‘The Lion King‘

In Top Truck, MAN9 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineAugust 10, 2020

For young and impressionable twin brothers Dion and Hayden Kerley, growing up in Atiamuri was the catalyst that ignited their passion for trucks and cemented their joint future as transport operators.

Photo: An outstanding representation of their business and the industry. Kerley Brothers Transport Ltd MAN 35.640.

Upon meeting up with Dion and Hayden Kerley at Atiamuri‘s famous Bull Ring cafe for a coffee and chat about this month‘s Top Truck, they recollected a time before the name Bull Ring, when the business was then owned by their father Ray Kerley and known as ‘The Old Lantern Tearoom‘. It was a favourite lunch stop back in the day for the local loggers carting for Carter Holt Harvey. Both Dion and Hayden described how they would wait for the drivers to pull in for a hot steak and cheese toastie and percolated coffee, and then seize the opportunity to bail them up for rides in the passenger seat. There were the likes of Rodney ‘Bongo‘ Dahm in his LW Kenworth, Sonny Moko‘s T143 Scania, and Eric Hall‘s awesome International Eagle. “There was always a seat to fill and we loved every opportunity,” says Dion. The transport industry was further embedded in the brothers‘ DNA, with their Dad holding a goods service transport licence, operating a small fleet of general trucks that worked alongside local stock agents and farmers. Both brothers earned their HT truck and trailer licences using trucks within the Ray Kerley fleet, however the call of the open road eventually had Dion and Hayden venturing off in their own employment directions.

Photo: Brothers in business and still loving the industry they loved as kids, Hayden (left) and Dion Kerley.

Photo: A couple of larrikins – standing in the same order – on ground that today is outside the front door of the Bull Ring, with State Highway 1 in the background. Any truckie who stopped for a cuppa soon had company.

The boys both enjoyed diverse driving career beginnings, including a stint at Godfreys for Hayden in a T400 Kenworth B-train combination, and brother Dion working a couple of seasons for Otapiri Transport out of Winton in the South Island. It was then a return for both brothers to their logging roots, this time as drivers, with Dion in a 425 Catpowered Foden for the late Arnold Hema (for whom Dion has great respect and said was an awesome boss to work for) and Hayden in a K model Kenworth for Trevor Doidge. Around 1999 the brothers returned home to Atiamuri to join their father Ray in his business. All three Kerleys remember three years of interesting father and son conversations that were rather colourful and vocal. “Trying to tell Dad how to run his business was never going to end well,” says Hayden with a laugh. Through this the brothers went owner-driver to their Dad, purchasing from him the pair of FY380 Hino general units they were operating for him. This move eventually led to the formation of Kerley Brothers Transport Ltd as Ray started stepping back from the day-to-day operations towards retirement. The FY Hinos did an admirable job but after some hard years of solid toil collecting local stock destined for the Hawera works every second day, something had to give, and Dion‘s FY finally blew.

This incident had the brothers both thinking that to stay in the game they needed to invest in modern equipment that was efficient, reliable and designed to maximise productivity. A visit to the yard by Mark and Wayne from TCV Trucks (now Penske) with a brochure for the newly released TGX 540 led the brothers to the dealership in Mount Maunganui for a test drive, and in turn an order was placed. The purchase of this first MAN has been followed with a second 8×4 TGX 540, as well as a 6×4 TGS 540. “The backup support and warranty claim service has been second to none,” says Dion. “Brent Warner [Penske dealer principal], Tim Geenty [Penske service manager], and Chris Greenwood at Dudley Mechanical and Parts Ltd in Taupo, have all been brilliant.” It is the strength of this business relationship that led to the ordering of this month‘s Top Truck, the mighty TGX 35.640, to replace Dion‘s old 540 TGX. The 640 receives a glowing report card from both Dion and current driver Adam Stokes, with both describing how the mix of Adaptive Cruise Control, ABS and EBS braking, and the AMT transmission make for a complete and extremely well balanced combination to operate.

Photo: One of the two FY380 Hinos that Dion and Hayden went owner-driver on for their Dad Ray. The brothers eventually cut out on their own under the Kerley Brothers name.

“Both Adam and I would love to have a go pound-forpound up the Titiokuras on the Napier-Taupo against the higher horsepower trucks and see who comes out on top; the torque in this thing is out the gate, the 15-litre just growls and you‘re gone,” says Dion with a smile. We definitely concur with this statement. When we tested the Waiotahi Contractors Ltd 640 from Whakatane in May of last year we experienced the same astounding deep locomotivelike assertive rumble from under the floorboards; this is an engine that lets you know it is up for the task. Behind the 640 you find a matching Roadmaster 5-axle high tensile steel trailer that was built to complete the package – and it is also a longstanding relationship here with Roadmaster that the brothers are thankful for. On top of the Roadmaster decks there is a pair of Nationwide crates, a Cattle Box on the trailer and a three-deck on the truck. The entire package has been adorned with a dramatic modern twist on the classic Kerley fleet colours that Ray made famous, designed and applied by the creative Cliff Mannington and team at Truck Signs of Mount Maunganui.

Photo: The Kerley‘s positive approach extends to public interaction. The King Julien graphic and song lyric is there not only to convey their passion for the industry, but also to get families singing along in the car following.

Talking with both Dion and Hayden you quickly appreciate the level of passion these two characters possess for the transport industry. We mention this to them and the pair agree that they truly enjoy what they do for a crust, however they both immediately acknowledge longstanding business relationships and friendships that help them every day to do what they do. “There are good mates that we work together with on the bigger jobs, as well as Lyn-Lee Parker who keeps a tight rein on the office and organisation for us. Adam has done an amazing job of keeping the unit immaculate as well; they all play a huge part in making it happen,” say the brothers. We could not agree more. In this day and age, in the current economic climate, it certainly does help to have strong business alliances; they sure do help keep you out of the lion‘s den.