Heavy transport designer and engineering company TRT has been awarded the next phase of a new major contract with the Australian Defence Force as the Waikato family company continues its expansion across the Tasman.

More formally known as Tidd Ross Todd, TRT is building tipper units at its Te Rapa site for export to its Brisbane facility, where they are integrated with truck bodies imported from Europe by Australian Defence.

Tippers are dump trucks designed for handling and depositing large volumes of aggregate, soil and sand.

The $100 million revenue company, owned by co-founder Dave Carden and his sons Robert and Bruce, is also a contractor to the New Zealand Defence Force.

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The Australian contract was hard fought and won, said manufacturing director Bruce Carden.

Negotiations started six years ago and the competition was "every other transport engineering business in Australia", he said.

The 100th tipper unit for the Australian military rolled out of the Te Rapa site late last year, about the same time TRT was awarded the next phase of the contract.

The company has also designed a world-first tyre maintenance facility for Australian Defence, which allows the force to change the tyres on every vehicle in the fleet, as well as balance them and enables changing of the "run flat" inside the tyre, said Carden.

He attributes the Australian contract win to TRT's design capability.

"Where we stood out we were the only company in that sector of the market that could provide the complete design solution and what they call 'integrated logistics solutions' which means you have to supply all the paperwork to show how you've designed the product, what your spare parts back-up is, what your warranty is – effectively a master plan on how you're going to support that product for the next 20 years.

"You can be the best engineers but if you can't provide all that paperwork defence won't work with you because they want that process. It's another reason we are ISO 9001-accredited."

TRT has been exporting products to Australia for 25 years on and off, at one stage before Australia's mining sector crash, its business was 80 per cent for Australia and 20 per cent New Zealand.

"We had to become more New Zealand-focused and we had to shed some staff at that time," Carden said.

"Now our split is more like 50:50 and looking ahead to (2019's) budget with what we are doing in the crane sector, it'll turn back to 70:30 I would think."

Lawrence Baker, left, and brothers Bruce and Robert Carden with the TIDD crane which has proved a big winner for Waikato's TRT company. Photo / Supplied
Lawrence Baker, left, and brothers Bruce and Robert Carden with the TIDD crane which has proved a big winner for Waikato's TRT company. Photo / Supplied

TRT's on a growth roll.

Two years ago it set up shop in Brisbane where it employs 38 people, taking its total staff to 225.

It recently also expanded into the South Island.

Just a year or so ago TRT's staff roll was 158, said chief operations officer Lawrence Baker, who manages day-to-day operations on both sides of the Tasman and heads new business acquisitions and growth strategy.

Three things make TRT stand out from the crowd, the Carden sons reckon.

One is that raw steel comes in one door at Te Rapa and the finished product exits another.

"We cut the steel here, mould the steel, fabricate and machine all the components here and assemble here," says Robert Carden.

Another is TRT's TIDD pick and carry crane – the jewel in the company's crown.

Designed in-house by Robert Carden and his team, the articulated TIDD workhorse is promoted as the safest in its class, able to shift loads of up to 25 tonnes.

Debuting in Australia about six years ago, the TIDD crane took head-on that country's sector leader Franna cranes, which had 95 per cent of the market, said Robert Carden.

"It's been a steep uphill battle so we had to come up with a product that was better in most aspects. Safety was the gap in the market that our design met," he said.

Number three point of difference is TRT's design edge, say the brothers.

"We have seven people doing 3D design work for us and we run across lots of different spectrums of work from the tipper, and trailers right through to the TIDD crane," said Bruce Carden.

In about three months TRT will launch a new, larger TIDD crane on the market.
It has invested more than $800,000 in the new prototype - $200,000 of which was a Callaghan Innovation grant.

The expectation is the new crane will be a $30 million business on its own in two years, said Baker.