Paying It Forward

“We had something different, me and Arnie. He really was one of my best mates. I was talking to him the morning it happened and then when I heard, man, I cried alright.”

Adrian Takiwa’s reflection of the events of October 20 last year clearly demonstrate that it’s still very raw. His family’s association with the man go well beyond his own lifetime. Arnold Rueben and Adrian’s dad Tracy were great mates as young fellas in the haycontracting scene in Hawke’s Bay, so Arnold’s shock passing was felt right through Adrian’s own family as well as his work one.

“Yep, I’m a Hawke’s Bay boy originally,” says Adrian Takiwa who’s best described as the archetypal gentle giant. He’s a big bloke, solid, and clear of six feet. Immaculately presented, polite to a fault, and genuinely interested in what you have to say. He takes it in, no question.

“I left school early because I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Dad’s a truck driver, and there was always a fight between my brother and me over who was going with him in the trucks,” he laughs. “Dad drove for a few local contractors on ERFs, Fodens, but his favourite – and ours – was the Eagle he drove for Doug Whitfield. That was a cool truck. My brother Russell, he’s got into combines and tractors in Aussie. Loves it, eh!”

Sixteen years ago, Adrian and partner Wiki-Lee ‘Wix’ moved to Raetihi from the Hawke’s Bay. Adrian had got a job working for market gardeners Kim Young & Son, but there was an added benefit in being sort of a midway point between the Bay and Wiki-Lee’s hometown of New Plymouth.

Adrian Takiwa, the perfect role model for any young aspiring truck driver. Immaculate is the only word that sums him up. Living the dream of two in this amazing piece of rural trucking kit.

“I was driving a Ford N-series V8 from the field, back to the pack house through the paddocks and back roads. I was green-as! They had other cool gear, too, a Mack Cruise-Liner and Kenworth K104B. I got to have a play in those at times, too. I stayed there two years. It set me up well and I left with my class 2 and went to work for McCarthy Transport.”

Still only 20 years of age, McCarthy’s put Adrian through his remaining licences, and he ended up on a 700 Series Hino 8×4 and 4-axle trailer, carting logs from the Waimarino Forest back to the Tangiwai Sawmill.

“I really enjoyed that. It was a good truck, and real mountain goat. That thing could climb, man!”

Experience grows ability, and the confidence that comes with that heightens the sense of adventure. From McCarthy, it was to Barrett & Taura on an International 9800i eight-axle stock unit with Cummins ISX 525 power. “That was a cool truck too! Anything American,” chuckles Adrian.

Moving to Barrett & Taura was a significant step in the broader context of Adrian’s career. It was at Barrett & Taura that the friendship with his dad’s old haymaking mate, Lilburn driver Arnold Rueben, really flourished. And it was there that he also began working for one Robbie Lilburn.

When Robbie gave away the Barrett & Taura operations role in 2015 to focus on the family business, Adrian followed him to Lilburn Transport.

“He’s just a great bloke to work with and work for. They all are. Bobby, his dad – he’s a great bloke and, like Arnie, I’ve learned so much from him, too. I mean, I’ve pretty much been here since 2015.

You wouldn’t stay in a job if the people weren’t right, would you? There’s certainly something special here.”

Adrian’s first ride at Lilburn’s was a near-new MAN 35.540, the one Bobby drives now. “It only had a few thousand on the clock.”

He stayed on the MAN until the wheel of the Kenworth K104 came up for grabs. “That thing is a beast. I put a resonator on the exhaust, and she really barks. It’s got a GEN-2 signature in it. She goes.”

Adrian and son Joey on a father-son weekend hunt.

As we said in the main story, the skill sets acquired on drop-side work are formidable, and the variation in work, vast. However, there are long, tough hours and regular nights away from home. In early 2020, Adrian took a break and went back to McCarthy Transport to drive a bin-wood truck. It meant he was pretty much home every night and could spend more time with Wiki- Lee and their son Joey.

But there are some truisms in life and trucking. However good a job might be, you have to be happy in yourself, and you can take the man out of rural carrying, but you can’t take rural carrying out of the man. As great a place as McCarthy’s is, Adrian soon longed for that varied skillset and work profile the bin-wood truck just couldn’t deliver. While covering 181 bales of wool on a hot spring day might not be everyone’s cup of tea; for others, it’s like sipping a cup of freshly brewed English Breakfast.

“Yeah, it was the monotony that I just couldn’t take. Arnie kept ringing me, too,” he laughs. “Yeah, I came back, and of course, Arnie passed away. When Robbie offered me this, I was just blown away.

“I couldn’t believe it. I mean, it’s a dream truck for me – a flat-roof K2 – but there’s also so much of Arnie in it. I asked if it could carry Arnold’s ARNEZ number plates. It was going to be Arnold’s truck, and it always will be. So, yeah, it’s pretty cool.”

Outside of life at Lilburn Transport, Adrian enjoys family life, riding his Harley Davidson with his mates on their machines, and hunting pigs and deer. “Yep, when I’m not in here, home, or riding, I’ll probably be hunting,” he laughs.

Wiki-Lee works locally in hospitality, and 13-year old truck-mad son Joey attends Palmerston North Boys with his best mate Rob Lilburn, and Caelen the eldest of the new Lilburn generation.

Adrian Takiwa is an integral part of a wonderful story. Having met him, got to know him, watched him work, you’re left with the feeling that obvious beneficiaries aside, some lucky young guy or girl out there will one day meet their own Arnold Rueben, someone with a vast knowledge they are more than willing to pass on. The relationship will be pivotal in that young person’s life. They’ll emerge from under Adrian’s wing undoubtedly a better person, with a skill set few truckers ever achieve. You just have to ask yourself, how lucky will they be?