Queensland Country Life

RDO Equipment offers same care as Vanderfield

RDO Equipment Toowoomba service manager Jock Cameron and executive director Bruce Vandersee. Picture supplied
RDO Equipment Toowoomba service manager Jock Cameron and executive director Bruce Vandersee. Picture supplied

This is branded content for RDO Equipment

As Shakespeare would have it: "What's in a name?" Not a lot, if you ask Bruce Vandersee.

He has worked in the same business all his life and loves his job so much he sees no reason to try something else.

While that business, Vanderfield, has changed its name, the essence of the business remains the same.

The 60-year-old company is run by many of the same people, with the same local management team, but it sells a bigger range of agricultural, construction, mining forestry and turf equipment in branches from Darwin to Launceston.

Vanderfield assumed the name RDO Equipment two years ago to better reflect the broader nature of the company, but it had been half-owned by RDO since 2012, with Bruce retaining part-ownership.

Bruce and his wife Sue Vandersee are still integral to the day-to-day running of the company, which now has 33 Australian locations.

Now an executive director of RDO Equipment, Bruce has worked in the business for 45 years, and Sue manages a team of customer relations staff.


Vanderfield was founded by his father, Gordon, in 1963. In the early days, Gordon sold Chamberlains, the last of the Australian-made tractors.

He became a John Deere dealer in 1970. Similarly, RDO in the US was a John Deere dealer and farming group founded by Ron Offutt that started in 1968.

The Vanderfield firm was 100 per cent owned by the Vandersees until 12 years ago when they met the Offutt family.

Bruce began his career in the spare parts department, then took on various sales roles, and was branch manager at Warwick and St George.

He developed his sound knowledge and deep appreciation of what Vanderfield customers value. He maintains that respect for the customer to this day.

"I can tell you what a pleasure it is for me to deal with people from the bush," he said. "I enjoy the industries I am a part of, our customer base, and the staff we have. Why else would I still be here after 45 years?"

Bruce became CEO when Gordon retired in 1991. Vanderfield consolidated its presence in southern Queensland and expanded to Darwin, Kununurra and central Queensland. The RDO partnership was born out of commonly held values for employees and customers, and a desire to build and grow the family business in a sustainable way.

By 2019 RDO had involvement in three businesses in Australia so we opted to normalise the shareholding of the three and form one new company. Bruce took on an executive director role with the new entity at that time and works alongside CEO Phil Canning.


The company was still branded Vanderfield until changing its name two years ago. As RDO Equipment, the former Vanderfield (ag equipment), RDO (John Deere Construction and Forestry) and Vermeer (specialist construction equipment) bought Chesterfield Australia.

"People will get to know the new name but the values stay the same," Bruce said.

"I remain fully engaged as a director of the company.

"The company still has some Australian ownership. It's the same shareholders, the same 100 per cent Australian management team, and we've still got local leadership at branch level who do the right thing by customers. Some guys have been branch managers for close to 30 years. It is still mainly the same people.

"We offer the same service as Vanderfield and the coverage is still the same. Ultimately we're the same company, however the John Deere construction equipment allows us to provide greater value to our ag customers.

"We have four aircraft - two in Toowoomba, one in Emerald and one in Darwin.

RDO Equipment company pilot Peter Lindsay at RDO's Darwin site. Picture supplied
RDO Equipment company pilot Peter Lindsay at RDO's Darwin site. Picture supplied

"We've trained a lot of pilots who are field service technicians and over the years we've put them through their training. We see having flying technicians as really valuable."

Importantly, the business retains the philosophy - customers always come first.

"One of the most rewarding things for me is finding a fast solution for a customer if they have equipment that's broken down. Everything man-made breaks down.

"We see ourselves as part of the vital infrastructure that our customers need to be successful. We are partners for our customers.

"In some cases we are now dealing with the grandchildren of our original customers; we're dealing with generations of the same family."

Bruce has witnessed dramatic changes over the years.

"There is way more tech these days. The breadth of offering is enormous. It's a credit to our sales, parts and service teams in the way they deal with a myriad of options available. I am also very proud of our Vnet team of precision ag specialists who have not just kept pace with the quantum leap in ag tech but have in some cases helped catalyse improvements."


With a proud history, RDO Equipment looks to an even brighter future.

"We've grown a lot and now have the ability to sell the (John Deere) yellow construction and forestry equipment. The future is very exciting. The ag side of the business is currently the biggest part of our business and we are excited about the direction John Deere is taking with precision ag tools.

"On the construction side, it's been an exciting start. We have an outstanding product, strategic locations and can pick up the markets in the regions we are located. Phil Canning has built a great team that can leverage our longstanding service capability and our regional locations."

RDO Equipment heads to Beef Australia 2024 where it will have 15 staff members across three sites in the exhibition area with multiple John Deere construction and agriculture machines.

Look out for the green and gold, and call in to say hello to Bruce and the team.

This is branded content for RDO Equipment