Cover story: Dannevirke Carriers

By: Vivienne Haldane , Photography by: Vivienne Haldane and supplied

Deals on Wheels writer Vivienne Haldane talks to the owners of Dannevirke Carrier’s stock and bulk haulage transport business

Lina and Nigel in front of one of their Volvo stock units while mechanic Ian Bardsell services a park light

Alan Castles and his wife Sue used to farm in the Te Uri district where they raised a family of four horse-mad kids who loved competing in horse events across the North Island. Alan, being a practical guy with a good business head, reasoned that the horse truck had to pay its way, so he began doing general haulage for the community. And that’s how he got into the transport business.

A family affair

Lina dispatching trucks via FleetLink

The Castles then decided to become owner-drivers for Johnson Freighters in Dannevirke with their oldest daughter, Anna doing the driving. That’s where she met her husband Phil Peffers, another owner-driver.

In 2000, Alan sold the farm and moved into trucking full time. Not long after that, Johnson Freighters was sold and Dannevirke Carriers was born, with Phil as co-owner. The company currently has 11 trucks and the next-generation of Castles and their partners are involved in the business.

Alan, who is in his 70s, is still active in the business. He operates the phones and still drives from time to time. The day DOW visited, he was off on a mission to Palmerston North to pick up a spare part for one of the trucks that had broken down.

Sue still has a handle on all things administrative and daughter Philippa does all the staff-related administration, including payroll. Anna drives occasionally although is a full-time teacher at the local primary school Huia Range.

Alan and Sue’s son Nigel is also a part of the team. After gaining a business degree at Massey University and travelling overseas, he decided to return to Dannevirke to join the family business.

"I was always going to get involved in the trucking industry. I got my licences as soon as I was able to and before I went to university, I drove for Johnsons. When I returned, I bought a truck and joined the business as co-owner. I’ve no regrets," he says.

Nigel’s sister, Lina, who is the office manager, also has all her truck licences. Likewise, she followed the call to return home. "I did a degree in sports science, became a lecturer, then I took a break, and worked in tourism for eight years. Dannevirke Carriers was getting busier, so I came back six years ago and I’m enjoying it."

All things farming

One of the Globetrotters prepares to load cows

Originally, Dannevirke Carriers carted a bit of everything, but they are now solely stock and tip truck carriers. Their main cargo is stock (to farms and meatworks) plus loads of feed, superphosphate, and wool.

"Many farmers own more than one property now, so there’s lots of moving stock to finishing and breeding blocks. We are lucky in that our area is near the Ruahine Ranges, which is very much dairy country.

When our sheep and beef guys quieten down, the dairy farmers start moving their calves off-farm, then calving will start, and we do bobby calves. We don’t have a long offseason," says Lina.

Nigel adds: "As an ex-farmer, Dad knows what farmers require. Many of our clients are either people he farmed with or are family and friends. With the next generation coming through, their sons and daughters are back on those same farms."

This year has been exceptionally dry in the Tararua Region, which means Dannevirke Carriers have been flat out. "At the moment, we’re carting feed, baleage, hay, grain, and anything we can get hold of. We’ve got desperate farmers ringing and asking where can they look to find additional feed for their stock," says Lina.

Trucks in the fleet

Some of the Volvo fleet parked up at Dannevirke Carriers’ yard

The majority of Dannevirke Carriers trucks are Volvo, which the team likes for driver comfort and reliability. Nigel explains: "We began with a Fuso 430hp as our go-to truck, but over the last seven years, we’ve changed tack to Volvo 540hp and now have six of them, with a new Volvo 700hp Globetrotter having just arrived.

They are a top-notch product and our drivers like them. In this day and age, if you don’t keep your drivers happy, they’ll go somewhere else. That’s the nature of it." All their trucks are purchased new and after-sales servicing done through the Volvo dealers in Palmerston North.

Jackson Enterprises in Pahiatua (featured in DOW #309) and Total Stock Crates in Feilding build the stock crates. The tip trailers are second-hand and the truck bodies are built by Jackson Enterprises. 

Dannevirke Carriers use a local mechanic to carry out pre-warrant and COF checks, grease and oil changes, and brake checks. They also use Matamau-based Holmes Truck and Trailer Repairs, who do most repairs, however, major problems go to Emmetts Truck Services in Palmerston North.

The workforce

Loading lime for dairy farm races from Te Pa Station

Dannevirke Carriers have a team of nine full-time drivers, plus Nigel who fills in as a driver when needed. Like many transport businesses, one of the most challenging things is to find reliable and experienced drivers, says Nigel.

"We are always on the lookout for the next driver. Just when you think you are right, they up and leave. We’re in an industry where people are prone to poaching other’s good drivers.

We know everyone in the industry, so when they know you’ve got a good one, it doesn’t take long for them to be in that guy’s ear. We never phone other drivers and prefer to let them approach us."

Nigel has found that drivers prefer either stock work or tipping and general cartage work.
"Generally, they stick to one or other. In the past, drivers often worked on both. Now we find they don’t want to or can’t do both.

Loading hay for animal feed

It’s hard to find one who’s good at both at a high level of skill. We put the good stock drivers on our best trucks and the good tip drivers on our best tip trucks." Regarding stock work, he says, "It’s hard to teach someone stock work if they don’t have a good stock sense. But there are exceptions.

We have one guy who came from a non-stock background; he has taken to it and now wouldn’t think of doing anything else. Usually, stock truck drivers have some sort of farming background. People who are good at it make it look easy."

Nigel and Lina like to encourage keen drivers. "We like to think we give the new guys a go. We’ve recently had three young guys work their way through from Class 2 to Class 5. The guys we employ pay for their licences. This way, they get to own it, and we support them through it. You’ve got to want to do it; it’s not a free ticket. Some last and some don’t. "

Handy mobile app

Alan Castles keeps the trucks rolling using EROAD and MyTrucking

To help organise their workflow, the team uses the MyTrucking app. We began using this five years ago and were one of the first users," says Lina. "We find it brilliant, and even Dad uses it. He took to it easily and is as good as anyone. It works well together with Xero.

MyTrucking is improving all the time and is simple but clever. It integrates with eRoad well, too; we wouldn’t be without either system now. "Overall, it speeds things up for admin and drivers alike. There are lots of phone calls I no longer have to make, says" Nigel.

Family and community

The younger generation likes helping too: Korah, Rhys, Bayly, Ella, and Sally

Lina and Nigel and their families are very much part of their community, and they go out of their way to welcome newcomers to the area. "We are quick to learn where they are from. We take an interest in their lives and see how we can help them settle in the area.

"We’re always out there meeting people and are heavily involved in the equestrian scene. In summer its horses and during winter, Nigel coaches a rugby team, and we also do netball and hockey."

At times their business and community merge as one happy unit. "We’re a family running this business, so we try and include our teams’ family members in what we do. We know the kids; they come and see the ponies or play with the dogs. We try to be inclusive, and we support one another," says Lina.

Dannevirke Carriers services

Carting wool from Owahanga Station, Wairarapa

The company’s services includes livestock, bulk, general freight, baleage, hay, timber, wool, grain, and metal.

For more info, visit     

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