Road tankers manufacturer expands business in Barnsley

Pictured is Don McKelvie, operations director at RTN


The UK’s leading road tankers manufacturer is investing in growth and creating more skilled manufacturing jobs in Barnsley. 

Road Tankers Northern, based at Platts Common Industrial Estate in Hoyland, designs, builds, services and inspects road tankers for carrying petroleum and LPG gas. 

Over the past 20 years, the company has become the dominant supplier of road tankers to the UK bulk liquid haulage industry, squeezing out foreign competitors and securing nearly 75 per cent of the domestic market. 

Its customers include most major fuel distribution companies and supermarkets including Shell, Certas, Calor Gas, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Asda. It has recently completed an order to supply 133 new tankers to BP. The entire Tesco fleet of semi-trailer tankers is built by RTN too. 

Increasing demand over the past two decades has seen the company double turnover to £15 million – and expand its workforce seven-fold to 150 employees. 

Now, RTN is embarking on a further period of expansion and aims to create around 15 new jobs within the next year in areas such as design, fabrication, welding, electronics, inspection and administration. 

The engineering company’s growth plans are being supported by Enterprising Barnsley, the economic development arm of Barnsley Council. 

RTN operations director Don McKelvie said: “We have grown year-on-year since we moved to Barnsley in 1993 and are very proud to be creating more skilled, high-value jobs in manufacturing right now. 

“A lot of people just don’t realise that Barnsley is the centre of the UK road tanker manufacturing industry – and it’s not happened here by accident, our growth has been down to sustained investment in plant, premises, workforce and innovation. 

“And the support we have had in Barnsley has been excellent. The Enterprising Barnsley team is fully committed to promoting the success of business in the borough and they’ve worked alongside us, in very practical terms, all the way.” 

When RTN first moved to Platts Common from Sheffield 23 years ago they took on two units – they now occupy 75 percent of the whole industrial estate with plans to extend further and develop six more paint, service and inspection bays later this year. The company also plans to add four to five new vehicles to its UK-wide tank testing and inspection fleet. 

It is investing almost £500,000 in this current expansion programme, including investment in two automated robotic arms and the latest laser cutting technology to increase productivity and bring the production of more intricate, precision parts in-house. 

The new state-of-the-art laser cutter stands close to the company’s hard-working ‘mud-wing machine’ which dates back to the 1930s – this is used to create the essential fire-proof steel or aluminium covers for the wheel arches of fuel carrying road tankers. 

Don said: “It’s probably the only machine of its kind left in the UK. Some engineering technology you can’t better.

“In lots of other areas though we are constantly innovating with design and technology to improve what we offer customers in terms of safety, aerodynamics, tanker capacity, weight and so on – if we can produce tankers which can carry more, are cheaper to run and guarantee the highest level of safety today then our customers are saving money and getting the edge on their competitors. We don’t stand still and it’s our innovation that drives the market.” 

Enterprising Barnsley is currently supporting RTN with its recruitment and training drive and has in the past helped the company secure a Leeds City Region grant to help fund a previous expansion. 

Enterprising Barnsley business development manager Steve Hawkins said: “Road Tankers Northern is a major local success story and continues to grow and create new, skilled engineering jobs in our borough. 

“Their strength is their ambition and attitude, combining tried and tested engineering techniques with a constant desire to innovate and improve their product to offer customers more. We’re delighted to help them recruit still more employees and apprentices.” 

Founded in 1991, RTN is part of the NWT Group founded by entrepreneurs Frank Newell and the late Paul Wright. Its sister company RTN Clayton Vallely, which manufactures specialist road tankers for the food, drink and environmental industries, was set up at the nearby Rockingham Industrial Estate at Birdwell in Barnsley five years ago.


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