progression
Eight years ago the majority of the TR fleet was equipped with a gear lever and a clutch pedal; now the tide has turned and AMTs prevail. “Like it or loathe it, the fleet now reflects this shift,” said Neil. In addition there has been acceleration in the uptake of other technologies in all areas of the vehicle, which comes with one inherent problem – the end user. No matter how ingenious and user friendly it may seem, manufacturers are not able to ensure operators, often on the other side of the globe and who have just been thrown the keys to a new high-tech rig, will be able to sit down for five days and absorb a driver‘s manual resembling the Encyclopaedia Britannica. There are two opportunities here that TR Master Drive Services aim to address: firstly, the safety of the driver and their understanding and competent use of in-cab technology; and secondly, the profitability of the client leasing the gear. “There is a direct connection between how gear is driven and the operating costs of vehicles,” said Neil.

Photo: The rollover rig in full flight with outriggers engaged

Photo: 35kph and we have lift-off. Note the water level in the sight-glass.

Heavy investment
Since TR Master Drive Services was established, the level of investment has been substantial. The investment has brought about a reinvigoration that has left no stone unturned. The services resulting from new equipment, training aids, more driver training specialists, and updated facilities and systems across the country, are gaining a new level of respect and traction from the clients and wider industry. The flagship programme of TR Master Drive Services has always been the rollover truck used for the heavy vehicle stability and control programme. This too has also gone through an extensive upgrade process.
The tractor unit has been swapped out for a late model unit featuring a wide array of new technologies that drivers will be exposed to on a day-to-day basis. The trailer has also come of age through a partnership with Transpecs that saw the entire combination kitted out with the latest axle, brake, suspension, and electronic technology. “At all of our stability programme courses the Transpecs team take clients through a theory session on the technology on the tanker. We then let them experience it for themselves from the driver‘s seat. Its real, hands-on, experiential learning that‘s a real eye-opener for operators,” said Vinnie Green, driver training specialist from TR Master Drive Services Hamilton. “For example, we have heard true horror stories out there on the road with regard to incorrect use of EBS, and you have to ask yourself why. Is it a lack of education? The Stability Tanker programme gives us the tools to address this issue and many more.”

Photo: Driver training specialist Vinnie Green (right) engaging the class with real life experience to promote understanding and learning.

Photo: Real world classroom, at the controls.

Future paths
TR Group has not yet finished with the redevelopment of the TR Master Drive Services offering. All new lease vehicles come with a free training voucher for use on one of TR Master Drive Services courses, and the uptake of this offer is steadily increasing as more operators realise the value of having their drivers upskilled. The variety of courses now offered is impressive, covering all manner of heavy vehicle courses including licence endorsements, health and safety, operator coaching, driver assessment and upskilling. There are also courses aimed at light four-wheel drive vehicles. This diverse spectrum of courses has been made available throughout the country with branches in most major centres, as well as options available now to complete an increasing number of the theory portions online.
“The electronic online option is proving popular for many, allowing individuals to learn in their own environment at a time and pace that they are comfortable with,” said Neil. “E-learning also allows us the opportunity to deliver our courses in multiple languages. Customised programmes are also available to clients where specific areas of concern or niche requirements need to be addressed.” The vision TR Group imagined for Master Drive Services appears well on its way to being realised. Offered to both internal and external clients, the programmes are delivered in an inclusive, practical, and professional manner, developing confident, capable and professional operators able to return a safer and healthier bottom line for either their own business, or that of their employer.