The Last Rodeo Trucking Legend Rex Holden

In The Last Rodeo, November 20224 MinutesBy Shannon WilliamsDecember 8, 2022

With a career in the transport sector spanning 45 years, Rex Holden of Central Pine Transport has seen it all – trucks getting faster, trucks getting flashier, fuel prices skyrocketing, rules and regulations getting tighter, and roads getting worse.

Following in his father’s footsteps (his dad started trucking in Taumarunui back in 1946), Rex entered the transport sector working for Joe Skudder in Hastings in 1977. A year later as an 18 year old, Rex got his licence – and the rest, as they say, is history.

After a few years with Joe, Rex moved on to Emmerson Transport.

“There were only three of us back then,” he says. “I was the first driver.”

Come 1983, Rex moved up to Rotorua where he started with Central Plateau Transport on a 1964 Kenworth – one of the first Kenworths in New Zealand.

Rex then went onto Freightways, and ended up an owner driver of a 320 Mack, the first truck he had ever bought.

After stints with K&S Traders, TD Haulage and various others, Rex made the big call to head over the Tasman in 2007.

“I wanted to have a crack at the road train work,” he says. “I was only meant to be there a year. I ended up there for nine. I went into partnership with a guy there and between us we had three Volvos, four Kenworths and nine trailers.”

After getting crook in 2015, Rex felt it was time to head home.

After getting back into the logs for a couple years, he set up Central Pine Transport with a brand new Hino – the name and colours in honour of his relationship he had with Jim Middleton for his time at Central Plateau Transport.

“When I came to Rotorua in 1983, I had only been with CPT for a week or so when my mum died, so I was going back to Hastings and Jim gave me $200 and a job when I got back. I never forgot that.”

The relationships Rex has made in the sector are the most important part of trucking, he says.

“I’ve kept in touch with all my bosses, the people who have employed me, and most of the people I’ve employed, we’ve ended up in long-term friendships,” Rex says.

“It’s all about the people you meet. I’ve got mates that I’ve known since I was a young kid, and sadly now a few are passing on, but it is a brotherhood. Even now with the younger guys, I think they still have that brotherhood, but it’s a different game now.”

Rex had the Hino for five years before he went on to buy the Scania, aptly named The Last Rodeo, that he’s currently sitting in, custom built by Kraft. “Kraft is customer focused. They really put a lot of effort and pride into their workmanship. The gear sells itself, which says a lot,” says Rex.

“The Last Rodeo – everyone put a lot of effort into it. It’s a smart-looking piece of gear. Normally I don’t really care about that stuff – a truck is just a tool for the job – but it’s quite an impressive unit.

“Their finish is impeccable, and it is already proving itself, carrying some serious loads in some serious conditions.”

What’s next for Rex? “Well I’m 62 now, so I’ll drive this for a couple years and then I’ll put a driver on it,” he says.

“It’ll have to be a good driver, mind you.”