Cover story: McHardy Freight

Todd Chote bought an existing trucking company, McHardy Freight and finds he has more than enough work in a localised area to keep his trucks rolling

The Waipukurau-based business began 27 years ago and has an excellent reputation, so Todd decided there was no reason to change the focus or the name and so far, it’s working well.

"Our focus is on doing an excellent job," says Todd Chote

"Since I took over 3.5 years ago, nothing much has changed. Previous owner Kevin McHardy worked hard to carve out a niche, so it’s business as usual. We are not in a push to become the biggest carriers in NZ – the focus is on doing what we do, really well."

McHardy Freight operates in the Dannevirke – Waipukurau – Napier area and the bulk of their work comes from subcontracting to a global freight company, plus several other large freight companies. With three trucks, they carry a wide range of dry goods – "anything you see in a shop we cart, plus wool, timber, packaging and chemicals.

As business increases so does the volume of freight

Our trucks work well with segregation as one is carrying foodstuffs and another is our dangerous goods unit; we have a good relationship with the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit (CVIU) who pull us over on average once a week to check; I’d rather they do that and have that relationship with them as nothing is ever wrong because we play strictly by the book."

Todd has noticed how much the volume of freight has increased since he began. "We used to have quiet periods but that’s gone. The clients that came with the business have accelerated their business, so we are busier too," says Todd. Another reason for the increase could be a move to the regions or just the general state of the economy, whatever the case, it has had a flow-on effect for McHardy Freight.

The trucks and the drivers

Hinos are the order of the day for McHardy Freight due to their reliability

Hinos are the order of the day for McHardy Freight and that’s because they are reliable, according to Todd.

"Kevin bought a new Hino 11 years ago; that’s done close to 900,000km now and it has served us well".

Todd has three Hinos, nine-tonne, six-wheeler trucks, which is more than ample for the jobs they do.

"The majority of our freight goes by the cubic metre and not weight. If there is too much volume I go out and pick up what the guys can’t. But I can see we’ll need another truck and a driver soon.

"I drove one of the trucks for two years, but being on the phone every five minutes, organising things and invoicing at night proved too much, so we got an extra driver on board. It has pushed me to get extra work to cover that wage.

"We look after our drivers as much as we can. It was an eye-opener being in their position for 15 years before I stepped up, so I know where they are coming from if they say it’s a s*** of a job, sometimes!"

Many people ask Todd, if freight volumes are steadily increasing why doesn’t he simply add trailers to his trucks?

"It’s easier said than done because we provide a time critical service. We cart a lot of groceries and they’ve got to be in the supermarkets at a certain time. It takes the guys around four hours to load trucks in the morning and two-three hours to unload when they do deliveries.

If we had a trailer on board, it would take them twice as long. It would interfere with our service; so the 6-wheelers suit us – they carry enough weight. The new Hino will have a bigger bin on it so will allow additional capacity."

One of the hardest things is finding good drivers, says Todd.

"We can throw lots more gear on the road but we need to have the drivers to do the work.

"We have a very good crew at moment – we have a driver based here in Waipukurau who the customers are always complimenting on his people skills and willingness to help. And one based in Dannevirke who came with the business. He’s been driving for McHardy Freight for 10 years and is a true asset – he runs and looks after that truck like it’s his own."

Todd does all the maintenance on his trucks at the weekends. "That’s a huge cost saving. I like the fact I know those trucks and we replace things regularly. I know if they get pulled up there is nothing ever wrong with them. They are up to scratch. It keeps me busy and also its also a pride thing: you see our gear on the road and it looks good."

Modern technology

Todd has easily embraced the new technology that goes with running a modern trucking business. He uses an app on his phone to co-ordinate incoming jobs and finds it easy to use. He likes its efficiency.

"I can quickly go in and punch in a destination, get a price, add on my percentage and send it to the customer."

All trucks are GPS connected and have tablets on the windscreen. "When a customer phones, it allows me to see where that truck is. When I took over there was none of that. So yes, going electronic makes it a lot more convenient. Sure, it is a cost but it’s also a necessity. Even if I am on the road and a customer rings me and says ‘we’ve got an invoice number here, we need to query’, I can jump on my phone and sort it out."

Family ties

Todd is keen to carve out his niche in freight transport in CHB

The Chote name is well respected in business in Central Hawke’s Bay (CHB). Todd’s father, Vaughan, runs Vaughan Chote Motors. Todd’s uncle, Tim Chote has an agricultural transport business and is a local CHB district councillor. But Todd is clear about forging his own identity and that’s one of the reasons he’s stuck with the McHardy Freight name. I want to make a name for myself and it doesn’t worry me not having the Chote name on the truck.

McHardy Freight has become more of a brand than a name – everybody knows it and it works well." Growing up in a mechanically minded family gave Todd lots of opportunities to try his hand out on different machinery and at one time he worked for his Uncle Tim at Chote Brothers operating a Hino dropsider unit.

McHardy Freight has become more of a brand than a name - everyone knows it

Todd worked in the underground mines, north of Perth for two years, as dump truck driver and then as a shot-firer, loading mine faces for blasting. Returning to Hawke’s Bay in 2012 he began an agricultural contracting business, but found the hours got in the way of "a natural lifestyle," so when the opportunity came to buy McHardy Freight, he took it.

Todd got married last year and he and his wife Samantha are building a new home on their lifestyle block. He’s enjoying being back in CHB and with an eye to the future, wants to make sure he strikes a good balance between work and downtime. "When we do have kids I want to be able to do things such as coaching rugby. Getting a balanced lifestyle is important."

When asked how buying a trucking business has turned out, compared to when he started, Todd says, To be honest, I thought, ‘I’m going to buy heaps of trucks and we’ll be all over country.’ It took about two months sitting in that driver’s seat to change my mind. It was an eye opener, after being in the background for so many years watching other people run their business. The reality was a bit different."

"We had a run to Gisborne for a bit – that truck was on road for 22 hours a day, but there again, personnel was the key. We couldn’t find good quality staff. So I pulled that service. It’s easy to say ‘yes we’ll put another truck on’, but our focus is to provide excellent service and that is all I ever want to do. It’s a pride thing too, wanting to achieve a good business name in Hawkes Bay and building those relationships.

Todd says the next 10 years will be interesting in CHB. "If the district continues to grow, we’ll grow too. People love the fact we are local – it’s beneficial for Waipukurau to have another independent freight business. We give fantastic service and go that extra mile for our customers. It’s all about building relationships.

Our main push at moment is to get more of our own direct freight. We use a collective freight company Freighthub so we can advertise nationwide carrying. If anyone needs freight taken nationwide, we can do it."

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