Our History

by Nick Hibbitt

How it began

The company trace their roots back to 1938 when Harry Edward Payne began in transport as a coal merchant working a Morris Commercial 30cwt out of Tempsford railway station. During the war time years, the local farmers couldn’t get their produce to market as their usual haulier – A Cooper & Son of Sandy – was working exclusively for the Ministry of War Transport. This opened the produce door to Harry and it remained a stable traffic until September 1989.

ETM 809 dates from 1947, the Ford 7V having the V8 petrol engine and a 5 ton rating. 

Harry Payne was tragically killed in a shot gun accident during 1948 on the day he was putting a second Ford 7V on the road. For the following 10 years the business was kept going by Harry’s wife Edna and her mother-in- law Violet. In December 1958, David Payne left school still a month short of his 15th birthday – with the words from his mother that he could either make or break their fledgling business. Originally working as a mate, in January 1961, Paynes bought 662 ETM – one of the first 5 ton TK Bedfords – as it had an unladen weight just under 3 tons and thus could be driven by the 17year old David.

During the 1950s, Edna and Violet Payne had replaced the early Ford 7Vs with two petrol engined S type Bedfords – PBM 21 and TTM 809 – while the first S type four wheeler with 300 diesel engine was XMJ 782. Paynes first six wheeler was AFL 862B and Similar to CFL 387C, was a Leyland Super Comet converted to a trailing axle six wheeler with a York third axle.  both vehicles having the 375 engine, Eaton two speed axle and an operational gross weight of 18 tons. 

The K Series Dodge FFL 112D was Payne’s first tilt cab vehicle and is recalled for it’s Chrysler-Cummins V6 engine. With five speed gearbox, the vehicle’s maximum rate of knots was 56 mph but the noise it made tended to indicate a speed of 70-80mph.

In their growing years, Paynes bought their vehicles from various sources and David Payne recalls at one time having six vehicles, all painted different colours. Generally the livery was mid Brunswick green, black chassis and mudguards with gold paint lettering although in later years has seen chassis colour change to red. 

The artics arrive

1970 heralded the first Payne artics and the end of going to Bedford to see Mr Robinson, the Traffic Commissioner, every time a new carriers licence was required. The new ‘O’ licence system – which replaced the ’32, ‘B’ and ‘C’s – meant the days of facing up to 15 objectors so that Paynes could obtain an extra licence, had ended. The company’s first artic unit was an ex Knowles of Wimblington Leyland Beaver, although coming new was BEG 446J, a Lynx rated for 28 tons gross operation. Recalled as the worst thing they’d ever bought, the Lynx ran on the Manchester trunk until breakdowns with the 500 engine prompted the purchase of the Gardner 180 powered S39 Foden EEG 394K. PMJ 892J, Payne’s first Volvo – an F86 6×2 rigid. Ordered on the spur of the moment through salesman Ken Penfold, the Volvo was supplied by the Kettering dealer of Billows within a fortnight. It’s excellent service is reflected in Paynes 2021 fleet having 35 Volvos operating on a mixture of chilled, frozen and ambent work.

Under the helm of then managing director David Payne, the company was again expanding quite rapidly during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In fact from 1970 to 1978 the fleet grew from 15 vehicles to 21 vehicles and various trailers.


Although H E Payne Transport had established itself as the leading haulage contractor for delivering produce to northern and southern wholesale markets on a nightly basis it soon found itself venturing into other directions due to the reliable reputation it was establishing within the local area; other traffic included bagged and bulk liquid fertilizers, bricks, grain, cardboard and concrete flooring products. This traffic provided a stable income for many years to come. The fleet had started to change more dramatically during the late 1970’s from all rigid to about half rigid and half articulated vehicles. The rigids were mainly on market work, the artics on market, agricultural chemicals and concrete. Seddon Atkinson’s, ERF’s and Dodge Commando’s featured with Volvo’s in the fleet. With a mixture of new and second-hand motors, flatbed bodies were being replaced with tautliners.

In 1983 with the arrival of David’s son Richard, H E Payne then changed its whole approach to business and his appointment was the catalyst to how the company was going to evolve for the next 23 years and beyond.

During the 1980’s with the demise of the wholesale markets throughout the UK and the (high expansion) of the supermarket chains it was becoming a requirement for all food to be transported within a temperature controlled environment. As the supermarkets where taking hold of high street spending peoples eating habits started to change towards more frozen and convenience foods. So in September 1988 David and his son Richard decided to stop delivering produce to the wholesale markets which had been their main source of income for 50 years.

Suitable other work had to found quickly. This was found in the form of offering a UK daily groupage service for chilled and frozen foods. Contracts were won for various European food packaging and manufacturing companies, and today 60 refrigerated trailers operate in the fleet of H E Payne delivering nationwide in a seven day per week operation.

Although refrigerated transport amounts to 75% of their traffic the business is complemented by their storage and distribution pallet network services, which delivers ambient goods for blue chip customers throughout the United Kingdom.

Today H E Payne operates from their 5 acre site at Wyboston next to the house where Harry Payne started his business 83 years earlier. Vehicle maintenance is done in house in their large and fully equipped workshop.

When Harry Edward Payne started up his Wyboston, Bedfordshire based haulage business back in 1938 he could hardly have imaged that some 83 years later the company would still be going strong and providing employment for future generations of his family.

Since the start of the pallet groupage network in 1988, H E Payne Transport has grown extensively into warehousing offering a one-stop shop for the many valued customers; today H E Payne can offer over 120,000 sq feet of warehousing space located in three strategic locations along the A1 corridor.