This book is the biography of Ken Thomas, born 1913, and died 1997, and tells the story of his huge contribution to the development of Australian transport in the second half of the 20th century.
In 1946, Ken bought a 5 ton International truck and started out in the Transport Industry. In 25 years he built the largest transport company in Australia, known as TNT.
It was hard going. In the early days there were road taxes, collected from carriers to protect the railways, but the railways could not handle all the traffic so chaos resulted.
With the arrival of diesel locomotives in the early 1950s, Ken Thomas saw the opportunity to marry together the entrepreneurial energy of the transport companies with the infrastructure and network of the Government railways. His plan was for a partnership, where the carrier would pick up freight, load it into a rail truck, and then unload and deliver at the destination. For this the railway would be paid a fee to haul the truck. Very simple, but it was not done anywhere in the world at that stage. In 1952, the first ‘bulk Loading ‘contract was signed by Ken Thomas with the NSW Railways.
This grew to the use of Flexi Vans and then containers in full train consists, and to the equipment that is used today.
However TNT also had a large fleet of trucks, and grew into an Australia wide operation with about 40 branch offices. Later came roll on, roll off ships and an interest in airlines. Expansion to New Zealand and then other countries took the Australian expertise all over the world.
Then in 1972 there was a Boardroom coup when Ken was voted out of the Chairman’s position, by a minority of the Board.
Ken was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, and stood as a Senate Candidate in 1967. He was also passionate about road safety and took a leading role in the introduction of compulsory seat belts.
While the book is centred on Ken Thomas it does give an interesting history of the Australian rail gauge differences, the Road Tax fights, the arrival of roll on, roll off ships, and the fight over the ownership of Ansett.