Biography to shed light on 'overlooked' TNT founder


Dearth of information on TNT founder Ken Thomas compels former transport industry worker to pen biography on the trucking pioneer

Biography to shed light on 'overlooked' TNT founder
Biography to shed light on 'overlooked' TNT founder
By Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi | February 25, 2013

A dearth of information on TNT Express founder Ken Thomas has spurred a former transport industry worker to pen a biography on the trucking pioneer.

Written by David Wilcox, the 300-page book The Truckie Who Loved Trains will be launched on Thomas’ 100th birthday on June 8 in his hometown of Harden in New South Wales.

Thomas started TNT with one truck in 1946 and turned it into the largest transport operator in Australia within 25 years. He died in 1997.

Wilcox says a Google search that revealed little to no information on Thomas sparked his interest to dig further and collate a biography.

"He had not been remembered in history. There’s been nothing else written about him that I’ve been able to find," Wilcox says.

"The present TNT company had carefully condensed Ken’s 25 years into three to four lines on the internet and when I saw that I got so mad that I thought I had to do something about it because he did make a tremendous contribution about transport – he was overlooked and overshadowed.

"I don’t know if it was deliberately or accidentally but Ken Thomas was relegated to being unimportant and the more I looked at that the more upset I got and the more I wanted to do something about it."

Thomas is best known for bringing together the private transport industry with the railways. He saw a need for the transport industry to use rail and in 1952 signed the first bulk loading contract in NSW.

"He married the vision and the entrepreneurship of the private transport industry with the infrastructure and experience that the railways had," Wilcox says.

Fifteen years since its establishment, the company was listed on the stock exchange as Thomas Nationwide Transport.

Wilcox, who also worked in the transport industry in the 1960s, says he had a lot of respect for Thomas.

"He had tremendous energy and the humble touch. He enjoyed very much working with his men even when he was the chairman on the board he would turn up at the terminal on knock-off with a big pack of fish and chips and a couple of cartons of beer and sit with them and talk," he says.

"I have spoken to dozens and dozens of ex-employees in the last 12 months since doing the research and they all say the same thing. I haven’t struck anybody who said a bad word about him."

Wilcox says the TNT founder was generous and paid his workers above-average wages.

The TNT board sacked Thomas in 1972, but he remained in contact with the company. A passionate advocate of road safety, he stood for the Senate in 1967 but did not succeed.

However, he formed the Long Distance Hauliers Association and was inducted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame last year.

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