Fulton Hogan, riding the ranges
Pulling a load up the steep hills out of Central Otago on New Zealand’s South Island towards Queenstown requires power – and more than a little patience to deal with the throngs of tourists.
Trevor Jenkins is a company man. He started driving trucks for Fulton Hogan – a household name in New Zealand construction and engineering for over 85 years - at the age of 23, some forty years ago.
You do the maths.
“I’ve passed retirement age now,” he laughs.
Now, as the Operations and Transport manager for the company’s truck fleet based in Alexandra, Central Otago, his driving days are largely behind him. Instead, he looks after the drivers and oversees the maintenance and work schedule of Fulton Hogan’s eighteen trucks in the region.
“We mostly shift aggregates around the bottom half of the South Island of New Zealand for major road works, but we carry other materials such as lime or grapes during the harvest,” he says, “anything we can drop off the back of the tipper.”
Alexandra is on the banks of the Clutha River and its bridge is pretty as a picture set against the mountain backdrop. Most of the work is driving the 60 kilometres north-west to Queenstown, where Trevor says the company Macks hold their own on the roads with the millions of tourists who come into the region each year.
Since New Zealand opened up the roads to 58-tonne loads, the power of the Mack has proven a handy addition to the company’s fleet. In the past two years, Fulton Hogan have bought a Super-Liner and a Trident.
“The road to Queenstown isn’t that good so you need that power. If you are carting a 58-tonne load, you don't want to hold up the traffic and you haven't got tourists trying to pass you,” he says.
Trevor reckons that of the four million tourists who come into Queenstown each year, about three quarters of them hire cars.
Fulton Hogan has a range of businesses including quarrying, civil construction, road building, infrastructure and developing residential sub-divisions. It’s a proud New Zealand business that has expanded into Australia and other parts of the Asia-Pacific, and Mack has long been a part of the company story.
Trevor himself has had a long personal history with the Mack.
“Way back when I was driving in 1987, I had an R Model and then an Ultra Liner. I started with a 26/24 for a couple of years and I got about 700,000km out of the R Model,” he remembers.
The climate and terrain of Central Otago can be a challenge. The Central Otago regional office of Fulton Hogan makes deliveries within a 100 kilometre radius of Alexandra.
“We go from extremes in temperature from 35 degrees in the summer to minus 8 in winter,” Trevor says.
But it is the hills that bring the high torque of the Mack into play.
“Central Otago has a lot of hills. Our terrain is all hills more or less. We are in a hollow and to get in and out of Alexandra you need to climb large, long hills,” he says.
The Super-Liner and Trident have the benefit of being able to carrying large loads and Trevor is working hard to acquire another Mack for his fleet – especially with the amount of road work coming up on the company’s calendar.
“I’m trying to see if I can get another big truck to cart 38 tonne. With the sheer size of the truck, it means that I can get bigger loads. More efficiency, less trucks on the road,” he informs me.
Fulton Hogan work the trucks hard. Last year, the Super-Liner did 115,000 kilometres with few issues.
“The reliability is good. We’re 300 kilometres away from the nearest Mack dealers, so at least with the mechanics, our drivers can get them going.”
He is also impressed with the fuel efficiency – especially since each truck typically pulls a big load in both directions.
“It takes about 38 tonne of aggregate to Queenstown and brings back hard soil and other things, so it is both ways.”
Trevor looks fondly back on his days in the driver’s seat of his Mack, and thinks that the power remains one of the rigs most attractive features.
“With all these hills, power’s what you need, and the Macks have it,” says Trevor.