Tipping the balance
The couple emigrated from South Africa 20 years ago, settling in Ashburton. Deborah took a key role in the community as a midwife, while Derrick, a professional firefighter, found work in a number of different industries – largely because the town relies on a volunteer fire service.
Deborah says the pair were inspired to buy Johnstons after hiring equipment to landscape their home. After several discussions with company founders Eric and Robin Johnston, a deal was struck.
“It was pretty small when we took over,” says Deborah. “There were only a couple of diggers and an eight-year old Canter we call ‘Blue’ – due to its colour – along with some other pieces of basic equipment.
“Derrick was working seven days a week in the business on his own, while I continued working as a midwife and my mother did the books.
“We were very disciplined with our profits and continually reinvested them. Now we have a range of diggers up to 3.5T, along with cherry pickers and all sorts of other tools and plant. We’ve had to move to a bigger location twice in the past few years just to keep up!”
With a customer base made up entirely of contractors, the couple decided to purchase a pair of 616 Canter Tipper units 18 months ago.
“We see them as ten-year investments, because we know that Fuso is a brand we can rely on from our experience with Blue,” explains Deborah.
Fitted with tow bars rated to 3.5T, Deborah says the agile five-speed manual units have proved incredibly popular with landscapers.
“They have 9.5-tonne GCM, so customers can hire a tipper, trailer and digger combo at a reasonable price. That makes a really attractive package for landscaping and small-scale construction jobs.”
The only truck in its class to have a limited slip diff, the 616 Canter Tipper thrives in off-road environments.
Deborah says another big plus is that the trucks can be driven on a Class 1 licence.
“Anyone can get behind the wheel and they’re surprisingly easy to drive. I drove both from Christchurch to Ashburton and back again. I hadn’t driven a manual in a few years and I had no trouble at all!”
Both Tippers are based at the new yard in Christchurch, the slowdown in building activity no deterrent to the budding entrepreneurs.
“It felt like a natural fit for us,” says Deborah. “People thought we were crazy, because the rebuild rush is over, but to us that’s a not bad thing. Slow and steady wins the race and we’re prepared to get in and do the hard yards, because we see a lot of potential here.”
Deborah and Derrick Du Toit remain optimistic for the further growth of their business, and are confident their new Canter Tippers will help to tip the balance in their favour!
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Service intervals: 30,000km