Golden Heritage

In September 2023, Features7 MinutesBy Gavin MyersOctober 10, 2023

You don’t have to go far in New Zealand to meet one of Regal Haulage’s gold Volvos. The company as we know it today was incorporated on 8/8/1988, and to celebrate this 35-year milestone, it held a family open day in the yard of its Tamahere headquarters. It was a double celebration for Regal as the company timed the event with the delivery and handover of its 100th Volvo.

Regal’s history stretches back long before that notable date in August of 1988. In 1960, 15-year-old Rob McHardie decided he preferred driving tractors to attending school and started Tauwhare Contractors, focusing on maize, hay and silage. About 15 years later, he bought his own trucks to move those commodities around the country. The first Mack trucks entered the business, establishing a fleet.

The incorporation of Regal Haulage in 1988 came about with the amalgamation of Tauwhare Contractors and Sherson Construction and the acquisition of Cronin Transport (the original owner of the land on which the company’s head office now sits).

The next milestone came in 2001 with the acquisition of Candy Transport based in Taupo, then in 2006, when Regal Haulage acquired another Waikato-based transport company, Bulk Haul. Further expansion came in 2015 with the purchase of New Plymouth’s Freight Bulk Transport (FBT), in 2020 with the purchase of Whiteline Transport (auger fleet), and in 2021, with the assets of a second New Plymouth operator, Walker Brothers Transport.

Today, the company operates depots in Marsden Point, Auckland, Mt Maunganui, Matamata, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Christchurch and Timaru. The fleet of 94 trucks carts about 2,500,000 tonnes per annum throughout New Zealand.

A new era came in 2013 when Rob sold his 50% shareholding of the company to his sons Scott and Brett. In 2021, Scott and his wife, Tash, took full ownership. Scott says: “This celebration is about sharing. It is a journey, a family, and we’re proud of what we have achieved. There is a core of people who have been here for 20-plus years. It’s so refreshing today to see so many people come back to say g’day and meet up with old friends.

“I smile when I read all the comments on a post on the Regal Facebook page from all the great people that have been part of Regal’s history… There’s a bit of a legacy associated with Regal and I’m super proud to have been here since the beginning. There have been many sacrifices to get the business to what it is today.”

The driver on the 100th Volvo, Russ Greenbank, has been with the company for 25 years. “He’s part of the furniture, so to speak, and a deserving recipient of this special vehicle,” says Scott. Russ was clearly elated as the truck made its first appearance and the crowds descended upon it to get a closer look.

Regal puts 12 new trucks on the road each year – all Volvos. The relationship with Volvo came about from the company’s relationship with MTD and history of running Macks. Scott explains that the company’s standard vehicles were six-wheeler Macks, with the odd vehicle from Freightliner or other brands when eight-wheelers were needed.

“When HPMV came in, the fleet changed almost overnight, as we added in the four-axle truck, five-axle trailer combinations. We went to the market and the whole Volvo package made a lot of sense – from the relationship with Truckstops to the technology and safety features offered in the trucks.

“We can order one configuration and decide by the time it gets here how to deploy it. Obviously, 100 Volvos later, that’s worked very well for us. I must acknowledge Volvo and the package they put together for us. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment.

“The drivers love them too, even the guys who swore they’d never get out of their Macks or Kenworths and give up their Roadrangers!” he laughs.

In recent times, Regal has standardised the fleet on FH16 700s. “At 58 tonne, we were finding that the FM 500s and 540s work too hard. So, the 700s are the standard now – all Euro-5 for the time being,” explains Scott.

Regal is one of the few companies that builds its own gear. In 2013 the engineering workshop team moved from its Tauwhare premises to a purpose built facility on-site at the Tamahere head office, which designs and builds every trailer and bin on a Regal truck (they arrive from MTD as chassis cabs), with select componentry supplied by TWL Transpecs. Among its 200 employees are about a dozen engineers and a dozen mechanics, taking care of the builds and maintenance.

Scott explains the desire for in-house engineering stems from his dad Rob. “That was his bent; he was interested in engineering. He had a trailer built and thought, ‘We can do better than that.’ In time, he couldn’t get what he wanted – the manufacturers were building for warranty, and he wanted optimal tare weight. Ultimately, he and a couple of the guys built the first one and the rest is history.

“It gives us the ability to respond quickly to our clients. We can build a high-sided unit, a tipping curtainsider – whatever’s needed. If a unit has a problem, we can prioritise it and get it fixed and back out. We understand where our vehicles may stress and crack and engineer them accordingly. We feel that’s always given us a bit of a competitive edge.”