Trial and error creates winner

Some fleet colour schemes come fully-formed and ready to go, from a professional design consultancy – while others are the result of several years of experimentation.


This month’s finalist in the PPG Transport Imaging Awards, Christchurch’s SML Logging, fits quite firmly into the latter category.


Its first decade featured a range of variants that were not always universally admired, but which eventually evolved into the smart livery that today makes the fleet one of the most recognisable in the region.


The positive public identity is boosted by a tradition begun by founder Steve Murphy and enthusiastically carried on by son and company co-owner Chris. Every Saturday the Murphys join the drivers in washing the whole 40-plus fleet, which is then lined up with military precision in the company’s spacious yard near Kaiapoi.


With the Northern Motorway running along one boundary and set higher than the depot, passing travellers are regularly treated to an impressive display.


Steve sees this as a core of the company’s image: “The fleet presentation not only gives us a sense of pride, but the drivers love it too. And it’s good advertising for the industry in general.


“Sometimes it can get a little disheartening to have around 14 people on the weekend cleaning the fleet from bumper to bumper, then by eight on Monday morning in winter you’d hardly know they’ve been washed! But if you don’t keep it up you end up with a massive job.”


The fleet’s beginnings, in terms of both numbers and livery, were much more modest, recalls Steve: “My first truck, in the early ‘80s, was a 237 horsepower F-Series Mack, a 1973 model. When I bought it, it was painted in a mustard-yellow colour.


“I was contracting to the local Odlins Timber sawmill at the time, and that company’s colour scheme was based on an unexciting green. They wanted me to paint the truck the same way, but I negotiated a compromise – painting the cab white and putting on a couple of stripes in Odlins Green.”


The base respray job was carried out in the shed behind the Murphy home that acted as a depot for the fledgling operation....




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