The history of Rural Transport goes back to 1927, when a young motor mechanic named Bob Burnett started a carrying business at Hinds, Ashburton.  Mr Burnett started with just one truck, a Reo, which he drove all over the Ashburton County and beyond, carting goods.

In 1934, Mr Burnett bought an acre of land for 1200 pounds on the corner of East and South Streets, Ashburton, and built a new workshop and transport depot there.

Mr Burnett was always looking for opportunities to diversify Burnett Motors. He had petrol pumps on East Street to serve a small but growing number of motorists, many of these people, including many successful farmers, became loyal customers of Burnett Motors. He was also interested in the products his trucks transported – for example, coal, which led him to acquire a controlling interest in the Mt Somers coal mine. He also bought Mt Somers Station, which he ran with the same success he achieved in the trucking business.

In the 1950s, Burnetts expanded into earthmoving and was involved in several big hydro projects, including Manapouri, Roxburgh, Aviemore and Benmore. The firm acquired a substantial fleet of bulldozers, scrapers, loaders and other heavy machinery. By 1957, Burnetts owned more than 100 vehicles, employed almost 300 staff and was turning over more than two million pounds a year.

When he retired, looked for a way to secure the future of the company. This led to a merger in 1971 with the Australian Brambles organisation, one of the biggest freight forwarding companies in Australia at the time. Burnetts became Brambles Burnett. Mr Burnett remained on the board of the company and took a close interest in its affairs.

In 1980, the Mogal Corporation acquired Brambles Burnett. Mr Burnett was still a director, but officially retired a year later, at the age of 72.
In 1984, Owens Transport brought the Mogal Corporation, which saw the Ashburton trucking firm renamed Owens Burnett. In 1991, the company was rebranded Owens Road Transport, a subsidiary of the Owens Group, and restructured including a move to owner-drivers replacing company drivers.

In 2004, a management buy-out between Brian Thomson, Wilsons Bulk Transport and Philip Wareing Ltd saw the consortium take 100% ownership of the business and Rural Transport was born.  Sadly, Brian passed away in 2014 and since 2018 Rural Transport has been wholly owned by The Wareing Group.

Rural Transport has a total of 65 Truck and Trailer combinations. Our business operates throughout the South Island. Our home areas are Mid Canterbury, South Canterbury, North Otago, Fairlie and the McKenzie Basin.

Rural Transport is proud of its history, the loyalty of its customers and the dedication of the staff, many of whom have worked for the company through the successive ownership changes.

community involvement

We are committed to being an active and responsible member of our community. We believe that a strong and vibrant community benefits everyone, and we are dedicated to making a positive impact.
Through our ongoing efforts, we support sports clubs, charitable organisations, and community events. We understand the importance of giving back and are proud to be a part of our community.

  • A & P Shows
  • Ashburton Vintage Car Club
  • Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue
  • Fairfield Softball Club
  • Geraldine Rugby Club
  • Harold the Giraffe – Life Education Trust
  • Heartland Championship Rugby
  • Kurow Golf Club
  • Kurow Jockey Club Inc
  • Kurow Rugby Club
  • Kurow Trotting Club
  • Mackenzie Rugby Club
  • Mayfield Collie Club
  • Mayfield Golf Club
  • Methven Collie Club
  • Methven Rugby Club
  • Mt Nessing Collie Club
  • North Otago Junior Cricket Association
  • Omarama Collie Club
  • Rakaia Golf Club
  • Rakaia Rugby Club
  • South Canterbury Rugby Club
  • The Rakaia Salmon Run
  • Tokarahi Collie Club
  • Waimate Rugby Club

Would you like to know more about getting in touch with us?

See our four branches contact information  to find the best direct contact for your requirements