Mixing experience and passion with execution and a decent whack of humility will likely yield an outstanding result. The latest car-carrying creations from Auckland based Carr & Haslam Ltd are a clear sign that all of those attributes are abundant in the company’s fabric…
Photo: Powering to the change-over close to the summit of the desert.
If you’ve ever had the privilege of looking at Chris Carr’s photo collection following a trip to the IAA Hanover show, it won’t take you long to understand what really spins his wheels. There’ll be 10 photos of car transporters in both macro and micro detail for every other genre of freight ferrying fabrication. When it comes to IP on anything to do with how many times four wheels will go onto 20, he and his team at Carr & Haslam Ltd are your go-to people. Chris is the CEO of one of our nation’s oldest and most recognisable transport companies, and the best place for a chance meeting to discuss the nuances of vehicle freighting is more than likely the company’s Mt Richmond Domain depot in Mt Wellington, at about 5.15am.
On a frigid June morning with showers whipping across the yard he’s there, clad in coat and beanie with his drivers and yard crew, buzzing around a 10-car transporter being stripped of its load following arrival back home from a Turangi swap. It’ll then be reloaded for immediate departure back to the centre of the island in the hands of day driver Gary Phipps. “Bloody cars. It’s a battle because you’re never privy to what’s being designed, the new model will come out longer, wider, higher, or with less ground clearance…or more, so all we can do is constantly chase height, width, and length, and try to figure ways to find space within the constraints of VDAM. I love it,” says Chris, smiling and shielding his face from the rain.
Pegs and holes
Imagine a cube of air, 23m long, 2.55m wide and 4.30m high. Now imagine trying to design a vehicle transporter that took up as little of that space as possible, but retained state-ofthe- art safety, power, drivability, and comfort. Making such a vehicle has ‘driven’ the thought processes of car transporting people since Karl Benz said ‘Look at ziss, Bertha. I might be onto somezing’.
To make it worse, the optimal union of cargo and carriage in the world of vehicle transportation has got ever more challenging over the decades. While most technological advances result in things getting smaller, cars have grown, and 10 modern automobiles take up a powerful lot of space. Add EVs into the mix and you need to consider weight in the conundrum also.
Photo: A clear visual of just how tight things are.
But let’s not stop there. For Carr & Haslam, it’s even more taxing, with much of the company’s work in higher end vehicles, meaning extra high or extra low, extra wide, extra heavy… it’s all amplified beyond what’s posed with your normal family Hillman Hunter.
And then there’s the carriage itself. Gone are the days when productivity ruled. Some of us remember the cab-under trucks Car Haulaways experimented with in the 70s, and then in the 80s the MCE Mack arrived and rewrote the book on low, cramped cabs with grunt to burn. However, safety and comfort weren’t really high on the priority list of manufacturer or customer at the time, and thankfully neither offering would cut the mustard in 2019. Today’s truck must present as safe and accommodating as any motor vehicle, not to mention additional space-hogging ‘jewellery’ like DEF tanks and SCR exhaust systems.
Taking all those considerations on board, it’s little wonder then that the spectacle of Carr & Haslam’s latest 10-car marvel, parked before us in the floodlit tempest, was utterly jaw-dropping.
Photo: Cab up and there’s the impressive OM470 with its rerouted exhaust.
One of two identical units, the base truck comprises a Mercedes-Benz Arocs 3246L 8x4 rigid at 5750mm wheelbase towing a 2-axle Jackson Enterprises Ltd ‘Stinger’ simple trailer. Mechanically they’re reasonably stock product with the twin overhead cam 10.7-litre 6-cylinder BlueTec 6 OM470 engine sitting snuggly between the rails. Of course, our most recent encounter with this snazzy wee engine was in the new Fuso Shogun. It’s a supreme example of an uber modern diesel engine aligned to the modest displacement high output philosophy. Obviously, that makes it supremely well suited to life charging around the nation under a car transporter. It’s a Euro 6 burner via SCR and EGR, although it’s a patented EGR system that significantly reduces complexities once associated with the treatment methodology. Asymmetric charging, as it’s called, essentially means exhaust gases are managed via cylinder allocation (four to six always go direct to turbo for rapid spool-up) in relation to engine map via a clever infinitely adjustable flap located closer to the emission source. The result is that sensors and the EGR control system once found downstream are now in the skip out back. It has an asymmetrical fixed turbine turbo charger and uses Daimler’s X-Pulse injection system with pressures boosted in the injectors that supply optimally shaped combustion chambers. What transpires as a result of all this intellectual fallout is a simpler, cleaner engine that appears to be on appetite suppressants in terms of fuel.
Photo: Loading ex the port is a huge part of Carr & Haslam life, and when the schedule allows the 10-car units get in on the action too.
As we saw in the Fuso, it’s a tenacious beast and working around the low- to mid-40 tonne mark is its sweet spot – sub- 40 it’s in heaven. The 335kW (455hp) top power number kicks in a hair under 1500rpm and barely falters until 1800rpm. Torque peaks at 2200Nm (1623lb/ft) right on 1100rpm, with little sign of abating until 1450rpm. Normally small displacement motors struggle to hold their performance high points for as long as the big bangers do, but OM470 hangs on like a miniature Schnauzer with your sock. It’s more like a 13-litre story in terms of the power/torque trace with the ripest harvest around 1400 to 1600rpm.
Behind the OM470 is the 12-speed Power Torque-3 G-281 (G meaning M-Benz Trans, and 281 denoting torque of 2810Nm, in case you’re wondering). There’s no need to reiterate what we think about this AMT. Its arrival catapulted Daimler’s auto-shifter into the rock star club, and as we found with the Fuso where the base cog-box appears with the ShiftPilot moniker, it’s the transmission that really makes the package. Its .6-second shift times and melted-butter-like smoothness are the cornerstone to the overall efficiency, both in terms of performance and fuel consumption. A superb example was leaving Waharoa after the daybreak coffee stop. Back in our seats, Gary simply flicked the wand tumbler into D, stood on the gas and the unit catapulted out of the parallel park, reaching the 50km/h limit in a way few truck drivers could have dreamt of prior to say the arrival of the first I-Shift Volvos.
Photo: Gary leaves the city bound for Mt Richmond.
Axles and suspension-wise, up front are twin offset axles on taper leaf springs and shock absorbers rated at 7.5 tonnes each, and out back Mercedes-Benz RT440 hypoid tandem set with diff and cross locks on the hindmost axle reside on proprietory 8-bag air suspension rated at 26 tonnes total. Brakes are disc all round, with EBS, ABS, ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation) and stability control.
Aside from the fact the famous colour is sulphur yellow, the latest creations from ‘The house of Carr & Haslam and friends’ have really put the acid on what was previously thought possible in the car transporting world without going berserk on something cultivated in the ultra-abstract universe of bespoke PBS.
The base offerings needed to be attacked vigorously to get the final outcome everyone wanted. Off the assembly line the height at the top of the rail was 1030mm and that needed to be 940mm. The bulk of this came via the suspension mod done on the ‘stock specials’, used to increase room in cattle crates. It’s achieved by installing a smaller axle-to-spring spacer and special shackle plates on the two front axles, then repositioning the second axle steering ram using a factory modification. The front axle gets altered shock mounts and off-set tie rod ends. In the hindquarters, the trailing arms are moved to the upper position in the suspension hanger and the suspension is recalibrated. A few more millimetres were clawed back via the use of 295/60 profile tyres. Being the maverick ‘spec’ dude he can be, Chris hasn’t ruled out 19.5” drive wheels either on future incarnations. “I’ve been warned about brake wear, but it’s been done before successfully. I don’t really see a problem. Every millimetre is gold in this business.”
The air cleaner was relocated under the cab and the air pick-up was rerouted, collecting from the front behind the grille. Chris said that there have been no issues with operating temperatures, and that’s with the first unit running right through the heat of summer. As for gases leaving the truck, the exhaust also needed a major re-route so it didn’t obstruct the chassis rails, and the treatment unit, battery box, and fuel tank were all lowered.
Photo: The Sting in the tail. Alive and well with its inverted fifth-wheel
“In the base Arocs exhaust routing is not a biggy because of the intended construction application, but here it was a major,” said Chris. “I can’t overemphasise the work the team at Trucks and Trailers put into getting these things right.” The exhaust pipe now leaves the back of the cab and tucks down the back of the front guard and then along inside the second steer to the aftertreatment unit. From the body perspective, the mounting is interesting also. Because the deck only needs to be a pair of wheel tracks, it can dip either side of the chassis rails – by as much as 70mm in places – in order to claw back valuable height and length. Looking from the side you can actually understand the frustration at the need to get the decks over the truck’s drive wheels.
The Jackson Enterprises body and 11.98m trailer on BPW running gear are works of art for sure. The bellies of both truck and trailer are fixed, but the top two sections of the trailer and rear section of the truck can be manipulated all you like via threads located in the main support towers that run hydraulically off the PTO. That means the top decks can drop all the way down so big things like vans can take their place. The top front section on the truck can be ‘tweaked’, but limited of course by the presence of the accommodation block underneath. On top of the right front tower on the truck body there’s an aerial, which at its highest point is a convenient 4.3m.
Gary Phipps says one of the real boons with the new units is the remote controller that allows the operators to stand ‘right there’ and know exactly the clearances they’re working to. The famous ‘Stinger steer’ as it was colloquially coined back in the day is now an entrenched part of the Kiwi vehicle logistics scene. They’re a simple trailer in technical terms by virtue of the connection being an assembly mounted off the rear of the truck, as opposed to a semi-trailer where the connection is built into the truck’s chassis. Attachment is via an upside-down fifth wheel located on a sliding mount on the underside of the trailer, with the pin receiver facing forward.
The king pin is mounted on the towing vehicle. The main benefit of this set-up is the pivots are on the trailer not the truck, so when the trailer’s laying off a wee bit, there’s no torsional stress on the rear of the truck. It was not an uncommon way of hooking a tractor to a semi in the 80s, coming with an additional security benefit also, i.e. the baddie needed the appropriate front bit in order to hook on. Its Achilles heel however, was contamination. In applications where hooking and unhooking were a frequent event, the exposure of the jaw mechanism meant stray dross risked incomplete connection, and as such they were banned for general use. Car transporters however, won a reprieve on account of the near permanently connected state they enjoy and the improved cornering stability the system offered over pin and eye or pintle hook couplers.
Because the turntable’s on sliders, the two halves slide together for loading and unloading, obviating the need for pesky ramps. There’s still a need for ramps out back, which Gary happens to be well proud of on account of having a part in developing the latest ‘in-car-nations’ (sorry). “We used to have little jockey ramps for getting the cars onto the top deck when it was down. They reduced the angle of attack from the main ramps to the deck. I developed these new ones with a sliding fillet in the body of the main ramp that lifts up, comes forward, and hooks onto the top deck. They’re magic. I’ve not used the jockeys yet on these trucks.”
Photo: The newest generation Carr & Haslam 10-car units are certainly striking additions to the truck population.
It’s impossible to pull something off on this scale and this successfully without it being a truly collaborative effort on the part of many, and that ‘many’ extends from the drivers all the way to Stuttgart. Numerous trips to Germany and a relationship with the Daimler brand locally that goes back over three decades has resulted in strong communication lines between Chris, his team, and the world’s biggest truck manufacturer, at all levels. Considering the purchase volumes and annual manufacture tallies, it’s a wonderful example of never being too big to care, or more importantly, being intensely interested in who’s doing what. “Often we’ll tell them what we’ve done to get another few millimetres out of the height and they’ll say, ‘how the hell did you do that?’” laughs Chris. “But it’s a win-win too. We might only take tiny numbers, but the outcome of our tinkering is often scalable.”
Bringing it back a level we get to Damon Smith at Trucks and Trailers in Wiri, someone Chris rates extremely highly. “Damon never sells you a truck, he immerses himself in a project, or a need to provide a solution. He’s as much part of the whole thing as anyone and knows his product really well. I can’t speak highly enough of the guy.” Interestingly, Damon told us Chris is an easy customer to work with on account of his enthusiasm and knowledge. “It’s always great doing a truck with Chris.”
One of coolest things about the whole project is the body and trailers are also built locally by Trevor Jackson and his team at Jackson Enterprises Ltd in Pahiatua (Ref New Zealand Trucking magazine Sept 2017; The brand that many built). “We were looking for someone to build our first new units post-GFC,” said Chris. “I approached Trevor and asked if he’d be keen and he took it on. Trev’s a great bloke and they make a great job. It’s become a real part of their business down there and they now build transporters for others as well.” Then there’s the home team. Chris obviously, and manager of the car business, Simon Dodd, who comes with a vehicle logistics IP probably only matched by his boss. Rounding out the think tank are the people who live with the result of the latest paper scratchings on a day-to-day basis, the ground crew and drivers. We spent a couple of days with Gary, a 15-year vet at Carr & Haslam, and one of four guys in the driving team on the new gigs. The other members of the team are Mike Foote, Rex Sue and Brent Goulder.
Day in, day out
The two finished trucks are striking to say the least and have caused much chatter on the airwaves. They’ve a tweak or two on the traditional paint scheme too, with the yellow extending all the way to the bottom of the bumper. It certainly enhances their looks significantly. Fleet numbers 247 and 269 have a busy life ahead. First on the road was 247 just prior to Christmas, and 269 pulled clear of the yard with a rake of cars for the first time in late February. Their immediate future is to each complete an Auckland to Wellington return every day Monday to Friday, and possibly one-way on a Sunday depending on volumes. A truck leaves either end at 5.30am and they meet at a predetermined point; Turangi when things are strumming along nicely, or a sniff either side if someone’s having one of those days. The drivers swap trucks and return back to home base where they unload and reload, and then hand off to the night driver who leaves at 5.30pm, repeating the whole process. Based on history they’ll clock up about 320,000km a year. It’s an easily doable run, and the two new trucks are the third generation.
“It’s good now there’s spare capacity with the trucks from the previous generations,” said Gary. “If the day really turns to custard the guys can preload the old girl and the night run will kick-off on schedule. Actually, they’ve just done the motor on one of the last trucks at a million kilometres, I took it down the other day and man, it’s going well. Aside from the number on the speedo you just wouldn’t know it’s done a million kilometres, although these are another step again. They’re taking time out of the run with no effort whatsoever.”
Photo: Swishing past an iconic point on the main North/South track.
Taking the Silk Road
Here it’s more a case of Europe distributing its own and Asia’s products within the Antipodes, but we’d suggest the track on which the said task is executed is rapidly reaching a comparative state. So, the silk metaphor is obviously in and around the Arocs’ ability to protect its occupants from the rutted, potholed, skittery surface it’s contending with. At 5.30am the all-important first impression from within the cab was one that triggered no concerns whatsoever as to what the body’s condition would be in about 11 and a half hours time.
“They’re a beautiful machine,” said Gary. Impression two was the smoothness and speed of the power delivery, and faint spooling up of the turbo. I noticed a couple of cars caught out by the acceleration of the enormous Heath Robinson-like contraption next to them at the lights. It seemed to take no time at all to make that famous short trek so many millions of trucks have made: along Great South Road, Sylvia Park Road, onto the Mt Wellington Highway and then hard right under the southern motorway over-bridge at the Mt W interchange. It’s one of those points in the network where we’ve all thought, ‘Thank goodness I’m out of here again’ and powered up onto the motorway that leads to all points south. It’s a hugely anticlimactic affair in the Arocs, however, as music plays lightly in the background and Gary chats about the shitty weather getting his beloved Holden dirty on the way to work this morning. Like the APL Direct Scania, the motorway and expressways are ideal grazing for these beasts, and you feel very European as the wipers clear the screen magnificently. The 37.5 tonne gross gives the Arocs 12.3 hp/tonne so ground speed is on point, with the truck only dipping to 59km/h in 11th at 1300rpm as we conquer the steepest pinch of St Stephen’s hill on the northern side of the Bombays.
Rolling out through Maramarua and onto the Hauraki Plains the Arocs rises and falls with the endless undulations and slumps, and the cab takes on a quirky lateral motion from time to time. There’s never the slightest fore/aft pitch, the nemesis of most 8x4s, but definitely an ever so slight lateral from time to time. We certainly never picked it up in either the 3263 or 2663. It’s a ride thing, not a handling one, as the Arocs is rapier straight in-lane and pinpoint through the corners, and Gary said the handling and anchors in the new trucks were both marginally better than the old girl. Of course we’re in Arocs territory again by virtue of the 8x4 thing and that still means no adaptive cruise or collision mitigation as yet; a bit weird considering what’s coming out of the K1 plant in Tokyo at the moment – a point not lost on Chris. They could have had an Actros but there’s no advantage. The Arocs comes off the line as an 8x4 whereas an Actros would have to be adapted at Daimler’s CTT (Custom Tailored Trucks) facility in Europe, and there’s still no fancy cruise or stopping fruit because that’s a tuning, algorithm, and mathematical thing, not a mechanical one. No, the eventual solution is still a tweaking of the Arocs offering to suit Australasian needs, and that, according to Pieter Theron, senior manager Daimler Truck and Bus New Zealand, is still a 2020 reality. Given how good these trucks are and nature of the relationships formed - and being formed - with customers, we don’t think that’s really good enough, and certainly not fair on sales teams at Trucks and Trailers, PCV, and Keith Andrews Trucks.
Photo: Taking on fuel, less and less with every generation of truck assigned to the task.
Carr & Haslam did fit an Actros grille! “I hate the toothy look on the Arocs,” said Chris. “I know it’s all about the construction thing and tough environments, and it looks fine on loggers and trucks in that world, but we’re not there. These look much better!” Fuel at Tokoroa and it was on south. Tarr Hill was dispatched in 10th with a kick-down at 59km/h and 1500rpm. Gary assured us she’d have pottered over in 12th no problem if he hadn’t induced the change. The long drop of Tarr posed no problem to either engine brake or conversation for that matter, with the noise meter bobbing around 66 to 70dB all day. The slowest proceedings got in climbing mode was – you guessed it – Earthquake Gully at 37km/h in 8th and 1600rpm. Gary chatted about the complexities of the job. “There’s a lot to learn with all the different makes and models, and every time a new one comes out it starts all over again.” With a tare of 22,620kg, care has to be taken. Not all cars are created equal; more so in the modern era with some electric models tipping the scales at north of two tonne. “People think they [car transporters] are light and weight’s not an issue, and by and large it’s not, but if you don’t load them right it soon can be. Some cars have to go on engine to the rear, and others it doesn’t matter. There’s a lot to learn on a 10-car.”
Zip lines or gondolas?
The latest Carr & Haslam 10-car generation come with the three-stage engine brake and no retarder. This means their downhill prowess is not the match of the predecessors, but that’s all right with both owner and operator for three reasons. Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with the 340kW (460hp) hold-back power of the three-stage engine brake. Secondly, the retarder attrition rate is something that Chris believes is a downside to the up they offer in holdback, and lastly, the old question of how fast do you really want to go downhill loaded? Yes, the retarder may well allow you blaze off the top of Hatepe loaded with no need for services brakes at a speed once thought impossible, but it’ll be about as much use as yoga mat in a pole dancing comp when the tourist who’s just arsed off his or her bike and is laying across the road appears in the windscreen.
The engine brake operates in three stages: three cylinders, six cylinders, and six with the EGR valve and wastegate implicated to increase the charging level of the engine, as well as an automatic downshift on the third stage. It’s never ever ‘all downhill’ when you’re going downhill with Gary though, and again it’s chatter that occupies the mind as the Arocs glides its way down Hatepe to the lake edge, rather than whether or not your will is up to date. “You just have to watch the revs once you go to the third stage because of that downshift,” he says.
Back for more
Driver swaps are the go in this type of truck deployment and Gary leaps out of 269 and jumps into 247 near the summit of the Desert Road while southern end operator Brent Goulder trades places the other way around. Brent’s done exceptionally well to get here when he did as he had to discharge his load on the way up. Half-hour breaks have been worked so they don’t have to sit in the middle of nowhere for half an hour, and so once again the two shooting stars part ways, only to be reunited in 12 hours time. Consumption-wise Chris is rapt with his charges, currently around 7% up on their predecessors. “Yes, we’ve got lower gross weights but aerodynamically they’re a mess with turbulence anywhere and everywhere.”
On our run with Gary the loaded leg returned 47.1 L/100km, which equates to 2.12kpl (5.99mpg), and overall for the day 41 L/100km or 2.44kpl (6.88mpg). That’s a figure that would put a smile on the dial of most operators. As we’ve said before, the current Mercedes-Benz range was built with design requirement of a 20% increase in the service life on all parts, and service intervals can extend out to 80,000km depending on application. The trip home was equally smooth and enjoyable as the trip down. Running home light, the Arocs behaved identically in terms of ride and handling, which we guess is attributable to tare and configuration, although that lateral movement in the cab we talked about was gone.
Carr & Haslam’s association with the three-pointed star goes back a long way, and it’s been a fruitful one for both parties. Chris is a strong advocate for anything that comes out of the stable and is a great believer in the latest technology. He and the firm he heads have always strived to innovate and bring the best from all corners of the globe to the New Zealand market with all its idiosyncrasies. Their latest offerings to the 10-car transporting world honour everything in the previous three sentences and are truly a spectacle to behold. Once again we were reminded why we enjoy the Mercedes-Benz range so much. They’re a truck that delivers on a level that sets a standard, and it’s little wonder sales are through the roof.
However, they need to arm the Arocs 8x4 with a full quiver of driver aids, and they need to do it as fast they possibly can. Impact resistance in 2019 is not the front line of safety; it’s the last resort. Adaptive cruise, collision mitigation and the like are the yardsticks now, and not having them on one of the key regional configurations is not really the go. If we were Daimler Truck and Bus New Zealand, we’d be heading for Germany to start throwing rocks at the boss’s window, let the tyres down on his car, and put gelatine in the executive dunnies. We’d be really annoying, until they oiled our squeaky wheel. That aside, they are a beautiful thing to both behold and operate. As for the future? We can hardly wait to see what a Carr & Haslam 10-car transporter circa 2022 is going to look like…19.5” drives, mirrorless…it might even stop all on its own…oh, how the mind boggles.
Day spa with extras
There’s no arguing the fact the 2.3m M-cab CompactSpace is a day cab, well almost. You’d think cramming 10 of the good autos on top and out back would leave the driver with precious little cat-swinging room, but it never ceases to amaze us that with the same ruler, pencil, and paper, how modernday designers can do so much more with available space resources than their counterparts of yesteryear. Looking at Gary sitting in the hot seat of the Arocs, he’s got oodles of space fore, aft, and above. In fact, there’s a healthy quarter cab behind the seats, with handy lockers, the left one accessible from the outside. It’s true there’s not an oversupply of storage beyond that, with the bulk of it being trays and cup holders spread around the engine tunnel and the door pockets.
Photos: An amazing use of space. George Clarke would be blown away!
Materials are heavy rubber, vinyl, and plastics in mainly black and dark tones, and very serviceable, an important consideration given the number of people involved in daily operation and speed of turnaround. We have to say both trucks were immaculate inside. The cockpit is a familiar place now, rapidly getting more and more familiar given the Shogun’s arrival. It’s a dash we enjoy immensely with its 4-gauge binnacle and vehicle analysis and telematics screen between the gauge sets. A wrap containing switchgear, infotainment, climate, park/trailer brake, and traction assist control swings away to the left and everything’s easily to hand. RT, CB and minor switchgear are in the overhead. The smart wheel, too, is equally ‘old friend’, and will likely pop up again when the Cascadia arrives next year. Cruise control functions are on the right spoke and the menu for the central screen on the left. The left steering column wand houses indicators, wipers and dip, and the right, in the same form factor, is the transmission/engine brake operation. Steering column adjusts for height and rake, as if that needed to be said.
Photo: It’s a great cockpit that delivers superb ergonomics.
Obviously there’s an engine tunnel in this gig intruding into the living space but it’s by no means the elephant in the room. The diminutive size of the 10.7-litre motor means a hump of a mere 320mm elevation is all that’s required. Colour tones and overhead deck structures aside it’s a light and airy place with the side glass on the door windows coming right down to leg level, and forward visibility is superb. Mirrors are voluminous and well placed, with the usual caution required for left-right clearances. That’s one huge modern-day issue the mirrorless Actros is going to send packing. That would almost convert you…maybe. Access is superb – you could almost jump in with a decent run up, and in terms of ride the day cab is ‘day spa’. The four-airbag set-up and long wheelbase combine to make every trip a treat for occupants; with just that funny little side-to-side thing every now and then…maybe it’s the Stingers’ influence, who knows. Car transporter drivers have always ‘faced’ the oncoming traffic with a low stance and precious little between their knees and the outside. Once preservation was all down to their skill, but now the shell in which they sit does all it can to help also. The Arocs cab exceeds Swedish cab strength requirements as well as ECE R29.
Photo: An easy place to spend the day.
What does courage look like? As we often see, true courage resides in those we least expect, those who see themselves as just people. You’d pass Gary Phipps on the street and think ‘he’s just a bloke’. He’s anything but. “Just a bloody fantastic guy,” is what Chris Carr will say if you mention his driver of 15 years’ service. Gary is a humble, unassuming 64-year-old and a great conversationalist. He loves his campervan, anything with a Holden badge, stockcars, his job, and most of all, his kids. If you want to see Gary’s eyes light right up, get him talking about the four children he raised alone. Four kids who have all gone on to be super successful, from the highest position in Fonterra’s North Island truck fleet operations, to owning and running their own businesses, to engineering, it’s a story of accomplishment all around. Oh, and Gary’s sent cancer packing in amongst all that…twice. Having had colon cancer earlier in his life, he entered 2018 with the doctors telling him he wouldn’t see Easter due to a virulent strain of leukaemia. Yeah, but it was Gary they were talking to.
“The doctors are amazed,” he says. “It’s all about attitude. I’ve seen people come in and you know they’re beaten before they start, and you see others drop around you. Good people. It can be demoralising. But you can’t let it affect you. Chemo’s like being flushed with Janola and you know when you wake up each day that if someone comes near you with so much as a runny nose, you’re dead. But beyond that, as long as you wake up, you’re winning.”
Photo: Gary Phipps, a humble man with a huge heart.
After almost exactly a year away he came back to work at the start of the year and was told to work at his own pace. “I got back into it a little quick but we’re right now. I love my job. When I retire I’m going to head off in my camper and have a good look around. Go to all the stockcar meets, annoy the kids. It’ll be great. I love just heading off and going where the camper takes me.” A native West Aucklander, Gary went through the schooling system in Avondale before heading for the navy at 16 and training as a chef. “My life’s been split three ways really, the navy, car sales, and truck driving,” he says. “I did about seven years in the navy and when I got out Dad and Mum had bought a pub in Stratford and offered me work.
I did the whole marriage, kids, and house thing, but hospitality is a tough gig. Hard yakka.” With a lifelong interest in food and anything on wheels, from there it was into the car sales business where Gary ended up managing a local Taranaki dealership and winning national awards for his salesmanship. About 25 years ago he felt things were a little stale and decided to pursue driving. It was something he’d always had a hankering to do, having seen the big trucks and buses rolling through the district. Gaining his Class 5 licence he landed a job with Intercity on line haul bus work, a job he enjoyed, but which ended with restructuring. That saw the move to trucks when a friend sorted some seasonal work with Shuttle Tankers servicing the dairy industry outside of farm pick-up work. Throughout this whole time Gary was raising his four children, and also working nights as a wedding and events entertainer.
“My daughter was old enough to look after the other kids, so I was able to go out and earn extra.” Following a drop-off in the tanker work, Gary saw an advertisement for a car transporter driver working for Palmerston North Transport. ‘That’s me,’ he thought, excited at the prospect of combining two interests, driving and cars. The trouble was the job was based back where it all began, in Auckland. With the oldest children now able to fend for themselves he decided to take up the position, a job he happily did for a couple of years. It was while carting off the wharf that he’d notice the slick yellow Mercedes-Benz trucks of Carr & Haslam Ltd and thought from time to time it might be a good place to work. Eventually he saw an advertisement and so applied. He started the next day. That was 15 years ago, and the rest, as they say, is history. Outside of work Gary and his family still share a love of stockcars, with some of his children running cars and others building them. As we said at the outset, if you really want to see this affable gentle bloke’s eyes light up, work the conversation toward the pride he has in his children. “I must have done something right,” he laughs. “They’ve all done incredibly well.” ‘Done something right’ would be an understatement. You certainly have, Gary. You’ve shown them there’s nothing that can’t be overcome, and that happiness is a decision, not a state.
Chris Carr’s a passionate man when it comes to transport. Transport in the holistic sense that is, meaning the movement of goods and people as efficiently as it can possibly be done, regardless of mode. The fifth generation at the helm of the business his greatgreat- grandfather founded, he can produce amazing photos of family wagons – and we mean wagons – working in an unrecognisable Auckland. Many in the industry can produce photos that show commercial lineage; few can do it to the extent Chris can.
The key to the company’s success has been a mix of passion and flexibility, never disregarding anything that has the potential to alter the logistics landscape, whether it be hardware or administration/politics, with all generations involved in regional supply chain policy and administration. Over the decades the company has done a powerful lot, and early on consumer goods and liquor were the mainstays. Chris’s father was at the helm when the Haslam name was bought out in the mid-60s, although the dual name was retained. The company was here when shipping containers arrived, and they embraced that modality, with sideloaders and skeletal gear operating from the 70s right through until 2017.
Car transporting first made its debut around 1982 and was the catalyst that began a fleet rationalisation from a varied brand makeup toward Mercedes-Benz, with the Mitsubishi product as a running mate. That was a prophetic decision based on what happened in the evolution of OEMs. “They operate very differently as businesses and we have a great relationship with both. It was a real buzz to be involved in the shakedown of the new Fuso Shogun.”
Photo: Chris Carr, generation five in the family business, with six well in place.
Today the company’s core activities are centred around the cars and gas distribution, employing more than 100 people and running 80 trucks. Chris’s own path has been from the coalface, starting out driving and learning the realities of a truck driver’s life from the only seat that can really teach you. He did his OE in his mid-20s, returning just over half a decade later to realise his destiny in the family firm. He’s a great believer in technology and the company has always been at the forefront of deploying digital devices in order to enhance performance, whether that’s in the truck itself or managing them. “We had ABS brakes in the early 90s, and EBS in trucks and trailers in the late 90s.”
The fleet is equipped with GPS and in-cab camera technology. Chris has a keen interest in the welfare of those who work for him, offering advice and help in areas like personal financial management a number of times over the years. “With the shortage of drivers it’s important to keep them happy.” He’s a member of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Auckland Business Forum, a past member of the Auckland Regional Land Transport Committee, and past director of Rally New Zealand. Chris believes there’s a place for all modes of transport and that’s determined primarily by the topography of the country. “Every part of the economy, trucking is there. Many people fail to recognise it and it sounds a bit clichéd, but trucks really do carry the country.” So, what of the future? All appears to be in good hands with his two sons, generation six, active in the business in 2019. Kieran works in admin and finance and Evan IT and dispatch. Long live the yellow machine. (Ref New Zealand Trucking magazine Aug 2018; Carr and trucks.)
The morning after our run to the centre of the island we shot a load down to the Agricultural Fieldays site in set-up mode at Mystery Creek and really got stuck into some deck callisthenics!
|The Phipps Mk1 ramps are working a treat, with the middle section that lifts out and slides up to the lowered top deck.|