The Heaton Group is a long-established family business. Robert Heaton, the present Managing Director, is the 5th generation of the Heaton family to lead the Company since its foundation (each has been named Robert). The original Company was formed in 1899 as Robert Heaton & Son at Denton Green Lane in St. Helens Lancashire, operating a number of businesses including asphalt contracting and a removal business. During the first three decades of the last century the Company was heavily involved with Public Works contracting, when along with the horses they operated 'Steamers'. A petrol driven lorry was purchased in 1919 with another two purchased in the early twenties. In 1928 the founder's 20 year old grandson Robert (Bob) Heaton joined the company. Bob Heaton is the Grandfather of the present Managing Director.
The Company gradually expanded into general haulage and in 1939 moved from Denton Street to Sherdley Road in St. Helens. By 1948 they were operating a wide variety of commercial vehicles, including special type low-loaders capable of carrying up to 65 tons. At that time Bob Heaton and his father R D Heaton were two of the three partners in the business. However, the labour Government's Transport Act of 1947 had begun the process of nationalising all road transport firms involved predominantly in ordinary long-distance carriage of goods for hire and reward.
British Road Services was consequently formed and set about acquiring 41,265 vehicles 80,212 staff and 3,766 undertakings - Heatons Transport was one of those undertakings.
Upon nationalisation Robert D Heaton retired. Bob Heaton concentrated on farming in Ormskirk and formed a limited company, Home Farm (Mawdesley) Ltd, in 1950. Six years after the 1947 Transport Act was introduced, Parliament reversed this decision - a Transport Act in 1953 was passed providing for the return to free enterprise. This persuaded Bob Heaton to set up the Heatons business again.
In 1954, Bob Heaton tried unsuccessfully to re-purchase, the Sherdley Road premises from BRS. As a consequence he purchased a small piece of land in Warrington New Road, St. Helens and concentrated vigorously on rebuilding the haulage business. With de-nationalisation well underway Heatons bought back as many of their old trucks as they could from the various British Road Service sales being held around the country.
Bob Heaton decided that articulated Lorries were the vehicles of the future. At that time articulated units were rare in the U.K. with Bedford dominating this small segment of the market. The reason for the unpopularity of articulated Lorries related primarily to a slow, inefficient coupling system. However Bob Heaton was aware of a new efficient coupling system being used in America that was shortly to be introduced into the U.K. He therefore took every chance to rebuild his fleet with tractors, all of which were purchased with the coveted A licence to operate long distance vehicles for hire and reward; some of these licences he swapped with the authorities for trailers. Between the years of 1934 and 1968 the Government granted licences to operate goods-carrying vehicles in three forms A B and C licences .
Beginning In 1963 the Company's name was changed to Heatons Transport (St. Helens) Ltd. In 1967 the Company was operating forty five Lorries, forty Tractor units and five Box Vans. At this time Heatons moved to Merton Bank Road in St. Helens where a large Transport and Warehousing operation was built with 100,000 square feet of covered storage, also incorporating a lorry maintenance workshop.
Heatons had come a long way in the thirteen years since Bob Heaton set about rebuilding the company. Customers included Forsters Glass, the Rockware Group, Cadburys, Moreton and Bournville, Lever Bros, J Crosfield, John Dickinson, Union Carbide and Metal Closures.
Investment in Articulation and Warehousing paved the way for the Company’s strong growth during the sixties and seventies. By 1974, with Bob Heaton running the company jointly with his forty-year old son Robert (Bobby) Heaton, the fleet was fully articulated serving over fifty leading manufacturers and distributors in the North West carrying mainly glass, chemicals and papers.
In February 1974 Bob Heaton, along with Robert, was interviewed by Truck Magazine. One subject covered was close to Bob Heaton’s heart - Nationalisation. Perhaps this interview was instigated through a new labour Government nationalising British Leyland that year.
When Bob Heaton retired in 1978 handing the reins over fully to Robert (Bobby) Heaton, the company was running a fleet of over one hundred trucks. Bobby Heaton became National Chairman of the Road Haulage Association in 1990. In 1992 he was made an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List for his services to the transport industry. When retiring from Heatons in 1999 his Son, again named Robert, became Managing Director Bobby Heaton OBE.
In 1988 Heatons changed business direction to become suppliers to commercial vehicle operators when they acquired Wigan-based Woodwards Truck Rental. This business was purchased from H Woodward’s & Son plc, a well-known Leyland dealership which had lost the franchise when the DAF and Leyland Marques merged in 1987. Heatons still trade from the Wigan site as Woodwards Truck and Van Centre, a DAF and Renault Truck parts and service dealer.
In 2004 Heatons acquired North West Truck Services Limited, a DAF main dealer trading from sites in Liverpool and Northwich. North West Trucks is one of the oldest DAF Dealers in the U.K. DAF entered the U.K. market in 1972. In 1974 J W Barrow, a haulage contractor in Lostock Gralam, Northwich, was offered a DAF Main Dealership franchise to be responsible for Cheshire and North Wales. Barrows consequently formed a new company, North West Truck Engineering Co Ltd and began trading from Lostock Gralam in 1974. During 1986 DAF gave North West Trucks the responsibility for the Merseyside area when a Main Dealership was opened in Huyton.
J W Barrow has been operating a transport business in Lostock Gralam since 1892 and like Heatons operated horse-drawn removal vans at the turn of the last century. The company consolidated its position as a leading commercial vehicle Dealer in the North West whilst overcoming a most difficult economic recession period that commenced in 2008.This was achieved under the guidance of Robert Heaton and his fellow director Charles Pettingell, who commenced working alongside Robert's father as an advisor in 1984, joining the board when Bobby retired in 1999.
Recognising the need to offer Parts Customers a comprehensive one-stop shop, by engaging suppliers other than the Heatons franchised partners, Heatons Truck and Trailer Parts was formed in 2011 to offer replacement parts to operators of all makes of trucks and trailers. In 2012 the Company changed its name to "Heatons Truck Group Ltd" in recognition of its diversified trading activities