Our History


Before the advent of cellphones, the internet and even television, the day to day life of a farmer was very different compared to today. There were dozens of stock and station agents competing for your work. Most country towns had up to five banks, it would be 60 years before internet banking. Some of these towns had two picture theatres and a very busy railway station.

So much has changed since the 1930s, yet in the Central Hawke’s Bay town of Waipawa, there is a business which hasn’t much at all, apart from getting bigger.

S.J.E. Stephenson Transport Limited was founded in 1936 by Sep Stephenson. In 2016, Management became the responsibility of the third generation. We are now called Stephenson Transport Limited, owned and managed by Sep’s son Bruce Stephenson and his grandson Todd.

Old truck of SJE Transport
Fleet of SJE Transport trucks

Sep Stephenson had previously worked as a driver for some of the first cartage firms in Waipukurau and Waipawa, such as George Winlove and Sons and John Blair.
Sep was a hard worker with a clear understanding of his client’s needs. Despite knowing that he was entering a very competitive industry, Sep was determined and confident that his new family business would succeed.

At this time, road transport could not cart more than 30 miles in competition to rail. Most of Sep’s work involved transporting livestock and wool from the outlying farms and stations to the nearest railway station. Luckily, the freezing works at Hastings were usually just inside the 30-mile limit, however, because truckloads were so small compared to the capacity of today’s trucks, it often took 3 or 4 trips to cart a line of lambs to the works.

Once rail restrictions lifted, S.J.E Stephenson Transport increased the size of its fleet and added more modern equipment, diversifying into ground spreading and general freight work.

The original company started with one Morris Commercial truck. In 1988, the fleet had grown to 19 trucks. Today there are 50 trucks and trailers, including 23 Permitted HPMV truck and trailer units.

Bruce Stephenson started working for his father as a young driver. Bruce became versed in everything there was to know about rural cartage until he became the Managing Director. At which time the company’s name changed to Stephenson Transport Limited.

Through that period, Bruce has seen the fortunes of farming families ebb and flow but clients have remained loyal despite pressure from other cartage companies to change.

By staying true to his father’s work ethic and commitment to service as a priority, Bruce and now son Todd has not survived but flourished in an industry where many others have failed or seen takeovers by larger competitors.

A core group of experienced and knowledgeable drivers and operations staff have helped make this happen.

Fleet of SJE Transport trucks
Colour photo of a SJE Transport truck

Today, our trucks range far and wide over the North Island. The fleet’s eye-catching colour scheme is easily recognisable. The Stephenson name proudly reminds other road users that we are a progressive and successful trucking operation.

We are still at the same yard in Waipawa where the company started. Although we also have another busy yard in Hastings, locally based work for Hawke’s Bay clients continues to be our primary focus. There has been no need to look to expand into other areas or to get involved in price wars.
Instead, top service is what we aim to provide, day in and day out.
A core group of experienced and knowledgeable drivers and operations staff have helped make this happen.

Sep with a truck of SJE Transport