Rural Transport

About Us


The history of Rural Transport goes back to 1927, when a young motor mechanic named Bob Burnett started a carrying business at Hinds. 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.

Mr Burnett had no son to take over from him when he retired, so when he reached his early 60s he started looking around 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.

Today, Rural Transport is owned by a partnership of Philip Wareing Limited and the Wilson Bulk Transport Charitable Trust. 

Rural Transport has a total of 53 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.