Hammond‘s gamble

8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 12, 2017

Bill Hammond. Energy, drive, a love for what you‘re doing, and a genuine desire to provide the best possible service is all you need.

“Trying to run and grow the business on secondhand trucks just wasn‘t working,” reflects Bill Hammond. “I said to Nicki we‘ll buy a brand new Isuzu and if we‘re still here in six months we‘ll revaluate then. Fourteen months later we had three new Isuzus and haven‘t looked back.”

Bill Hammond is an inspiration to any young person with a bit of energy and self-belief.

“I wasn‘t that suited to school, and it wasn‘t that suited to me,” he laughed.

Forty-two-year-old Bill is one of five children and a Carterton local. Young Bill‘s passion for trucks ignited in the mid-80s driving his older brother‘s J4 Bedford hay truck. It got to the stage where attendance at Kuranui College was being replaced with attendance in the Bedford‘s cab, hay paddocks, and milking sheds of the area. Bill ended up working for brother Rob at RW Hammond Transport.

On the day he sat his trailer licence in a Ford N Series 5032 and 2-axle trailer he remembers the testing officer saying, ‘You can‘t back the trailer for shit, but you‘ll come right‘, duly handing young Hammond his ticket to ride. Truth was it was a short tip trailer with a long drawbar so Bill reckons he did okay.

In 2000 the brothers went their separate ways, Rob continuing with Hammond Spreading Ltd, and Bill with Bill Hammond Transport Ltd. Bill and wife Nicki started with a 1993 400hp Foden 4000 and 4-axle trailer set up as a drop-sider and working on rural cartage in the area. The Foden was joined by a CH Mack drop-sider shortly after.

“The Mack was a great truck but that bloody Foden nearly broke me. From the moment it arrived it was always in the workshop for something,” said Bill. It was now 2004 and the point where the gamble on the new Isuzu was taken. The decision was a good one, the small company flourishing.

“Those 460 GIGA-Max were a mighty truck. One of the best trucks ever.” Of the three Hammond trucks, two were drop-siders and one was a bathtub. Two things saw the Isuzu reign at Hammond‘s end. Firstly the GIGA- Max‘s replacement model wasn‘t the truck its predecessor was. A new GIGA gave no end of trouble from day one.

Secondly, Bill needed a better power-to-weight ratio.

“The Isuzus were struggling to get to some destinations and back home in a day. We needed something with a bit more horsepower.”

The answer to the problem came in the form of the first Western Star, a 4964 bathtub unit with a 500hp Detroit Series 60. The Western Star proved perfect and re-established what work was possible in a day. It also meant Bill could at last put a new American truck in the fleet.

“I like my US trucks and a bit of the shiny stuff, it‘s just me,” laughs Bill. “That first Western Star was a great machine, as was the first Argosy I brought in 2008. That truck had a C15 in it. When she drove out for the last time a year or so ago it really was a bit of a sad moment. She‘d done 1.3m kilometres of absolutely problem-free running.”

Today Bill Hammond Transport Ltd consists of four Kenworths, two Western Stars, three Argosys and the Coronado. There‘s also a mixture of engines across the three legendary brands: Cummins, Detroit and Caterpillar.

“They all go well and we‘ve not really had a problem with any of the current crop. There‘s a mixture of 9 and 7-axle set ups, each is ideal for specific roles. The big ones can carry a heap but you can‘t get them in everywhere. The Coronado was a spec truck that I bought because we needed a truck immediately and I‘d seen it up there [Trucks and Trailers Wiri].

Based on its on-road cost and the run I‘ve had from other Freightys, I think I‘ll look at that truck in 10 years and have good things to say,” said Bill.

“The guys at Trucks and Trailers in Wellington are our locals and look after us real well, great to deal with. Likewise Michael Eccles at Transfleet is just great to deal with. The two spec-built trucks we have are both T&G and they‘ve given us no problems.”

Bill and wife Nicki have two children, Foster (12) and Ruby (10). Bill said he wants to show them the opportunity they have but they‘re not going to be forced into anything they don‘t want to do.

This year, Bill Hammond Transport Ltd moved out of the porta-shed office that‘s been the company‘s administrative HQ into a brand new on-site office.

“We‘re all proud of what we‘ve achieved, and thrilled to have the new office. It looks pretty smart don‘t you think?” said Bill. “We‘re lucky to have a great team; I can come down on a Saturday to do a couple of jobs quickly and someone‘s always here, polishing or washing. I‘ll end up leaving an hour, maybe two hours later.

We‘re a hugely customer-focused business and I probably spend too much time behind the wheel nowadays, but to this day there‘s nothing I love more than getting out and doin‘ it.”