“I’ve always loved machinery. The Macks the most.”
It’s -3 degrees on a cold August Wanaka morning when Craig Jolly climbs into the warm cab of his Mack to talk about the time, thirteen years ago, that “my gut told me I needed to make a change.”
After twelve years as a successful tradesman with the same company, Craig had developed a reputation for his workmanship. But long hours meant that he wasn’t able to enjoy the offerings of the lake, the ski fields and the mountains around Wanaka, the thriving resort town in the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island where he was born and bred. He was thirty years old and intended to kick back a little.
A new start
“I was going to do the odd house drainage while I worked out what was next, have a bit of a rest and not work all the time,” he said. “A good friend of mine suggested buying a machine and I gave my boss six months notice and to cut a long story short…”
That is the short story of how Jolly Earthworks was born back in 2005 and the company has since grown from its humble beginnings.
“We bought a 13-tonne machine to start off, followed by a 5-tonne machine and we sub-contracted in a trucking firm to do all our cartage,” he says, “We ended up buying our first truck at the end of 2006.”
Thirteen years later, Craig runs a successful civil construction company, doing the full range of residential sub-division work from land and tree clearing, bulk earth works, carting, drainage and pipe work, installing services, and constructing roads and pavements.
The work is supported by a fleet of five Mack trucks – a 1986 Super-Liner that is being restored, a 2000 CH model, a 2006 Super-Liner and his two new Mack purchases – a 2009 Trident and a 2017 Trident.
“The Tridents do a huge variety of work. We’ve got bottom dumpers, tipulator and 4 axle trailers. We’ve got two trucks going full-time and they have swapper bodies/turntables and can be changed around easily. They can do lots of different types of work in one day,” he says. He works the trucks hard.
“It is mainly locally-carted material. We own our own gravel pit and we also have our own landfill so they’re busy carting gravel out and back with landfill. We also do a lot of rock work,” he says.
Loyalty and tradition
Craig has had an interest in Mack stretching all the way back to his childhood.
“Since I was a toddler I’ve always loved machinery – it’s my biggest fault really. The Macks are the ones that I can remember being around the longest. They just always stood out to me,” Craig remembers.
“I’ve just fully rebuilt my old CH – the first truck I ever bought and it has 1.1 million kilometres on the clock. If you had another truck and fully rebuilt it, it’s just a bloody old truck. But you can have a Mack for thirty years and it’s still a Mack. That’s the difference.”
Nostalgia aside, he is sold on the versatility of the Mack’s application and its fuel efficiency. And of course, its toughness.
Craig is equally proud of his ten full-time employees.
“The thing is, you can have the nice gear, but if you don’t have good, skilled guys then it gets ripped pretty easily – you might as well not do the work at all,” he says. “If it wasn’t for the guys there is no way in hell we would be where we are now.”
For Craig, it’s about the people and the town and its history. And at Jolly Earthworks, Mack has a strong place in that.