A way of life TMC at 70 years young

Monday, October 1, 2018

TMC Trailers is one of the longest serving trailer manufacturers in New Zealand, and this year the company is celebrating 70 years in business – 70 years of manufacturing, servicing, and repairing truck trailers and truck decks for New Zealand transport operators.

Photo: Company founder Ian Currie brought a wealth of experiences and ideas home from WWII.

TMC Trailers – or as it was formerly called, Trailer Manufacturing Company Limited – was established in 1948 by Ian Currie, shortly after his return home from the Second World War.

Ian had served as a mechanic with the New Zealand Scottish regiment in Guadalcanal and Bougainville, and his service had involved retrieving crashed American aircraft and stripping them of parts to keep the New Zealand planes flying. Ian’s American supplied tractor unit was hooked up to a transporter, the first most other New Zealanders had seen up close at that point. Ian’s experience during the war showed him the pulling power of trailers and this knowledge would revolutionise the New Zealand trailer building industry. The earliest trailers Ian built included some of the very first heavy transport trailers used on New Zealand roads. In 1989 the Trailer Manufacturing Company Limited became TMC Trailers Ltd.

From a one-man-band in the early days, to 2018 with more than 50 employees, TMC Trailers has continued to grow and prosper under the leadership of Ian’s son Paul, and grandson Richard.

Photo: The 4000th trailer, built for Brian and Simon Bourke of 4D Group Ltd.

“ We’re a third-generation family owned business and TMC is committed to the consistent quality and innovation that has made us an industry leader,” says managing director Paul Currie. “ We pride ourselves on delivering high quality, longlasting products to our customers. Our two-year unlimited kilometre warranty, along with TMC’s legendary service, backup and support, confirms our ongoing dedication to stand behind everything we manufacture.” Today TMC Trailers is one of New Zealand’s largest heavy transport engineering companies. They provide the largest selection of trailers available in New Zealand, custom designed and built utilising high-strength lightweight steels and alloys. TMC has recently completed their 4000th trailer, a 6-axle 36-pallet-capable HPMV curtainside B-train, fitted with TMC disc brake axles and air suspension, polished alloy wheels, set up for 50MAX and carting general freight. “ We fitted the B-train out with LED strip lighting that can change hue and pulse to music, 4000th trailer stainless logos on the rear trailer, with LED strip lighting behind and commemorative signage on the rear wall.” Paul says once the B-train order was received, the 4000th serial number was aligned for the last build and the rear trailer. This was the first new trailer they had built for first-time customer 4D Group.

TMC has experienced a lot of growth over the past three years, something Paul says was a necessity. “ We are in an expansion mode. We have expanded into Auckland with a workshop and put on extra salesmen, and we’ll be growing our sales team even more. “ We’ve previously been disadvantaged being a South Island manufacturer, but now with our Auckland workshop we’re well positioned to service and support customers nationwide. “ We are renowned for our specialised trailers that give our customers the edge. I suppose one reason for our success is that we’ve got a broad range of products we manufacture.” TMC continues to be a success due to their flexibility and the fact they don’t focus on just one sector of the market.

Photo: L-R: Paul (Skippy) Goodman (sales manager Taupo South TMC), Simon and Brian Bourke, Paul Currie (managing director TMC).

“ We’ve had to do that in the past because our customers are very spread and we find that requires a broader manufacturing base. Say for instance the area is logging or temperature controlled or whatever, all those different areas have their ups and downs. Unfortunately what happens is that every seven or 10 years they have a downturn. We’ve had to ensure we have expertise in other areas, so if one area drops down, we can just move to another.”

Paul believes being a family owned business sets TMC apart from their competitors.

“Oh, it definitely does, because it ’s that personal thing. It ’s that association with the customers; we’ve known most of them for many years. The transport industry is different from most other areas – the people you meet, they are nice people. You really appreciate it when you get new owner-drivers and they put everything on the line for a unit, and everything has to run smoothly, everything’s got to be perfect for them, and if anything goes wrong they ’ve got to have really good backup – which we provide. It ’s their life, and it ’s just great working with those guys, and in a year’s time you find they ’ve increased the fleet. “Like all manufacturers, you don’t get rich out of it; it’s a way of life. I was brought up with it and all I can remember is talking about trailers, and my son Richard, he’s the same. It ’s just a way of life. Even with all these milestones, we just carry on.” TMC Trailers’ head office and manufacturing facility is situated in Christchurch. The plant currently produces an average of 100 trailers and 40 truck bodies a year. Every aspect of the manufacturing process, from design and build to abrasive blasting, painting and assembling, is carried out on this site. They also have a large service centre across the road for all general repair work and sidelifter repairs and servicing. In mid-2013, TMC Trailers was appointed as the sole New Zealand manufacturing and distribution partner for Steelbro. “Steelbro Sidelifters are a market leading product and have a very strong following in New Zealand and we’re very proud to be associated with such a great brand.” TMC added an Auckland facility at Wiri in 2016, which is able to build and fit new truck bodies and undertake service, repair and refurbishment work on any makes of trailer. It also 5 Innovation, versatility, adaptability, and quality define the TMC story to date.

Photo: Munt Cottrell & Co Ltd – 37’ self-steer semi-trailer – 1970.

Photo: Apple & Pear Board – the first New Zealand-built gull-wing truck and trailer unit.

Photo: A 3-axle folding goose-neck semi transporter.

Photo: A 3-axle concertina curtainside semi-trailer for space saving on ferry crossings.

Photo: A TMC manufactured Steelbro quad axle SB362 bridgeleg sidelifter – Denton Contracting Ltd. has a specialist sidelifter technician on the team for all sidelifter and swinglift servicing.

Photo: Quad axle stepdeck container semi-trailer with specialised flipover beaver tail.

Photo: The same trailer showing loading capability – RAV Haulage Ltd.

TMC Trailers uses the latest 3D CAD software and FEA analysis when designing its latest trailers. TMC’s new range of lightweight options available are quad axle container flat decks with tare weights ranging from 6,500kg – 7,100kg, dependent on the final spec. Quad axle skeletals start from 5,200kg tare weights. A 40’-only option is available at 4,600kg tare. TMC Trailers has a wide network of service and repair providers all around New Zealand, so in the event service or repairs are required, they are usually not too far away. All trailers that go on the road in 2018 will carry special 70th Year TMC logos, but other than that TMC will be keeping it low key due to working towards to their 75th Jubilee in 2023.

Photo: 36-pallet-capable 6-axle curtainside B-train – CRG Linehaul Ltd.

TMC Timeline

1947 After returning from WWII Ian Currie started building trailers in his parents’ garage in Bassett Street.

1948 Trailer Manufacturing Company Limited (commonly called TMC for short) was formed by Ian Currie and McMahan Motor Spares, with a 50/50 shareholding. The premises were on the corner of Bassett Street and Parnell Road, Burwood, and had previously been run as a car service and repair workshop by Ian’s father.

1952 TMC moved to a larger building in Argyll Street, Sydenham. That year they also built the first telescopic for Owens Transport.

1954 TMC built the first single axle logging jinker for J Bowman, chassis no 140.

1957 TMC move into a purpose-built building on the corner of Blenheim and Dalgety Street, Riccarton.

1964 TMC built its first car transporter for E H Boyce, chassis no 584.

1968 TMC built its first trombone semi-trailer for E H Boyce, chassis no 802.

1970 TMC built the first Ceschi caster steer semi-trailer for Mt Cook Ltd, chassis no 927.

1972 TMC manufactured its 1000th trailer, for TNL Freighting, a 2-axle pull trailer that cost $4085.

1975 The shareholders were paid out, and Ian and Paul Currie took over full ownership of TMC. 1977 TMC Trailers Ltd moved to a purpose-built building at 31 Lunns Road.

1983 TMC built its first curtainsider C-train NZR chassis no 1506. A C-train is like a B-train except it has a pivot between the tandem set; the idea then was to reduce the stress on the bogie. The concept of C and B-trains originated in Canada; designed by John Currie (no relation).

1984 TMC built its first steering bogie semi-trailer for NZ Lumber, chassis no 1524. These trailers had a full steering bogie attached to the chassis by a ball race turntable. The front axle intern was attached to the bogie by a ball race turntable with two steering arms connected to the main bogie.

These trailers were the ultimate in steering, although heavy. The transport authority outlawed them after numerous failures caused by inexperienced trailer manufacturers. The last straw was when one of these trailers’ steering arm broke and went through a shop front in Hamilton.

1986 TMC Trailers moved to another larger purpose-built building on the corner of Shands and Edmonton Roads, Hornby.
Official opening by RT Hon Jim Bolger 11 November 1986, coinciding with the delivery of New Zealand’s first 4x B-train.

1988 TMC build the first gull-wing truck and trailer unit in New Zealand for Apple and Pear Board, chassis no 1771. 1989 TMC won the best manufacturing award for its Euro Aro dynamics semi-trailer at Hamilton transport show.

1991 TMC build the semi curtainsider trailer for the Rugby World Cup.
On the delivery day the driver drove under a low bridge and wrote the top of the trailer and contents off. TMC’s staff worked for three days and nights to rebuild it to carry on for its tour of New Zealand. 1992 TMC manufactured its 2000th trailer, for Otorohanga Transport.

1995 TMC purchased the 56 Edmonton Road property across the road from the main plant to increase production capacity.

1996 TMC built the first panel trailer in New Zealand for Collins Carriers, chassis no 2373.
Collins had the contract for the cartage of panels for the Riccarton Mall, the first time tilt slab panels had been used for major construction. The roads had to be surveyed by engineers every few metres to ensure the trailer would not roll over.

1997 TMC manufactured the first telescoping semi curtainsider to reduce the cost for ferry crossings on return trips.

1998 First trombone semi panel trailer manufactured for Collins Carriers. First panel carried was 6.2 x 12.8 27.7 tonne for The Warehouse, Ashburton. This was the biggest panel ever carried, chassis no 2507. 2002 The big snow July. TMC premises and CD Broadbridge log unit covered in snow.

2003 Sales team started with Paul (Skippy) Goodman as first full-time salesperson.

2004 TMC manufactured its 3000th trailer, for Linfox, which was a quad axle semi insulated curtainsider. 2005 TMC purchased the adjoining property 15 Calgary Place from Shands Road Sawmills Ltd to help with TMC’s expanding market.

2006 Richard Currie joined TMC. 2008 TMC built first 3 rows of 8 transporter, chassis no 3332. 2010 Manufactured first telescoping trailer for Hanham Transport, chassis no 3465 c/w with R8 load divider. This trailer telescopes from 14m to 39m and has Tridec allaxle steer system and radio remote steering option. 2013 TMC appointed New Zealand manufacturing and distribution partner for Steelbro.

2015 TMC starts mobile Auckland service. 2016 TMC opens Auckland premises located at 8 Oak Road, Wiri, headed by Stephen Millichamp. Ron Price appointed as sales engineer Taupo North area. 2017 TMC Christchurch service department adds chassis straightening plant.

2018 TMC is now 70 years old, the oldest trailer manufacturer in New Zealand. Christchurch staff group photo. 2018 TMC handed over its 4000th trailer, to Brian and Simon Bourke of 4D Group Ltd.