Story by Hayley Leibowitz, Photos Gerald Shacklock
It’s a long-running name in road transport – an operation well-known for its onetime passion for rare Marmon trucks, for its gold-coloured trucks…and its also-rare Dad and twin daughters driver lineup.
In its current incarnation, Waihi-based John Lockley Transport is also readily-recognisable for its classic North American lineup – one Peterbilt and four Kenworths.
But for all that, John and Irene Lockley laughingly reckon it’s less a trucking company….more of a circus.
Their self-titled “Lockley’s Travelling Circus” nickname was born of one particular moment in the company’s 35-year history – but it’s also a lovely insight into how things function in this hard-working, hard-case, tight-knit family unit.
The “circus” tag came about at Christmastime, three or four years ago, when John was changing the motor in daughter Amy’s Peterbilt. With no staff around, he got Irene to help him: “It was a proper circus, you know,” he sums up.
Irene interjects: “I was on the forklift. To put the forks up, you’ve gotta push the lever down – and I’d never driven the forklift before. And to put the forks down, you’ve got to push the lever up! I’m convinced it was designed by a male,” she laughs.
“John doesn’t tell you what to do: I’m expected to hop on the forklift and know exactly what I’m supposed to do – but he uses sign language for ‘put the forks up.’ So I pushed the lever up....but the forks went down!”
Eventually, despite all this, with a late-night finish “we got the motor in,” says John. Then, job done, “we drove out the gate, and at the end of the drive there’s a sign – a circus sign.
“And she says: ‘You don’t have to come to that – you might as well come to Lockley’s yard. You’ll see the f***kin’ circus there!’ ”
Second daughter Tracey pipes up: “They’re terrible. These two are really bad. It’s so embarrassing some days. You’ll get a rep come in and these two will be sitting at the table just going hammer and tongs at each other.”
Her Mum rejoins: “Some people keep coming back every week for the next show!”
Irene and John and three of their five daughters are part of this family business – and each of them bring the same Lockley trademark sense of humour to proceedings – at least, that’s what the laughter-filled interviews for this story convincingly indicate.
They also show a strength of mind and purpose that make it no surprise that this particular circus has been successfully running for so long.
It all began, John reckons, because he’s been “machinery-mad all my life. My Dad was a farmer, but I started on machinery when I was 15. I’m just a nutcase. You’ve gotta be to be in this industry.”
He did try his hand at farming with his brother, but it wasn’t long before he bought a bulk groundspreading business. In 1983 he got his goods service licence (“they called it a vehicle authority licence then,” he recalls….“and me own secondhand gear...
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