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, now there are only two or three. Most country towns had up to five different banks and it would be 60 years before internet banking was invented. Some of these towns had two picture theatres and most had their own very busy railway station.

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

S.J.E. Stephenson Transport Limited was founded in 1936 by Sep Stephenson and in 2016,  the company still owned by the same family with management soon to become the responsibility of the third generation.

We are now called Stephenson Transport Limited and the business is 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 to open up in Waipukurau and Waipawa such as  George Winlove and Sons and John Blair.

In those days, livestock trucks pulling trailers were unheard of. Some of the trucks still had solid rubber tyres and the maximum load for a truck was 80 ewes or 120 lambs.

Sep was a hard worker with a clear understanding of what his clients wanted. Despite knowing that he was entering into a very competitive industry, he was determined and confident that his new family business would succeed.

This was when road transport could not cart more than 30 miles in competition to rail so most of Sep’s work involved carting 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 but because truck loads 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 the rail restrictions were lifted, S.J.E Stephenson Transport increased the size of its fleet, added more modern equipment and diversified into ground spreading and took on more general freight work.

The original company started with one Morris Commercial truck. In 1988, the fleet had grown to 19 trucks and today there are 50 trucks and trailers, including 11 of the latest Freightliner truck and trailer units, permitted to carry up to 50 tonnes.

Bruce Stephenson started working for his father as a young driver and has gone onto learn everything there is to know about rural cartage from then until he became the Managing Director at which time the company’s name changed to Stephenson Transport Limited.

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

By staying true to his father’s work ethic and the family’s commitment to making service to their clients the priority, Bruce and now his son Todd have not only survived, they have flourished in an industry where some many others have failed or have been taken over by their 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 and the Stephenson name proudly reminds other road users that we are a progressive and successful trucking operation.

We are still based at the same yard in Waipawa where the company was founded and 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.

Sep with a truck of SJE Transport