Macks - lakes, rivers and mountains
Located in the picturesque lake and ski field resort town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island, Central Machine Hire has grown with the hamlet.
Wanaka’s steep mountain passes, rugged terrain and climatic extremes, along with the demands of rapid development are continually putting Central Machine Hire’ Macks to the test. With the growth showing no signs of slowing, the company is finding ever more diverse work for its fleet.
It’s the geography and the climate of Central Otago region that brings in the most interesting – and at times unusual - jobs according to Allan Dippie, owner of Central Machine Hire.
No two days are the same for Central Machine Hire’s fleet of over fifteen Mack trucks, a mix of vintage and modern, as they clear slips from mountain passes, ferry aggregate or equipment to the company’s residential and commercial sub-divisions, or carry out everything from bulk earthworks to flood protection work.
Given the challenges of both geography and climate, skilled drivers are key to the success of Allan’s business.
“Long hot summers and very cold winters in an alpine terrain and challenging environment means we need to have some pretty skilled guys to complete what can be unusual work. It might be putting a cell phone tower on the side of a mountain, securing rock slips and falls, or dealing with flood events.”
The work can be as dangerous as it is diverse, so being able to trust the power and versatility of the truck is high on Allan’s list of priorities.
“Spreading gravel on alpine back-roads can be tough on gear. It’s pretty tight and there are some large drop offs, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. You want plenty of power under your foot when you’re doing that type of work and you want a truck that you can really rely on,” he says.
It’s that versatility and reliability that has made Mack the truck of choice for Central Machine Hire over many decades, even before Allan bought the company 20 years ago.
“Going back to when the business started as a bulldozing contractor all those years ago, they used Macks because they were the only trucks that could handle the terrain,” Allan says.
“These trucks were working in river beds and all sorts of difficult areas. They were expected to work off-highway. You'd break a lot of trucks in that application, but the Macks were always solid, dependable and reliable. You'd have a great run out of them,” he says.
In fact, a lot of the old fleet are still operational. Even the R and RB Models are still called on from time to time to work alongside side the more modern CH models.
“The oldest Mack is a 1965 B61 and we have some very early Mack R series, they are semi-retired, but could still come out and do an honest day’s work if and when required,” Allan also says that he is impressed with the sales, service and back up both MTD and Truck Stops offer. “Even for the older gear parts are not a problem and sales and service are second to none.”
“When you buy a Mack you buy a truck that’s going to last and last. Some of them have over three million kilometres on the clock – even with the most punishing work, they still keep going.
“The modern fleet especially has proven to have lower running costs over time, and they’re doing the job pretty easily. In terms raw power you’re not pushing them to the Nth degree nowadays, and the comfort they now offer is something you only dreamed about with the older gear.”
In 2017, the company added two new Tridents to its fleet as part of its growth story. Central Machine Hire has gone from half a dozen staff twenty years ago to 55 full-time employees today, and the company’s work is as diverse as its fleet.
While its core business is in residential and commercial sub-division, it works on infrastructure, roads, council contracts, quarrying, transport and craneage, and Mack has been part of that expansion.
“We have a lot of applications that we put them to,” he adds, saying that just last week one went from transporting a house through town on a low loader to spreading gravel with a bottom dumper, all in a day’s work.
Allan admits that it has taken some of his drivers time to accept that the mDRIVE automated manual gearbox in one of his Tridents is the way of the future.
“The new gearboxes are certainly proving themselves in the field. It’s always in the right gear, it’s good on the fuel consumption and it’s obviously protecting the mechanicals of the truck. We've been really impressed with the features of them,” he says.
The other Trident is fitted with an 18-speed manual to cope with very heavy applications and steep terrain, such as pulling big loads up to the ski field extension projects, or moving the big gear into difficult job sites.
“Nowadays that’s a bit of an unusual spec, because people have moved to the automated gearbox which I guess is what we’ll be doing more and more in the future,” he says.
With Wanaka projected to grow from 10,000 to 25,000 residents over the next decade, the company’s future looks bright.
“We can see more orders for more Macks in the future,” Allan concludes.