In pursuit of goals

10 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 6, 2018

In just four years, Northland haulage operator Mike Brockliss has risen from a driver for others to an owner of a 6 -vehicle fleet. His has been a mercurial rise. Yet for the man many call Slim, big thinking has paid off.

Mike ‘Slim‘ Brockliss has put a big day in at work. There is no time for an interview during the day. “It will have to be at night,” he said. “Will that be okay?” he adds with the unfailing politeness that marks the man.

When meeting Mike for the first time, you are immediately struck by his size. It can‘t be helped. He is a big man physically, and the rabid fan of all things Vodafone Warriors looks as tough as they come.

However, New Zealand Trucking magazine has talked to some who work with him, or for him, and the general opinion is that he is ‘a great bloke‘ and ‘a good boss‘. Nor does it seem apparent that his size or mental toughness played any major role in getting him to where he is today. He seems to have done that through a combination of luck, being in the right place at the right time, the support of his wife, Sarah, and the financial backing of those who believed in the potential of the man from Kerikeri.

Today Mike‘s company, Brockliss Haulage, has a 6-vehicle fleet, comprising one 4-wheeler Mitsubishi, one 6-wheeler Isuzu, an FM Volvo, two vans for around town deliveries, and from earlier this year a Volvo FH Globetrotter and 5-axle trailer. Both Volvos are 50MAX units, and Mike double-shifts them five days and nights per week. He employs eight drivers and has long haul and short haul contracts for Toll from Auckland north. Four years ago, he had nothing.

Photo: A great sign in any small trucking business, approaching a driver and not knowing if thats the boss or the newest recruit. Mikes a roll-your-sleevesup lead from the front guy. Photo: So many successful transport businesses have a husband and wife or life-partners duo at the core. Mike and wife Sarah are no different.

Thirty-eight-year-old Mike Brockliss was born in the north – Rawene – but educated mostly in Auckland. He left school when he was 13.

“I knew school wasn‘t for me, so I pulled out and enrolled in Correspondence School and then worked for my Dad‘s plastering business.” By the time he turned 18 he had settled on a goal that would eventually lead him to where he is today. “ W hen I was 18, I got my Class 2 driving licence. Driving trucks was something I now know I always wanted to do.

“I got my first job with Broadway Vehicle Deliveries, delivering cars from the wharves to various dealerships around town. Spent a year there. Got my Class 4 and went to work at Pakuranga Earthmovers driving a 6-wheeler. I got my Class 5 a year later and started with Fitchett Brothers, a contractor to Parceline Express. I then moved into an operations role, running all their trucks.”

Mike was starting to put his plan into place. “I went to work with another Parceline contractor, called Dave Pennycuick. One of Dave‘s runs I jumped on was the nightly Auckland–Whangarei–Kerikeri–Kaitaia loop – about 720ks a night.” That run reintroduced Mike to Northland and the Far North, and he soon got his opportunity to move ‘home‘.

It was a pivotal point in Mike‘s career path. “About six months into me doing the run, Dave decided he wanted a truck based north of Whangarei so they could do a load down at night. That gave me the opportunity to move up north to Kerikeri.”

Mike took the opportunity, and the next five years was spent driving NZ Courier trucks, and – for a while – bulk tippers for Dan Carter. He remembers enjoying those jobs, but there was a lingering thirst for something he had set as his goal years earlier – to become his own boss.

“I was speaking with Toll about an owner-driver position in Kerikeri. Nothing came of it initially, so I took anything I could in terms of casual driving work.

“But four years ago, Toll rang me back asking me whether I was still interested. I took them up on that.

Photo: The Driving Force: Mike and Sarah Brockliss, far left, pictured with their driving team, back row left: Mathew Silich, Simon West, Stanton Hawkes, Tene (Mokai) Walker, Mark Duncan. Front row: John Priestley, Jonathan Mulholland, Vance Tua.

”UDC financed me into my first truck – the FM Volvo – and I hooked up with an old mate from my days with Fitchett Brothers double-shifting: me doing the night runs to Auckland and him doing general local freight during the day. “ Things snowballed from that. When I started, Toll had two owner-drivers in Kerikeri. Toll then said we might as well do their work as well. Then Toll offered us the courier work, and I put a van on for that and bought another van of my own volition for around town deliveries.” Eight months ago, Mike brought the Volvo Globetrotter. It wasn‘t his first choice; initially, he was opting for another FM Volvo. “But there was an 11-month wait for those, and Toll and I wanted a truck on the Auckland run immediately and the ‘Globie‘ was ex-stock, so I opted for that. “I was a bit hesitant at first with a truck and trailer that big on the run. But eight months on it has been a good choice. Good to drive. Gets lot of attention around town.” Mike is right. His Globetrotter is a big truck in a small town, and it is an impressive sight as it moves effortlessly out of Toll‘s mid-town depot and onto State Highway 10. It is the kind of sight, the kind of truck, that attracts youngsters to the road transport industry. Mike was one of them. He knew from the age of seven when he climbed into the cab of a Hilders‘ stock truck that being a driver was what he wanted to do. “I remember thinking, ‘ Yep, this is me. This is what I want to do‘.”

A few years after that, he had another dream: to be his own boss, to own a fleet. He achieved that with the help of people who believed in him (see sidebar story). Mike admits that it has not always been easy, and swift growth presents a few challenges. It is something of a juggling act, balancing the need to ‘gear up‘ based both on existing and potential work.

“But, if you are willing to take the risk, do your research, and – above all – talk to people and build relationships, then you will get all the help you need to get where you are going.”