Where we come from

When first established in 1946 the company was called K.W. Thomas Transport. It changed to Thomas Nationwide Transport in 1958 just after the Australian government objected to Thomas National Transport, believing ‘national’ implied it was a government-owned company. The first trucks to appear on Australian roads with the abbreviation ‘TNT’ caused a lot of anxiety as road users thought the trucks were carrying high explosives!

Separate paths – Australia

Founded in 1946 by Ken Thomas, the Australian TNT achieved rapid growth in its home market during the 1950s by expanding road and rail freight services across the country.

It developed new overnight express products and services. In 1961, the company went public and was listed on the Australian stock exchange. Following TNT’s growth in Australia and New Zealand, the 1970s and 1980s witnessed global expansion as it reached into new markets to gain a foothold and instant market share, buying transportation companies in Europe, North America and Brazil. It diversified into transportation businesses ranging from ocean freight to commercial aviation. By the early 1980s, the TNT pioneers had sensed that the centre of gravity in terms of new growth opportunities had shifted from Australia to the European continent. Major acquisitions strengthened its position in the overnight and time-definite express industry.

European Community plans to promote free trade by eliminating tariff barriers among member states spurred TNT to purchase a fleet of BAe 146 Quiet Trader aircraft, thus creating the first pan-European overnight express service using a dedicated aircraft fleet. By the start of the 1990s, the TNT group of companies had 70,000 employees. But its bid to become a worldwide player in transportation through rapid acquisition had led it to diversify too quickly, losing focus and overextending into non-core businesses. It faced fi nancial diffi culties and sought new sources of investment through financially strong partners.

Separate paths – The Netherlands

The origins of the Dutch postal service can be traced back to the mid-18th century, but 1799 marks the date PTT Post became a single national enterprise.

From the outset, the entity was granted a concession on collection and delivery of mail in the Netherlands. The monopoly lasted for almost 200 years. Initially, such concessions were a means for the state to collect revenue rather than provide a service to the public. Gradually, postal delivery came to be seen as a public service rather than an easy way of raising indirect taxes for the state, an idea formalised under Dutch law in 1850. That law was soon followed by a proliferation of post boxes and letter delivery services around the country. Tentative steps into mechanisation of sorting operations began in the 1930s, marking the start of a trend to reduce labour costs and increase efficiency, which continued after the Second World War. 

By the 1960s, scale had become important and large volumes began to be handled by fewer but bigger mail processing centres. Modern processes and data systems were introduced, including the postal code in 1977. These were signs that the Dutch mail service was responding to technological innovation and economic pressures. The introduction of new data transmission technologies such as the fax machine and internet forced the pace of change by focusing the mind of PTT management on the emerging threats to its traditional mail business and monopoly. To meet these market challenges, the Dutch mail in January 1989 became a private company and was given more flexibility. In 1992, the company took its first steps into the international express business, and four years later acquired the still Australian-owned TNT group, heralding a new era for the post and express industry.