PPG Imaging Awards

 
Simply red ...and white

Simply red ...and white

PPG Imaging Awards

 March 2020   

When it comes to truck colour schemes, Southland transport company boss Ross Richardson likes to keep things plain and simple.

He even happily reckons that what he’s decided on for McNeill Distribution’s new look is “quite a basic colour scheme….”

And that is, he quickly confirms, “the way we like it.”

The managing director of Southland’s Ken Richardson Group (KRG) – which has, in the past 15 years, developed a trucking operation into a major part of its business – had his first crack at simplifying the McNeill livery around 2005.

That was around the time when McNeill – until then a drilling operation, running its own specialist drilling rig trucks alongside a few trucks for KRG’s Niagara sawmilling business – began establishing its own fleet….to not only service some of the group’s other divisions, but other customers as well. 


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When it comes to truck colour schemes, Southland transport company boss Ross Richardson likes to keep things plain and simple.
He even happily reckons that what he’s decided on for McNeill Distribution’s new look is “quite a basic colour scheme….”
And that is, he quickly confirms, “the way we like it.”
The managing director of Southland’s Ken Richardson Group (KRG) – which has, in the past 15 years, developed a trucking operation into a major part of its business – had his first crack at simplifying the McNeill livery around 2005.
That was around the time when McNeill – until then a drilling operation, running its own specialist drilling rig trucks alongside a few trucks for KRG’s Niagara sawmilling business – began establishing its own fleet….to not only service some of the group’s other divisions, but other customers as well. 
As it launched McNeill Distribution, Ross decided to change the McNeill Drilling colour scheme – which, as he says, “had been red and white…forever.” That is, reaching back into the relatively early years….of a company that started in business way back in 1918. 
His issue wasn’t with the actual colours – just how they were used: “It was really all about simplifying it – because they always had a white top half and we used to take them down and then have a split somewhere on the cab and…chuck another line in.”
The trucks also had white guards – and some had white grilles, while others had white bumpers and trays (witness the Mercedes-Benz and the International rigs, working at Fox Glacier back in the 1980s, pictured on the previous page).
It hadn’t mattered much until then – “because, you know, a drilling rig would go out there and be in service for 20 years! They don’t do a lot of Ks.” Thus they seldom needed replacing. 
Says Richardson: “Then one day we just thought, well let’s just take the red right up the cab – just have the rooftops white…
“We decided just to keep it simple. When you’re buying new trucks – white roof, red cab, you know.” The simpler, the better is his drift.
About three years on he also decided to introduce a new company logo – this time not so much seeking more simplicity….but something more representative of the company’s business, as its truck fleet grew.
The new logo, designed by Vital Signs in Invercargill, featured a more modern typeface for the name McNeill – and part-enclosed it with a silver arrow up top and white arrow below.
“The arrows logo was sort of a combination of the drilling – the arrows meaning turning, as in spinning – and of course distribution being delivery I ‘spose,” Ross Richardson explains.
Last December, with the McNeill Distribution fleet up to over 70 trucks – taking-in curtainsiders, container units, log trucks, bulk tippers and crane trucks – he rung a few more changes.
This time, it WAS another move to something simpler – in the wake of two important changes: The sale of the historic drilling business….and the purchase of another Southland trucking company, Tulloch Transport.
The drilling business had been owned by the group for 39 years – but Ross says: “We decided that it no longer fitted with the overall business – it was 2% of our overall business so it sort of didn’t make sense. Whereas the transport integrates well with our wider activities. We’re now purely just a distribution business.”
With the Tulloch buyout, Richardson decided to retain the Tulloch name – but called in Vital Signs to come up with a new McNeill logo – scrapping the arrow design in favour of simply using the name…in a bold white typeface.
And also coming up with a similar treatment of the “Tulloch” signwriting – ditching its former blue in favour of white, in the same typeface as the new McNeill logo. 
In league with McNeill’s long-favoured truck painter, Kingsford-Smith Motor Painting in Invercargill, the slightly different Tulloch red has also been matched to the McNeill red.
Says Richardson: “We basically just standardised the colour schemes…. The only difference is, the Tulloch trucks have all got yellow bumpers.” That’s a nod to their old look.
McNeill Distribution now runs “a reasonable fleet of Macks, a few Isuzus. And we’ve just thrown on a couple of Internationals…” Plus it has a number of Kenworths. 
The simplicity of the livery means that it’s equally-applicable to each of them – with no need to modify it to suit each new make or model.
That, says Ross Richardson, definitely happened before – “right up till the late 1990s we had all that drama going on. Now there’s a couple of pinstripes on some of them, as you can see around the bottom of the guards on some of the Macks, but she’s pretty much…pretty basic.”
Basic…but still effective? “Yeah – does the job. People seem to like red trucks don’t they.”
The company does get “a lot of feedback” on how good its trucks look – probably heightened, he suggests, because both the McNeill and Tulloch depots are located on State Highway 1, where the trucks lined up at weekends are highly visible to lots of passing motorists.
“And I ‘spose red trucks and chrome…sticks out a lot, you know. It’s the best marketing we’ve got really.”
And, just in case you’re wondering – given Ross’ desire to keep his trucks looking simple…basic even: It’s not a matter of him seeing them only as a way of making a buck.
He does have a love for trucks – inevitably, he reckons, given the influence of his father Ken and his late Uncle Bill, who together owned HW Richardson before mutually agreeing to split it between them in the mid-1980s: “She’s in the DNA – can’t shake it!”  

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