The right MAN for the job

In September 2023, Top Truck, MAN9 MinutesBy Andrew GeddesOctober 6, 2023

After six years and five units, R & H Transport owner-driver Hayden Campbell celebrates his relationships with MAN and Mainfreight in spectacular fashion.

There’s plenty of choice when putting a new truck on the road. If you desire a customised beauty, Kenworth and Scania are generally accepted as the two brands that feature most heavily when it comes to sales and presentation. Both have a huge representation on our roads.

Hayden Campbell, owner of R & H Transport in Christchurch, admits it’s a bit of a battle trying to go up against the ‘big two’, but then Hayden’s philosophy is that it’s cool to be different, to have a point of individuality. When putting this month’s Top Truck on the road, he stuck with a brand that’s served him well, and upped the stakes over his previous trucks to create something special. The result is stunning.

In 2017, when Hayden took the plunge into the owner-driver world, he had no fixed views on the brand of truck to start his fledgling business. MAN was not uncommon within the Mainfreight OD ranks, but Hayden says the final decision to purchase a MAN was more down to Heavy Trucks (the MAN dealer at the time) salesman Owen Humphries’ willingness to take him seriously and “give us the time of day”.

Six years and five units later, that relationship remains with Penske New Zealand. More importantly, the product has more than lived up to expectations, well accepted by drivers for their comfort and driveability, with all units sporting automatic transmissions. Well future-proofed.

The R & H fleet currently sits at three units, including two 8×4 truck and trailer curtainsider units – 2018 and 2020 models. This was the preferred spec when the company first joined the Mainfreight fold. While these units have proved their worth, the new Gen 3 TGX 640 tractor/B-train combination put into service in May this year is a unit Hayden’s been keen to operate for some time. Power for the latest Euro-6 TGX 26.640 is 471kW (641hp) at 1800rpm and 3000Nm at 900-1380rpm, channelled through a 12-speed TipMatic transmission.

Hayden sees added flexibility in the new unit, should unforeseen servicing be needed. Having all his trucks 7/11 max six pallet units is a deliberate move. He says this means never missing out on floating loads. Commitment to delivering products to the customer is paramount. While previous bodies and trailers were TMC units, which Hayden says have been excellent, the new B-train unit is a Roadmaster product.

“Going with Roadmaster was more a ‘right place, right time’ scenario,” while being able to deliver the required tare weight and build time, says Hayden. He’s very happy with Roadmaster’s service and product.

Currently, the truck/trailer units have set runs, which sees them running south from their Christchurch base, while the B-train, Hayden’s own unit, is employed as a floating unit and sees him covering the country. The relationship with Mainfreight is one Hayden is quick to compliment. He says his early experiences as a driver with several different company/ business models before going OD with Mainfreight gave him an insight into the corporate ideology. He likes the structured approach it brings. “As a floater, Mainfreight’s depots are perfectly set up to accommodate life on the road”, says Hayden, who lives in the truck while on the road. “The facilities available, such as showers, and the calibre of the team are next level.” He adds this was a huge deciding factor in choosing Mainfreight as a business partner. Six years on, Hayden is still firmly a Mainfreight man.

Ironically, the world of transport was not on Hayden’s horizon as a young fella. A qualified baker by trade, his decision to drive for a career came about after frequently being asked to be the ‘sober’ driver for mates on nights out. He jokes that it became so frequent he decided he might as well be a paid driver.

He openly admits finding his role in the industry took some time, and he initially went temping for several years. His first full-time position was with Brenics in Christchurch, working nights, loading and unloading. A stint with CTL followed, but Hayden says it was not until he worked for Toll OD Merv Coard that he realised how his future business model could look. He credits Merv and Garry Johnstone of Brenics as major influences in those early years. Positions with Dynes showed him clean gear, and he rates his experience on the milk season as a lot of fun. Freightlines contractor Blue Ice followed, and this was his introduction to the world of floating.

All of Hayden’s past experiences and time in the industry come together in the new MAN – professionalism and productivity, an eye for detail and the ability to realise an eye-catching unit. When custom work is done well, it sometimes doesn’t shout its presence, but instead presents itself tastefully. The MAN is exactly that.

The list of customisations is extensive. The cab interior boasts reupholstered seats in leather with smart embroidered company logos on the headrests and a custom central floor mat embroidered with the MAN logo, the work of Cover It-Woods & Moulin Auto Upholstery in Christchurch, with custom interior storage lockers by Design Coach & Body Christchurch.

“The extra storage over the standard factory offering makes life on the road more liveable. The ability to house a microwave and coffee machine in-cab adds to the comfort, and on those occasions that a road is maybe closed due to a weather event or accident, it’s nice to be able to offer other drivers a coffee,” says Hayden.

Externally, the MAN features numerous custom stainless enhancements, adding a touch of bling to the usual low-key factory Euro look. Custom work includes deck plates, electrical and air hook-up frame and chassis side skirts. Much of it was completed by Project Stainless in Christchurch and Custom Trucks in Auckland.

Additional paintwork and powder coating was undertaken by Royans Wigram and Canterbury Powder Coaters. The final imagining of the cab and chassis was entrusted to the crew at Trucksigns Mt Maunganui, who lined, scrolled and produced the eye-catching murals that adorn the cab. A paint protection film was applied to protect the unit from stone chips and life on the road.

Perhaps the single biggest feature of Hayden’s new unit isn’t apparent until night falls. The whole unit comes alive with one of the most spectacular lighting set-ups on New Zealand’s roads. The unit is simply stunning. Wiring the B-train was entrusted to 24/7 Auto Electrical and the tractor unit to Ignition Auto Electrics in Christchurch. Hayden has high praise of the work undertaken by both companies, indeed for all the contractors involved in the process.

The result is an impressive and classy unit. The R & H philosophy of ‘it’s cool to be different’ has been firmly achieved and proves the ‘big two’ don’t necessarily have it all their own way.