Although Heathstock Haulage no longer plies South Island roads, the culture that owner, the late Murray Taylor, built is still being celebrated.
Photo: The reunion crew gathered at the Brisbane Truck Show earlier this year. A fitting place too, in front of the Elphinstone high-capacity semi. Payload and power were the key ‘drivers’ for Heathstock owner, the late Murray Taylor.
Heathstock Haulage’s light blue fleet was known the length and breadth of the South Island from the late 80s until the early 2000s. The company’s Fodens, Freightliners, and sole Peterbilt turned heads and sent truck spotters into a frenzy whenever they appeared. While watching a Saturday morning kids’ rugby match last winter, two ex drivers hatched a plan. “I was saying to Grant ‘Spinner’ Duncan that I’d like to go to the Brisbane Truck Show,” said Iain Wright. “He said ‘What about putting it on the Heathstock Haulage Facebook page? Say we’re going, join us if you want’.
“The main driver for me was that we were a group of fellas who loved catching up and talking about the good old days, but like a lot of staff from old trucking companies, we only did it when someone from the team had passed away. In the end we had a group of 20-odd ex drivers and even some of their sons come along. Heathstock was a big part of their growing up too. Riding in Dad’s truck. It got a few into the industry.” Heathstock Haulage grew from a small agricultural contracting business, the brainchild of Murray Taylor. Through the late 80s/early 90s the company picked up contracts carting coal out of the West Coast over the Lewis Pass to Christchurch, as well as salmon meal from Nelson to Invercargill. Murray also owned a Lime Quarry in Waikari, North Canterbury, where the fleet was based, that provided backloads and obvious productivity benefits.
Photo: The Heathstock Peterbilt was a real attention grabber back in the day and able to cart 32.5 tonne. (How far have we come?)
“Murray was ‘Murray’, never called ‘boss’,” says Iain. “He was an amazing man, and nothing was ever a problem and there was never a reason why something couldn’t be done. “Our dispatcher, Murray ‘Clem’ Clements, must also get a mention too. He was great at keeping the boys moving, and later drove the flagship ex Peter McDowell 362 Peterbilt (Ref New Zealand Trucking magazine, Top Truck, November 2000). “Murray loved the heavy Peterbilt undercarriage, Cat motors and light cabs of the Fodens, the dominant marque in the fleet.” Heathstock Haulage sold to Freight Lines in 2004. Sadly, Murray lost his life in an accident at the lime quarry in 2015. “When we lost Murray, it was a very sad day for all of us who knew him,” said Iain. “Brisbane Truck Show was an amazing trip. Only two days were spent at the show, we spent the other two days sitting in a bar reminiscing and talking shit.”