Roadrunner a Kiwi institution to the core

Monday, July 30, 2018

Roadrunner Manufacturing was established in 1974 by the late Don Ward and began with a staff of just three at its manufacturing plant in Bulls. Still at the same site, today Roadrunner has 23 staff and offers a wide range of quality products and services, not only to the transport, marine and agriculture industries, but also to other industries requiring any engineered or bulk manufactured products.

“Roadrunner has been going for 40-plus years, starting from a small beginning and developing and growing from there,” says joint managing director Nick Webster.


Photo: Kiwi can-do. Roadrunner Manufacturing co-directors Matt Avery and Nick Toulmin.

Nick and partner Bec Toulmin bought into the business almost four years ago, and were joined last year by Matt and Gemma Avery. Matt, the other managing director, previously worked for Profab in Palmerston North for 16 years, 10 of them as foreman, while Nick completed his apprenticeship at Roadrunner and has been with the company for 10 years. “ The core of our business is making fuel tanks, hydraulic tanks and toolboxes,” says Nick, “ but we also make air tanks and water tanks, and animal holding cages and service ute fitouts.”

Since 2007 Roadrunner has been the New Zealand distributor for American made OMAX Abrasive Waterjet Systems. There are now four product lines all available in New Zealand through Roadrunner, allowing them to give customers plenty of options to meet their needs.

“In addition to selling them, we use them for our own in-house manufacturing requirements,” says Nick. “ They are highly efficient, easy to use and speed up the manufacturing process. There are now 50-plus OMAX Waterjet machines in use around the country.”

Roadrunner make all of their products onsite, from high quality materials sourced from a large chain of suppliers within New Zealand where possible. They get most of their core materials from INEX Metals and Steel and Tube. “Everything we make is above import standards,” says Nick. “ We have to back our gear so we can only use quality materials for our products, which is why they are strong and last so long. We have gone away from stock items unless required by some of our customers, to mostly doing custom-built items to suit whatever our clients need. We can make anything, and from a single item to large factory runs – we can cater for any requirements.”


Photo: The quality of what Roadrunner produce, and the pride with which it’s produced is clearly evident.

Nick says with the fuel tax coming into effect in Auckland, they are busy making supplementary tanks so operators can avoid having to fill up in the city, ensuring they keep their overheads down and avoid the downtime of filling up twice in one run.

While the transport industry appears to be pretty strong at the moment, Nick feels there is definitely some uncertainty out there.

“However, currently Roadrunner has 14 welders as well as waterjet cutters working flat out to keep up so we cannot complain. Orders are coming in and the stuff is going out the door so we’re keeping busy.”

Nick says in the past trucks would come in from overseas with a 20-litre tank fitted and have larger tanks added here. “Now they mostly come in with the standard tanks already fitted, so we’ve had to diversify into other markets. Now we tailor the products to suit the market and customer-specific demands.

“ We supply a lot of replacement tanks, either when a tank has been damaged, or if there is a change of application for the client, whether it be a larger or smaller volume tank. Today ’s drivers take huge pride in their trucks and spend a massive part of their life in the cab so we also make a lot of hand-wash tanks so they can wash their hands and faces before getting back in the truck. As well as all the shiny bits to make them feel right at home.”


Photo: Craftsman at work.

Nick says up to 60 percent of a toolbox can be wasted space if it’s not built to suit its intended purpose, so Roadrunner custom-builds toolboxes to suit a customer’s requirements. “ We can make any size toolbox a customer requires, and we can fit shelves and custom-build it to maximise the usable space. We build them to suit whatever people are using them for. To our knowledge we build them out of thicker and stronger materials than everyone else, and ours are fully welded. We have a couple of tricks up our sleeve, which is why they last. We also use what we call a forever hinge, which will outlast the toolbox as long as you give it a squirt of grease every now and then.”

Nick says one of the toolboxes they made was for a Kenworth owner who wanted to carry his coffee machine and golf clubs! Good on ya Kev!

In addition to the fuel and hydraulic tanks, Roadrunner also make effluent tanks, farm transfer tanks, water tanks (for fire appliances and concrete mixers), air tanks, brake reservoir tanks, and dangerous goods fuel tanks for tanker trucks. “It’s not just limited to the transport industry or aluminium, we can manufacture pretty much anything. Being a small rural town we also get cockies coming in to get repairs done in our workshop, as they know our workers are highly skilled. Roadrunner may be a small town workshop in Bulls but we supply the whole country – from the Cape to Bluff.”