Maurice Gleeson is not quite calling it a day yet, but is winding down the business of Gleeson Transport that has served the district for 86 years.

He is down to a handful of trucks now and is using a 4-tonner which can carry firewood and metal chips.

"I can block off the centre to pour metal only onto the tracks where it is needed. With a little truck you can do those things," he said.

Maurice has never had an accident while driving, has never had any mishaps and maintains a clean driver's licence, having never had a ticket.

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"He is a very good driver and has been excellent at teaching drivers," said his brother Paul.

"Paul and I would carry out our own repairs and maintenance. There were often early starts, getting trucks ready. Our usual working day in those days was 6am to midnight."

As well as trucks the business was involved with metal and lime quarries. It had up to 31 vehicles in the fleet around the late 1990s with up to 33 staff.

It all started on October 10,1932, during the Great Depression with Maurice's father Eric (at 23) deciding to buy a truck and winning the seven-days-a-week contract to cart milk to Mauriceville Dairy Factory. On the return trip he would collect stones from Miki Miki for road works. He was living at the family farm at Mangaramarama then.

Eric Gleeson with sons Paul and Maurice.
Eric Gleeson with sons Paul and Maurice.

He was asked to cart pigs, so had to make up a frame to go around the deck, which started the livestock haulage side of the business. In 1937 he bought more trucks and employed drivers with three trucks at the end of World War II. Trucks got bigger with the first cab over engine being a 1951 Bedford.

A "swag" of trucks and trailers and front-end loaders were purchased as the years went on.

Maurice Gleeson at the yard.
Maurice Gleeson at the yard.

Paul Gleeson joined the business on December 15, 1965, having been an A-Grade mechanic at Ryans Garage for six and a half years. He enjoyed the work, with the top truck clocking up only 35,000 miles in a year.

The reason was that the bulk of the work was from the Pahiatua Railway Station. There was a Government limit of 30 miles [48km] of cartage parallel to the rail lines north and south, to protect the business of the railways.

There were heavy penalties if these limits were exceeded. Deregulation saw an end to the regulations in the late 1970s.

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The Gleeson Transport fleet in the 1980s.
The Gleeson Transport fleet in the 1980s.

Eric retired in 1969 when Maurice joined the business and worked in partnership with Paul until 2015 when Paul left, with a feeling that he was letting down his clients.

Maurice was an A-Grade mechanic at Terry's Garage at 44 Main Street and topped New Zealand at the same time as certified mechanic Graeme Parker, who also topped New Zealand for his marks.

"Mr Terry was chuffed," said Maurice.

As well as continuing to buy more trucks, the business took over Buckley's Transport, G. H. Powell Ltd at Makuri, Matthews Bros and Moss Shultz's trucking business at Hukanui.

They started carting stock to Gear Meat in Petone loaded up with trucks and trailers. To this day there are still five of the business's clients that have been with founder Eric Gleeson remaining loyal.

Eric Gleeson, founder of the general carriers business.
Eric Gleeson, founder of the general carriers business.

"The headmaster, the stationmaster, the postmaster and the mayor — people would look up to them in the community. We've lost a lot of that respect today," said Paul.