Don‘t just open the door… rip it off the hinges

17 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineAugust 16, 2017

Meet Mark Fletcher and you‘re instantly aware this a man who responds to an opportunity with an enviable mixture of energy, confidence, and purpose, all reined in with a healthy dose of prudence.

There‘s no shortage of self-belief and good old Kiwi ‘Give it a go‘, but time also goes into planning the ‘how‘, and most importantly, the ‘why‘. 

Mark hails originally from the Marlborough region. His parents owned a furniture shop that had been handed down through his father‘s family, as well as one of the first privately owned vineyards in the area.

He attended Marlborough Boys College and post-school served his time as diesel mechanic at Truck Service Centre in Nelson. It was then that the introduction to trucking came. Young, keen and enthusiastic, he would earn extra money driving trucks at night and in the weekends for clients, and as time moved on found himself doing a regular Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch, Nelson freight run on a Fuso and then an IVECO for a local Mainfreight operator.

Mark took a break away from the local scene in the late nineties and travelled north to see friends in Taupo. Working in a bar he met drivers from Matt and Heather Purvis‘ Total Transport Ltd, who suggested he should get back behind the wheel there. Never taking a backward step, Mark soon found himself at the iconic company.

“Total Transport was an amazing place. You learned quick and the work was hard. Matt was a hard man but looked after the guys who gave a hundred percent,” says Mark.

He started on a Freightliner FL113, and progressed to driving a number of Macks, Kenworths and Freightliners, mainly working on the company‘s timber runs to the Hawke‘s Bay, and south to Wellington. 

Following a short driving hours-related holiday, Mark did a stint on line haul work for a local owner-driver. It wasn‘t long before the phone rang and it was Matt Purvis.

“What are you doing working for him? That‘s crazy. Why don‘t you work for yourself, you‘ve got what it takes.” 

Mark said he told Matt he didn‘t have the wherewithal to do something like that. Two days later the phone rang again.

“Your loan‘s approved, there‘s some new Argosys on the way, spec what you want on one of them and you‘ve also got a slot booked at Jacksons.”

That sequence of events, from a man Mark holds in the highest regard, changed Mark‘s life and approach to effort and endeavour. He was now Fletcher Transport, subcontracted to Total Transport.

“There are so many guys out there who have what it takes. Don‘t get me wrong, not everyone does, but so many do and all they need is a good business plan and work ethic and they can start to build themselves something real. The truck is rolling equity you know? Most people wouldn‘t have a hope of saving the residual value of the truck in the time it takes to pay one off, and if you‘re sensible and work your arse off you can build and build and build.”

The Argosy was the first of what would be a typical Mark Fletcher truck, innovative, personal and productive. Sporting a Gen II Signature and lag exhaust pipes, it was the first with a stainless grille and alloy bumper. It was set up with a 6m truck body and 9.8m trailer, making it perfect for the timber work the company did.

Following strong and productive years Mark sold the Argosy in 2009 after the Linfox buy-out of Total and by then parent company Provincial Freight Lines. He and wife Rachael bought a restaurant in Taupo, a business they owned until November last year.

In time Mark was able to take on some relief driving and although enjoyable, he knew working for himself was where he needed to be. He saw a 2014 Mercedes-Benz Actros 2660 and B-train in Freight Lines colours for sale. Following negotiations with the truck‘s owner and the parent company, Mark was up and away again… back in green, a colour that had good vibes for him.

Today Ranui Haulage comprises four trucks – the three Mercedes-Benz and a MAN – all in Freight Lines livery. 

Trans-Atlantic crossing

“I did my time on Cummins motors and American gear. Of course initially you‘re paid to love them, but eventually I became a fan through and through. I‘ve always loved the Freightliners, they‘ve been a great truck to me, so that purchase of the first Mercedes-Benz was a huge step into the unknown,” said Mark.

When he took the truck on it was 250,000km old, was behind in its servicing, and had generally had a hard time of it. 

“What a great truck that is. Aside from a retarder, which is not a Merc product, that truck hasn‘t yet missed a beat. I caught up on the servicing over time to the point where she was bang up to date. From day one it started returning better results on tyres and fuel than I budgeted for initially. Not only that, but the ride and comfort were something new to me, all with no loss of performance,” said Mark.

“She‘s done over half a million now and is still out there doin‘ it for us. It was that truck that sold these new ones, definitely. Once upon a time I‘d have said you‘d never get me out of an American truck, now I can‘t see me ever going back. I mean look! How easy is this? When buying new trucks I‘m definitely Trucks and Trailers loyal but I can‘t go past these things now. I‘ve jumped camps!”


Total Transport wasn‘t the most significant introduction the bar work facilitated. It was there that Mark met the future Mrs Fletcher, Rachael Land. If you want to define busy, just think Fletchers. Mark is Mark, but Rachael is a mother, physiotherapist,
gym instructor, and until recently a restaurateur, and all this when competing in XTERRA Multisport Championships.

If children Arabella (5) and Harrison (7) ever needed role models…look no further than Mum and Dad. “Rachael‘s an incredible lady and just the best Mum,” says Mark. “She‘s Ranui‘s rock and the only reason we can do all this.

The name Ranui has huge family significance. Rachael‘s late father, David Land QSM, was an inspirational figure himself. A winner of the prestigious AC Cameron Award for excellence in farming, a founding board member of Farmlands, and also actively involved in numerous community affairs through farming and politics. The family farm at Te Aute was called Ranui – meaning middle of the day/brightest part of the day – and so Mark and Rachael named Ranui Haulage in honour and remembrance of Rachael‘s inspirational Dad.

The why

“I love trucks but I don‘t ‘love‘ trucks if you know what I mean,” says Mark. “I love the industry and the life and getting out and about. I love my trucks to be well spec‘d and well presented, but you won‘t find me walking around truck shows, and I don‘t have exhaustive
collections of photos. I love what I do and I wouldn‘t do anything else, but this is all about Rachael and the kids. Now at 41 years of age this is about providing as great a life as we can give the family and fulfilling family dreams and honouring the efforts of those who went before. It‘s about family first and foremost. You have to know when to get out of the truck and go home to what‘s important
and what it‘s all about.”

Johnny Baker and Mark Fletcher are more than happy with what Mercedes-Benz‘s latest and greatest is delivering.

Johnny Baker – trucker

“People ask me, ‘How do you do what you do?‘ And I reply, ‘How do you do what you do? Same old thing in the same old place
every day?‘ 

“This is the best office in the world, this is. Off the ferry in the morning, see snow on the desert, and the sun go down behind
the Sky Tower…all in the same work day – it‘s awesome!” The words of Johnny Baker, driver of the newest of the two trucks. 

“I‘ve always been an American man, driven and owned my own, but this is cool, this is real cool. After a big motorbike accident this time last year that knocked me out for the whole year, I went back and did some relief driving on an American truck. I loved being back out on the road in that style of gear, it was really cool, but it knocked me around. I was sore and buggered after one run from Auckland to Taupo. I was thinking maybe it was all over, then Mark offered me this. I can do a lap (Auckland – Christchurch – Auckland) and feel like I can climb straight back in and go again. I feel like I‘ve done nothing!”

Johnny Baker at work. Mark has specified Dura-Bright wheels and features like colour-coded tanks. This means reinstating his preferred image, after winter running, is as quick and simple as possible.

While Johnny‘s family hails from the East Coast originally, he was raised in Manurewa. Holidays were often spent back on the East Coast with family, and he has a strong connection and draw to area he loves. A father of five, Johnny has loved trucks and driving ever since being introduced to the industry in his early teens by a mate who worked on a hide run to Auckland.

“It‘s my passion. It has to be your passion. If it wasn‘t you just couldn‘t do it.” Although he‘s tried his hand at logs, it‘s line haul that fires him up. He started out driving for Spencer Golden in the Hawke‘s Bay and in his time has driven for a number of high profile operators including Kevey‘s, Chem Couriers and Mainfreight. At one stage he owned two Freightliner Argosys of his own.

“Logs were good, but I still like my bling and my shiny stuff, so me and mud never really saw eye to eye,” he laughs. He did five years in Australia from 2009 and said he loved every single minute of it, carting grains and various products anywhere and everywhere, always calling his trusty steed of the moment ‘home‘. Two family deaths in close succession brought him home two years ago. He was relief driving when he had his motorbike accident while out on a weekend ride, and after a challenging recovery he‘s back where he loves… letting his new ride soothe away any last remaining aches and pains.

“I love home [East Coast] and I could live there easily. I‘ll probably end up there I‘d say…mucking around with logs or something. Yeah, probably eh.” 

Let‘s hope that‘s not for a long time yet…

It was the run Mark got from this truck, his first foray into the Mercedes-Benz product, that sold the new ones.