Ernie Nicholls

Ernie Nicholls, founder and chairman of Nicholls Transport, has died.

A company statement read: "Ernie Nicholls, founder and chairman of E.H. Nicholls Jnr Ltd, who are well known as Nicholls Transport, with a head office based in Sittingbourne, Kent, has sadly passed away.

"Ernie was an astute and forthright businessman. At the age of 19 in 1957 he purchased a special A licence. 'Hire and reward' was a brave new post nationalism concept back then, but Ernie saw an opportunity and started the business. He continued to grow the company in what has been described as very challenging times.

"The business continued to expand and in the early 80s moved to Sittingbourne into a five-acre site, then went on to acquire a large storage facility from Bowaters paper mill. In the late 90s, this site was redeveloped and is now a very successful retail park owned by the Nicholls Group of companies.

"Ernie was known to be a tough, very fair, hardworking and honest man by his peers across the sector. He had a real passion for the transport industry and once served as chairman of the South East RHA and was founder member of the Kent Transport Federation.

"Ernie was rightly proud of what has been achieved and the strength of the Nicholls Group.

"Today the business finds itself in a purpose-built 20-acre logistics depot alongside the A249 in Kent and operates just over 100 vehicles with its own warehouse and workshop facilities – no mean achievement in today's tough environment.

"Ernie is survived by his wife, Maureen, three sons and seven grandchildren.

"Ernie will be sorely missed."