Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2012.
Ken Thomas started in the transport industry in 1946 with the purchase of a 5 ton International truck. He could have little realised at the time that his name would go on to become a household name the world over. Ken had gained two university degrees in the 1930s so had entered the industry with a wide range of business skills. Never-the-less, it was tough in those early years and Ken employed a driver on his first truck while he held down another job for two years to get the business going.
Initially Ken traded as K W Thomas but later formed a company. In 1961, just 15 years later, the company listed on the stock exchange as Thomas Nationwide Transport, better known today as TNT. The company still exists and has services worldwide.
Ken found long distance interstate road transport to be the best option despite the restrictions with road tax and government permits. He believed in having branch offices rather than agents and by 1950 had employees in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide as well as in his home base of Sydney.
Ken Thomas was an undisputed leader in developing the interstate hauling fraternity. He was instrumental in the formation of the Long Distance Hauliers Association and was the foundation vice-president and then the trustee for some years. The Association led the fight against interstate road tax and helped finance the Hughes and Vale challenge to section 92 of the constitution which was won in the Privy Council.
Ironically Ken Thomas was the son of an engine driver. He had a respect for rail transport and did not regard it as the enemy because it had an important role in the Australian economy. Ken’s initiative and enthusiasm led, in 1952, to the bulk loading scheme with the railway systems. From there extensive coordination activities, such as containerization, piggy back and flexi-vans, made a huge difference to the efficiency of rail transport. Australia led the world in this field.
In both forms of transport Ken gave Australian companies door to door, fast and frequent services. He was the first to develop a freight note that gave all the information needed which became the invoice; unheard of previously but other companies quickly followed and it is now a standard operating procedure in all freight businesses.
Ken Thomas led the TNT organisation until 1972. He died in 1997 leaving Australia with one of the most cost effective and efficient land transport industries in the world.