Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Thomas L. Finkbiner

Thomas Finkbiner, Class of 1970, is being inducted into the Toms River Schools Hall of Fame in part because of the impact of his leadership on the transport industry of today, but also because he is widely recognized as someone who has major answers to the transport needs and solutions in the next century.

Tom did his Baccalaureate work at Rutgers, majoring in history and economics, and growing to be six-foot-four, a fact that may have assisted his career.

His start in the field of transport was unusual enough to be noted in the Wall Street Journal. It seems that Tom became involved in a bit of a dust up in a New York penthouse restaurant. He and his antagonist were ejected. On the ride down in the elevator they became better acquainted, and the man said he liked Finkbiner's style and hired him to supervise a loading dock. Thus careers are born.

From Dock Foreman in 1975 Tom became Terminal Operations Manager in 1976, and then Sales Representative in 1977. At that point he went to work for Airborne Freight Corporation, moving from Account Representative through District Sales Manager to Regional Manager in three years. Again he changed companies, going to North American Van Lines in 1981, ascending to be Vice President of Marketing and Administration by 1986. In 1987 he became a part of the company with which he is still affiliated, Norfolk Southern Corporation. Again a rapid rise through the ranks so that now he is Vice President for Intermodal Transport.

He describes his current responsibilities as follows: "Currently responsible for all aspects of a $525 million, 1.1 million unit volume business with net profits in excess of $30,000,000 and cash flow of $100, 000, 000." Tom was asked to either fix or divest the intermodal business, transport using more than one form of transport like trucks and trains. What Tom did and what got the attention of the business world was that Tom fixed it. And people began to listen.

In an extended article on Tom Finkbiner the Wall Street Journal created the ensuing picture: "It's neither train nor truck," says Thomas L. Finkbiner, standing in a small rail yard here. As he speaks, a Norfolk Southern Corp. diesel locomotive en route from Atlanta to Chicago approaches. Behind it stretches a string of truck trailers, rubber tires retracted, rolling along the tracks on steel-flanged wheels. When the hybrid vehicles enter the yard, crewmen with wrenches turn pneumatic valves on several, lowering their rubber tires like landing gear and retracting their steel wheels. Quickly the RoadRailer trailers are ready for the road. "We don't call them trains, because train suggests slow and dumpy, " say Mr. Finkbiner, Norfolk Southern's Vice President of Intermodal Marketing. "RoadRailers are fast and sleek." The hard-Charging Mr. Finkbiner is spearheading a high-profile gamble that RoadRailer technology can pump new life into the nation's underused rails and win back high-value merchandise freight from truckers." And since then Tom has proved his point.

Esquire Magazine listed him in its annual list of Americans under 40 who are shaping our nation. They quoted Tom: "You've got a highway system that's reaching capacity. That's not the case with the railroad industry. In a fifty car train we need one locomotive and a two-man crew. On the highway you'd need fifty tractors--fifty $50,000 to $60,000 road tractors--fifty drivers. That's pretty easy logic."

The Wall Street Journal added further honors when it declared Tom was one of 28 influential young business people who are shaping not only our nation but the next century. Among the others listed were Jeffrey Katzenberg from Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Pfeiffer, Spike Lee, Lyle Lovett, Michael Jordan, and the mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke.

Among Tom's professional affiliations one must include Intermodal Association of North America, of which he has been both Chairman of the Board and Vice Chairman. We must add the Council of Logistics Management, the National Industrial Traffic League, and the National Freight Transportation Association.

Tom is currently Vice Chairman of the School of Inter-modalism at the University of Denver, and he has been a member of the President's Commission on Highway Safety. Tom and his wife Ann have two children: Jonathan, 17 and Alison, 14.

The Toms River Schools Hall of Fame is proud to have as a member someone who has and will continue to carve such an important and valuable path to the future.


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