Knudsen to take reins as Toll Group managing director
Byrne to step down, effective January 1, after three years
Thomas Knudsen will be Toll Group’s new managing director of from January 1 and will become the firm’s first MD based outside Australia.
Michael Byrne has announced he will hand over control of the company after three years in the role.
Knudsen is currently president of Toll Group’s Global Forwarding division, which he began in January 2018.
Originally from Denmark, he has more than 25 years’ experience in freight forwarding and contract logistics, including living and working across Asia, Australia, the United States, Europe and the Middle East.
Knudsen will continue to be based in Singapore.
Toll Group chairman John Mullen notes that Byrne, together with his team, has led Toll Group through numerous challenges since his appointment.
"Michael was appointed as managing director at a pivotal time for the company," Mullen says.
"Under Michael’s leadership, Toll has delivered on a comprehensive transformation program resulting in improved safety, a more efficient operating model, stronger operations, and better governance across compliance, tax and regulatory matters. Toll is now well-positioned because of the foundations that Michael has created.
"Thomas is a seasoned logistics executive with proven capability to lead through significant change and growth across Asia in what is a very challenging environment.
"Thomas was a standout candidate because of his deep knowledge of the industry, deep understanding of Asia, global experience and track record in building high performing international teams.
"The internal appointment will provide continuity while bringing fresh perspectives and ideas."
Byrne says his time as MD has been focused on "developing a strong safety culture, building a strong leadership team and renewing the fundamentals of the business".
"I am proud of the enormous strides we have made that will position the company for future growth," he adds.
"Our journey to be a truly global, world class logistics company is a long-term aspiration.
"We have achieved much as a team, but there is a lot more to do."
Knudsen expresses his delight to with the appointment and emphasizes his determination to Byrne’s work.
"The Toll Board has exciting ambitions to expand Toll’s operations in Australia, Asia and the rest of the world. We have enormous opportunity and I look forward to get to work," Knudsen says
The group will see Toll Global Express president Bruce Wilson assume full accountability for the operations and performance of the division.
"The arrangement ensures Toll customers benefit from dedicated focus on the Australian Global Express operations while the company pursues growth opportunities for Toll and our customers in Asia and the rest of the world," Mullen says.
Knudsen will take the role at a time when the Australian operation faces a potentially destabilising industrial relations period after a fairly quiet time under Byrne.
"Michael Byrne has made bold decisions and extracted significant support from the company’s new owners when its workforce stood together and demanded fair standards, including safe rates and superannuation increases which are vital to the health of our economy," Transport Workers' Union (TWU) national secretary Michael Kaine says.
"We are now entering a new cycle of bargaining and the TWU has high expectations that Toll bring a constructively approach to ensure standards are maintained.
"We understanding the new Toll managing director Thomas Knudsen has experience working around the world and we looking forward to meeting him."
The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) also has kind words for Byrne.
"Michael Byrne has had a distinguished career as the Managing Director of Toll and previously Linfox, in which time he has been a passionate advocate for improving safety standards in the industry," ATA chair Geoff Crouch says.
"In his time with Toll, he has raised important safety issues with government, calling for a range of safety solutions, including educating light vehicle drivers about how to share the road safely with trucks, mandating safety technologies and the unification of heavy vehicle law across Australia."
Under Byrne’s leadership, ATA member Toll is seen as having made strong contributions to the association’s policies and priorities, particularly regarding technology.
"Just next week the ATA Council will consider additional safety measures proposed by Toll under Michael’s leadership," Crouch says.
"I look forward to continuing to collaborate with Michael and utilise his leadership and dedication to improving the road safety agenda into the future."