Business profile: J.R.P Ltd

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane


Versatility is the name of the game for Hawke’s Bay Hiab operators, J.R.P. Ltd

The best thing about being a crane truck operator is the variety of work that comes through the door.

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"In a week, you never know what you’re going to get," says Paul Wheatley. "We do lots for the building construction and civil engineering industry: loads of precast concrete, concrete pipes, frames and trusses. Besides that, we handle loads of septic tanks, small houses, trees, upturned tractors, and troughs swimming pools. Once we even took a horse sculpture to Wellington. You name it; if it can be lifted, we’ll do it."

Machinery beginnings

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The Fassi crane placing foundation blocks for a new building at Whakatu, near Napier

Since Paul set up J.R.P Ltd 16 years ago, he’s never been short of work. In fact, keeping up with it is the biggest challenge. He wasn’t always into this, though.

Originally, he worked as an agricultural silage contractor. When he wound that business up, he took a year off and drove for a local drainage contractor and part of the work was lifting concrete pipes. It appealed to him and when the boss suggested he buy a Hiab truck and go out on his own, he took him at his word.

After spotting an ad for an Isuzu with Hiab, Paul flew down to Nelson and bought it. "I had no work lined up so I drove into Carters in Hastings and asked if they required any crane work. They told me ‘you couldn’t have come at a better time.’ That’s how it began and I’ve never looked back." 

The trucks

Paul runs mainly Isuzus as his crane support trucks and says, "Japanese trucks work well for us and are versatile, fairly priced, and reliable; you get a lot with your package when you buy these."

Paul has chopped and changed trucks and cranes in line with the demand for the particular type of jobs that come their way. His first buy was the eight-wheeler Isuzu. He then bought an ex-Placemakers four-wheeler Mitsubishi when work increased.

A second-hand Scania with a long deck was later added to the fleet. When a bigger crane was needed, in came a Nissan eight-wheeler and a 322 Hiab. "When that truck became too small, I replaced the Scania with a bigger crane, sold that, bought a 470 Nissan eight-wheeler tractor unit and had it rebuilt at Deakin Motors and that became too small as well."

Turning point

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Rhys, the operator of F820 Fassi

A few years ago Paul decided it was crunch time: sell the business or take it to a new level.
"We were at the stage where we had three Hiab trucks and they were so busy; every time we built a crane, it never felt as if it was big enough for the market demand. We had a big talk about the future; it was a huge commitment to upgrade.

"I decided I was still passionate about cranes and the fact that both my sons Rhys and Jake were keen to commit made it possible. We ordered two new Isuzus from Deakins, took the crane off the old Nissan, and put that on the new Isuzu. Then everything got busier again so that’s when we decided to buy the Fassi crane."

The new crane

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The new crane’s massive reach and lifting capacity makes the hard jobs easy

Paul’s latest crane is a Fassi F820 and he’s rapt with it. "We designed and had this one built and it’s been unbelievable; it has pushed me to the next level of technology. 

"The crane has a 17-metre reach and with the fly jib, reaches 29–30 metres straight out. It will lift 950kg at 30 metres and without the fly jib, with crane directly out, will pick up to 4.5 tonnes.

"Rhys is the main operator (I’m still learning, as are the others). It’s amazingly safe and makes hard jobs easy.

"The new crane enabled us to do heavier lifts and the feedback from clients has been unreal," says Paul.

A family affair

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Paul Wheatley, proud owner

Paul runs the business with the help of his partner Bex who manages the office and organises the jobs. He also employs drivers Peter O’Connor and Daniel Clouston. With Rhys and Jake on-board, Paul is pleased to be able to delegate some of the running to the next generation of tech-savvy minds and for the business to grow accordingly.

"We are very lucky with both of them. They’re achieving very well," he says. Having his sons alongside also allows Paul to push the transporting side of things.

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Fassi flexing its muscles with a one-tonne block

To that end, they use their new six-wheeler 530 Isuzu tractor unit to transport forklifts for AB Equipment. The transporter is also used for diggers, tractors, hedge cutters, and trucks. Paul still is passionate about what he does but admits he’s slowed down somewhat. 

"It’s very physical work on crane trucks. I’ve gone from being able to scramble up a container to needing a ladder. You have to be on your game every day."

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The Fassi F820 has a 17-metre reach and with fly jib, reaches 29–30 metres straight out

Paul appreciates Bex’s role, too. "From not knowing much about trucks, she took on a hard job. Every truck is different so I made a spreadsheet to explain their different details so she can match the truck with the job. She’s very good with clients and in following up jobs. She brings the work in, too; we’re a good team and as a family business, I reckon we have one of the best crews."

Bex uses My Trucking software to manage the workflow (Ed’s note: more on this in a future DOW issue).

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Hiabs, such as this XS 540 HiPro, have always been the workhorse for J.R.P Ltd

"The guys have the My Trucking app on their phone, making it a lot easier to communicate about incoming jobs. It allows us to work remotely and it’s good for invoicing too," she says.

Paul says crane truck work in Hawke’s Bay is a specialist industry that’s growing fast, but it doesn’t faze him.

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A close-up look at the hydraulics of heavy-duty knuckle boom crane

"There’s enough for everyone, besides, competition is good. It keeps you honest. If we can’t do a job we pass it on."

The addition of the Fassi is keeping J.R.P Ltd ahead of the game, but will there be another crane to follow?

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Paul says the Fassi crane has pushed them to another level

The J.R.P fleet

  • Isuzu 530- Hiab 544 HiPro
  • Isuzu 530- Fassi F820
  • Isuzu 530- tractor unit
  • Isuzu 460- Hiab 322
  • Nissan 470- Hiab 477

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