Old School Trucks: Aratuna Freighters

By: Dean Middleton, Photography by: Dean Middleton

1 4 One of the first Aratuna Freighters truck I photographed back in the mid-’80s was this twin steer N5032 Ford 1 4
2 4 An N5036 Ford six-wheeler a couple of years later 2 4
3 4 A later model N5036 B-train combination that would have been able to use the shorter Arthurs Pass route by towing one unit over the length restricted Otira Gorge at a time 3 4
4 4 Trans Alpine Refrigeration were one of the two small transport companies acquired by AFL to initiate their refrigeration division 4 4
5 4 A Foden 4400 with a two-axle refrigerated semi that would have put it within the Arthurs Pass route restrictions 5 4
6 4 An ex-Ferguson Freight Scania 93m freight truck 6 4
7 4 A versatile MAN 26.422 that had DG specs and was also able to pull fuel tankers 7 4
8 4 Several Hinos made their way into the fleet over the years, including this FS380 Model on refrigerated duties 8 4
9 4 AFL won BP Distribution rights to the West Coast from Christchurch in 1989; this Foden Alpha was placed in BP livery 9 4
10 4 Also in BP livery and on bulk fuel tanker deliveries was this FH12 Volvo 10 4
11 4 The super-smart new AFL livery show cased on a CF85 model DAF 11 4
12 4 A later model CF85 DAF on curtainsider duties 12 4
13 4 Rural work also plays big part in the AFL operation with livestock and bulk units 13 4
14 4 A Hino 700 on refrigerated duties and full-length semi-trailer after the Otira George Viaduct opened in 1999 14 4
15 4 A smart 2646 Mercedes Actros 15 4
16 4 Iveco began entering the ranks in the mid-2000s and has since taken over as the brand of choice in the fleet 16 4
17 4 Fuel Distribution is now marketed, delivered, and sold by Aratuna Fuels 17 4
18 4 The rural-based livestock units and bulkies work out of the Hokitika depot 18 4
19 4 There’s a good chance when heading to the West Coast that you will pass several Aratuna Freighters trucks; there’s also a good chance it will be wearing an Iveco Badge above the grille 19 4

West Coast-based Aratuna Freighters Limited is a family-owned business that was founded in 1985 with one truck and trailer that has grown to become the major trans-alpine transport provider we know today

AFL won the distribution rights for BP oil in 1989 carting bulk fuel between Christchurch and the West Coast—work that was previously facilitated out of Nelson.

The refrigeration division started after the acquisition of a couple of one truck operators in 1992, all of which complemented the general freight and rural divisions of the company. This was further added to with AFL securing the Mainfreight, Daily Freight, and Owens franchise for the entire West Coast Area.

The first AFL truck I photographed was a Japanese but Ford Badged N5032 back in 1986 when length restrictions meant that a full-size truck and trailer unit could not travel over Arthur’s Pass so the Lewis Pass was the only other viable option adding another 130km on the trip from Greymouth to Christchurch.

B-Train combinations could use Arthur’s Pass by splitting the units and towing one semi over the gorge at a time, or shorter semi units were utilised. The length restrictions ended in 1999 with the opening of the 25 million dollar viaduct, which meant full-length combinations could travel the shorter route unimpeded.

Several makes and models have entered the fleet over the years with the Iveco brand dominating the order book over the last decade or so. A distinct livery change in the 2000s modernised the AFL image and added significantly more colour to the brand.

Aratuna Freighters have become synonymous with the West Coast and have depots in both Greymouth and Hokitika still running predominantly ‘over the hill’ to Christchurch but can still be seen anywhere in the South Island, as well as the odd excursions into the North Island.

You would be hard-pressed on any given day to drive over Arthur’s Pass or any roads on the coast without passing an AFL-branded truck and there’s a good chance that when you do, it will be wearing an Iveco badge above the grille.

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