NRC Member Profile

Driver Profile – John Harper

John Harper got his “HT” license in an old Dodge truck in 1979, towing a modest single axle trailer.

Little wonder in the 38 years since, he reckons the biggest change in road transport has been the advance in technology.

“Everything is automated. The safety features – ABS brakes, anti-roll technology – are a huge step forward. The trucks are much heavier but so much easier to drive.”

Hamilton-based John and his wife Sandy operate a single truck business, doing a wide variety of work. They have been in business since 2005 after Harper started his working life as a mechanic and then moved into driving.

He did his apprenticeship with William Gill and Sons, working on Chrysler Valiants and a variety of Hillmans, but then was lured by the call of the road.

Having obtained his heavy transport license – a straight step up from his car license as “there weren’t all the classes like they have now,” John got his first driving job with Huntly Quarries.

“I was a bit spoilt as I stepped straight into a modern Fuso, while there were still a lot of older Fords and Commers on the road back then.”

He has fond memories of his boss Ces Comins – “he was a real character.”

Other driving stints included hauling logs for Orini based Senton Timber to its mill and then taking finished products to building sites.

He also worked for Tony Galbraith Transport out of a Hamilton depot doing trips between factories and warehouses for Foodstuffs, ETA and Cerebos Greggs.

Having set up for himself, Harper decided to specialise in bulk cartage including sand, coal, aggregates, fertilizer and grapes!

Every autumn for the last nine years Harper has headed off to Marlborough, with two other drivers to run his truck around the clock, collecting grapes from the vineyards and delivering them to Delegat’s processing plant.

It is a job that usually lasts between three and four weeks.

While most of John’s work is around the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, he does venture as far away as Kaitaia.

Some of the jobs occur regularly – delivering sand and aggregate to Placemakers retail outlets and coal from the Huntly mines to regular customers. There are also trips to farmer customers, dropping off a load of fertilizer.

John enjoys the variety of running his own business. “Sometimes I only know day by day what I’m doing, although some jobs are booked well in advance.”

He has around 45 customers, some of whom he works for occasionally as well as the regular weekly or monthly jobs.

Having started the business with Hino trucks, John has progressed to a six-wheeler Mack with a four-axle trailer.

“It’s been set up for the different jobs we do,” said John. “The bins are sealed and can be easily steam cleaned for the likes of the grape harvest.”

When John and Sandy established the business in 2005 he joined National Road Carriers. “I knew they were supportive of owner drivers. They had a good reputation from chat around the industry.”

John said the NRC staff had been knowledgeable and helpful over the years whenever he had queries. He has used the cost analysis programme to good effect and believes the JLT insurance deal still measures up, even after first taking it out in 2005.

“I would recommend to anybody starting out with a trucking business to join NRC,” said John.

Despite his trade background, John does not carry out any major maintenance on the Mack which has recently clicked over 500,000 kms. “I just do the basics and leave it to the experts to do the major stuff, even doing the oil changes.”

“I’ve had great back up from the agents. They’re still fixing the occasional things under warranty.”

Now owned by Volvo, John says the influx of European technology means the latest model Macks are quieter and nicer to drive.