Born in Wellington 1946, Matt grew up on a farm in Pongaroa, near Dannevirke. He was a clever but not academic boy, who was always interested in heavy machinery. After leaving school he naturally became a truck driver, which led into a job as the despatcher/manager at Nationwide Transport.
He met Heather, his business partner and wife, when he was carting metal on her father’s farm and he asked if she wanted a ride in his truck. She became an indispensable part of the business. Over the years, there weren’t many things Matt and Heather didn’t reach an agreement upon and Matt readily admitted, “As a wife and partner, they don’t come better than Heather … I and many others have a lot to thank Heather for.”
In 1977, at the suggestion of several Nationwide Transport clients, he and Heather partnered with Paddy Collins to start Total Transport. Just three years later Matt and Heather bought Paddy’s share and worked on creating the business it is today.
Total Transport was very much a rural transport business, carting livestock, wool and other farm goods. During the 1980s rural sector boomed, leaving many transport companies over-worked and under resourced as they couldn’t keep up with the demand. Even though Total Transport was still young, Matt and Heather handled the pressure and kept the company’s reputation strong, creating the slogan: ‘On time – every time.’ It carried Total Transport through a time where many other transport companies let their customers down.
In the 1990s Matt and Heather faced another challenge when the rural sector declined. To keep jobs coming they went into timber freight and by 2000 timber had taken over rural transport. Matt cleverly made a deal with Ravensdown for a transit store in the perfect location to backload fertiliser from timber jobs, lowering the rates for Ravensdown, keeping Total Transport’s trucks loaded and saving everyone money.
Matt and Heather sold the company in 2002 but continued to run it for several more years, steering Total Transport through another change when the timber industry slowed down. Matt secured several large contracts, carting round wood for Kinleth Round Wood and Matrix CHH and machinery for the new power generation plants in the central North Island.
During his time at the helm of Total Transport Matt Purvis made sure that his employees were 100% committed to customer service, the key to Total Transport’s success. The slogan ‘On Time, Every Time’ was the philosophy that drove each and every employee, from management to apprentice. Matt retired in 2006 due to ill health, sadly passing away in 2015 at the age of 69.