Hall of Fame Inductee 2018

Calven Bonney

Born in 1951 to a family with a long history in transport dating back to horse and carts in the 1920s. Calven’s father Alven was a mechanic and truck driver that met his mother Dell while picking up milk from her family farm in the late 1940’s.

Their life revolved around the family business L.W. Bonney & Sons Ltd. Located on the Great South Road in Papatoetoe directly behind the family homes. The depot housed a fleet of Commers, Leylands and then Mercedes Benz’ that peaked at 26 tip trucks in the 1950s. Calven was a worker from the beginning with a variety of after school jobs including paper runs, lawn mowing rounds and a stint at Burt Franklin Spring Makers. He spent every spare moment that he could in a truck, or in the workshop.

Back then Bonney’s carted sand, coal and aggregate – it was post war and there was a strong emphasis on building Auckland’s infrastructure. The drivers were part of the family, they stayed for 25 years or were helped into their own businesses.

In 1970 when it came time to leave school, Calven joined Mayo & Sons where he served his time as a fitter and turner. It was here that he was introduced to motor racing by Merv Mayo who was friends with Bruce McLaren, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart. Calven went on to crew for all of them and drove an early sprint car at Western Springs for John Cann.

He left Mayo & Sons after three years to do a three-month International Vintage Car Rally around the South Island. To make ends meet he picked up odd jobs during their travels including driving an OLB Bedford truck picking hops in Moteuka. We he got home he jumped straight into a Bonney’s TK Bedford before being promoted to a Mercedes Benz semi and trailer carting sand and coal for the next year.

Then 1973 he met Ann Rambaud, a nurse from Papatoetoe whose father also owned trucks. They met after a truck vs car on the corner of the Great South Road and Church St, just a stones throw away from the current Bonney’s yard. Married in 1975 they have three children Pamela, Travers and Stephanie all born in quick succession between 1978 and 1982.

Keen to make his own way Calven formed CD Bonney Ltd in 1973, purchasing his first truck – a four-cylinder two stroke 1952 Foden to cart phosphate off the Ports of Auckland. The same year he replaced the Foden for a 1966 Mercedes 1418.

From there in partnership with Bonney’s he won the business to cart bulk grain and bagged flour for Bycroft’s and Champion. By 1974 his fleet had expanded to three trucks with the addition of a second 1418 Merc and a K Series Ford.

That same year Calven was elected to the Board of the National Road Carriers and remains on it today.

Altranz acquired the CD Bonney and LW Bonney & Sons flour fleets in 1980, leaving Calven to try his hand at a few different things including a sun visor and truck accessory business and helping his old friend Alan Lewis build up his business Alert Engineering.

Then in 1984, on a chance visit to the Bonney’s yard he left owning the family business. Buying it from his father and Uncle Selwyn who had decided that it was time to retire. There were three trucks, based East Tamaki still carting coal, sand and aggregate. On day one Calven added a fourth truck an International Paystar to the fleet, which in later years became one of New Zealand’s first race trucks.

Naturally entrepreneurial Calven, worked day and night to build the business and took advantage of the changing industry landscape. Innovation had always been a key differentiator for Bonney’s they were the first to put flour into tankers in 1964 and they would now be first to put sugar into pneumatic tankers in the 1980s.

A run of acquisitions that included the NZ Express tanker division, expansion into containers through Bruce Casey, JS Callinan and Tom Ryan, a return to milk with Shuttle and wine with Alexander’s saw the Bonney’s fleet grow to around 120 trucks with depots in Auckland, the Waikato and Blenheim.

Known for having one of the best cared for fleets, it reflects the Bonney’s culture of safety, service, pride, care and attention to detail. Today the company provides specialised bulk transport services to its customers, delivering raw ingredients to their factories and then delivering the final product – most importantly making sure that their customers’ supply chains keep on moving.

Calven’s commitment to the industry was recognised in 2018 when he was made a Member of the New Zealand order of Merit for his services to transport and motorsport.

As an advocate for the trucking industry in New Zealand for more than 40 years, alongside his business interests, he has served as a Director and President of the National Road Carriers Association, and as a Director and Chair of the Road Transport Forum New Zealand. He has been recognised by both organisations with life membership.

Regarded for his willingness to put the needs of the industry ahead of those of his own business. He has given strong support to the introduction of a wide range of practical safety and productivity policies across government and the industry.

With an enduring association with motorsport, as a driver and as an instigator of truck racing in New Zealand with Trevor Woolston, he has provided transport and other support for major events, particularly as a long-time sponsor of transport requirements for the annual Festival of Motorsport.

And was one of the initial supporters of the Variety Club’s ‘Bash’, driving his own car in events and providing transportation and other services for cars coming into the country for the event.

Comer Board
Dave Malanaphy