Southpac Legends

 
Gisborne to global

Gisborne to global

Southpac Legends

 December 2021   

Retirement isn’t a change, rather it’s a transition according to Eric Carswell.

The well-known and respected On Highway Business Manager for Cummins New Zealand will step away from the transport industry at the end of the year.

But at age 71 he’s not retiring altogether.

“I have never really felt my age. I see retirement as a transition,” says Eric. 

“I live at Karaka Lakes in South Auckland, and I operate a small business. I mow local parks and I’m going to be semi-retired lawn mowing contractor.”

Eric will depart from an industry in transition and from a company that the forefront of those changes.

It’s been a varied road for a lad from Gisborne who has worked through rural jobs, truck driving and sales to a key role with a global company.

“I was born in Gisborne in 1950, and I lived there till I was 37,” says Eric.

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Retirement isn’t a change, rather it’s a transition according to Eric Carswell.

The well-known and respected On Highway Business Manager for Cummins New Zealand will step away from the transport industry at the end of the year.

But at age 71 he’s not retiring altogether.

“I have never really felt my age. I see retirement as a transition,” says Eric. 

“I live at Karaka Lakes in South Auckland, and I operate a small business. I mow local parks and I’m going to be semi-retired lawn mowing contractor.”

Eric will depart from an industry in transition and from a company at the forefront of those changes.

It’s been a varied road for a lad from Gisborne who has worked through rural jobs, truck driving and sales to a key role with a global company.

“I was born in Gisborne in 1950, and I lived there till I was 37,” says Eric.

“Right from being a little kid I always had an interest in trucks.”

But nothing in Eric’s DNA would suggest a reason for that.

“My parents didn’t even have a car. They didn’t have their driver’s licenses.

“My first association with trucks was there was a greengrocer who used to come to mum and dads house. He had a Fargo truck and I used to hop in and start it up.

“Dad worked for a drain laying contractor and Gisborne was always very short of water. 

“Dad had a water pump, and they had an A5 Bedford truck. They used to bring it around on Saturdays to give it a wash and take me for rides around the block. I was probably about eight or nine and that started my interest in trucks.

“When I left school, I worked on a farm for a little while and then for an agricultural contractor. I got my heavy transport license when I was 17. You had to have an exemption.

“I worked for the agricultural contractor for a few years, but I always dreamed of being a truck driver.”

Eric’s first significant business opportunity was as a service station proprietor.

 “I had a lot of contacts with truck companies. We used to refuel companies like Modern Freighters and Freightways in the days of fuel restrictions.

“I finished there in 1980. I always had a dream of owning a truck. So, I bought a 1975 ERF which actually had a Cummins NTC-335 engine.

“That was a great experience. It wasn’t the most highly successful financial endeavour but in hindsight it gave me a great understanding for what I’ve been doing for the last 30 years.”

“I got a job working for ERF Sales and Service Ltd and in 1987 I shifted to Hamilton, and I started selling ERF trucks.

“I had a very successful start to my selling career. In the first year I sold 25 trucks.”

He moved to Auckland in 1990 working for MAN Trucks and after company changes also sold Western Star, Hino and ERF again.

“After a short stint with Nissan I got this job in Cummins. I started here in April 2004, and I’ve been here ever since.”

It’s never been a direct selling role at Cummins. 

“The job title was originally Automotive Business Manger but now we’ve changed to On Highway Business Managers - same thing,’’ says Eric.

“You are really supporting the product in the market in a lot of different ways. 

“What you do is you work with the companies like Intertruck and Southpac who are selling Cummins powered trucks and the people who own and operate trucks. You are providing a path to market for Cummins engines.”

Eric doesn’t call himself a trouble-shooter. “That’s not really my skill and I don’t really get my hands dirty

“I’m involved with a lot of people within our organisation problem solving together.

“You are at the forefront of a lot that’s going on in the market. Things are changing quickly, and the pace of change is getting faster. I’m quite lucky, I like that sort of thing.”

Eric says age has proven a benefit in his role.

“Being a bit older has helped. A lot of people who own companies are around my age so I can relate to them easily.

“A lot of times I know the father, in some cases the grandfather, and also the sons and now the grandsons.

“Just the other day I was talking to Brett Marsh’s son and asked how his grandfather was. I sold him a truck back in the `eighties. It’s a similar thing at Rotorua Forest Haulage.”

Eric says two people have a key influence on his career.

“Don Briant was the agricultural contractor I worked for, who has since passed away.

“What he gave me, as an 18-year-old guy, was confidence in myself to do jobs. I used to plant and harvest hundreds and hundreds of acres of sweet corn and maize.

“Probably about 15 years ago I said to him; ‘Thank you very much’.

“He said: `What for?’

“When I was a teenager, you gave me confidence in myself and now I’ve got a national position in a global company.

“When I was 42, I was working for MAN and the German manager, Bernd Schuhmacher, said to me: ‘Carswell, I want you to learn to use a computer’.

“And that’s one of the best things I’ve done in my life. And even today I can teach young people what to do. It’s just something I’ve picked up - about the only thing I can’t do is type with two hands.”

In his Cummins role Eric looks back with particular fondness on the ISX engine.

“The 500 horsepower 1850 ISX has been a great engine. It has offered performance, fuel efficiency, reliability and longevity. Sometimes I look at trucks that have done a million kilometres and they’ve never had a warranty claim.

“The ISX has been around since I first started [at Cummins] and 20 years later the manufacturing of them only finished at the end of last year. The modern common rail X15 engine is doing a great job good in the market as well.

“Cummins are a very good company to work for with very good leadership, especially from the point of view of what is happening in the world regarding climate and emissions.

“If they positioned themselves as just a diesel engine company they would slowly go out of business, although it would take a while.

“But they are transitioning themselves into a powertrain company with electric, fuel cell, natural gas and hydrogen technology. 

“There is a lot happening. Just recently Isuzu and Hino trucks have been equipped with Cummins engines in North America and next year there will be mid-range Daimler vehicles with Cummins engines.”

Eric believes the internal combustion engine will be around for years to come but eventually new technologies will take its place.

“I believe one of the biggest problems still to be solved is the batteries. From torch batteries to electric car batteries, there is a need to recycle them.”

As far as New Zealand transport is concerned Eric sees challenges and opportunity.

“I believe New Zealand is well-placed for the manufacturing of green hydrogen with its hydro-electric resources and other renewable energies.

 “One of the biggest challenges will be having enough support people to maintain and repair all this technology. It’s important to support what is in the marketplace. That’s going to be challenging.”

That childhood interest in trucks has taken Eric Carswell on a fulfilling journey.

“Getting a job selling trucks and moving out of Gisborne opened my mind to the world. I’ve had the opportunity to travel overseas and I’ve made a lot of good friends. 

“One thing I really admire are the family-owned businesses I have worked with. They employ a lot of people, and they have a big responsibility to run a business in a successful manner.

``Companies like J. Swap Contractors, Rotorua Forest Haulage, Allied Concrete and others. They are large family-owned businesses and they have made a massive commitment to their communities.

“I’ve always done my best to help those people and I’ve really enjoyed it because I admire what they do in our society.”

Eric says he never had any intention of returning home to the quieter life of Gisborne in his retirement.

“No, I always had the dream of retiring to Auckland because that’s where everything happens.”  


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