MAIN TEST – Go West young man

In Tests7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJuly 27, 2018

You could say the Riordan & West story started with the pig farm in Puni in the early to mid-90s but the truth is it started well before that. Why? Because as Dave will tell you, “Dad was always more interested in trucks and machines and that than animals really. I am too.”

Dave‘s Dad and business partner Keith is a sprightly 70 years young and still very much part of daily life at Riordan & West. When the Fuso Fighter we brought home from Wellington needed a jump-start he was first on the scene with the defibrillators to kick some life into the old beast. In the late sixties the site that would one day be home to Riordan & West Ltd was home to a Suffolk sheep stud and piggery under the Colville Farms name. That‘s when Keith started working for Royce Riordan on the farm. Prior to that he‘d driven for local carrier Sands and Myhill, and then Knight and Dickey when they purchased the Sands and Myhill business. Between then and Colville Farms he did a stint at Slag Reduction.

Colville Farms owned an International Paystar with – you guessed it – an 8V71 Detroit under the hood. There was always something screeching at Colville Farms you could say. A little over a decade later, in 1982, Keith and wife Heather bought some breeding sows and commenced a 50/50 share farmer arrangement with the pigs the sows produced.

Among the Paystar‘s list of tasks was going off to Auckland to collect waste food for the farm‘s porcine inhabitants. One of the pick-up locations was the rapidly expanding Mr Chips business, which in time started producing more food by-product than Porky, Pracilla, and Pinky pig could gobble up. The opportunity was there to deliver it to other places keen to tap in. The farm took up that opportunity. Backloads of aggregates and whatever were found, and to quote Dave, “The monster just grew”. In all reality the opportunity was perfectly timed. The buildings that housed the pigs were 40-plus years old and in need of an upgrade, and it was also becoming evident social pressure would likely increase as the size of the community around the farm began to take off. As a result, over the next few years a reduction in pig numbers coincided with a rise in truck numbers. In 2003 Riordan & West Ltd was incorporated, although by then the transport story had well and truly started.

While the tale of one farm and two businesses was unfolding, young Dave West left his Waiuku school in 1991 aged 17 and started serving his time as an apprentice mechanic at local garage, Otaua Motors. Life was consumed with being a spanner-man by day, and a truck driver by night and in the weekends. After seven years at the garage Dave moved onto the farm full time and he and wife Amanda eventually took a 20% stake in the business.

Photo: Dave West. The epitome of a roll your sleeves up, get stuck in, give it a go, have a crack, thoroughly good bugger!

From the truck side of things, the original Paystar was joined over a period of time leading up to the incorporation of the transport business by a White 3000 (ex Udens of Putaruru), a DCF International, and a K model Kenworth (ex Watchorn Transport). Everything was Detroit powered of course. Even an ACCO the company owned had a 6V53 (Dave later repowered it with a 6V92). The year 2000 was a landmark year in the company history. It was the year the last pig left the property and the year the Kenworth spun a main bearing. That‘s not a landmark thing as such, but what happened next certainly was. The firm purchased its first Detroit powered Freightliner Argosy. An 8×4 with a 12.7-litre Series 60 Detroit and manual gearbox. Four years later that truck was traded on an 8×4 with a 14-litre and AMT combo, and later the same year a 14-litre 6×4 and AMT was added. Detroit powered Freightliners, the Argosy in particular, with AMT trans, were here to stay.

Towards the end of the 2000s, Royce became seriously ill and the Wests purchased the farm off him. Sadly, he passed away in 2011, at which time Dave purchased his 40% interest. A Norfolk pine was planted at the company‘s front gate in respect and remembrance of one of its founders. The fleet aside, Dave will be well known to most readers for his exploits in the Freightliner Argosy race truck he and his team have campaigned here in New Zealand over the past few years. Like every other truck in the fleet it‘s immaculately presented in fleet colours.

The crux to any business is succession and in that regard all appears well. Dave and Amanda‘s two boys, Ricky (14) and Leo (12), are both ‘machine heads,‘ with Ricky already working an after-school job at the local Pit Stop.

“I‘d like them to get a trade first maybe,” said Dave. Ask Dave about issues facing the industry and the response is familiar.

“The young ones just don‘t have the access we did. They can‘t spend time around the yards learning off the last generation. My boys are lucky, but they‘re the exception.”

Return to, Still a good turn of the wheel left yet