Education may not be everything, but a strong work ethic is, and Darrel Harris is proof of that in the trucking industry.
For Harris, formal education wasn’t in his plans when he sought a career, but making money and a life for himself was. Thanks to advice from his mother’s boyfriend at age 19, he landed a job as a dock worker where he says the money made was like a dream come true coming from where he was from, Yahoo! Finance reports.
“I went down there and applied for the job and I’ll never forget they offered me $10.50 an hour as a part-time dockworker and where I come from that’s real money,” said Harris in an interview with Black Enterprise. “I remember at the time thinking if I can hang on to this job and make $10.50 a year for the rest of my career I’ll be happy.”
Life had bigger plans for Harris, who over about two and a half decades managed to work his way up the trucking and shipping industry ladder to become Yellow Trucking’s first Black president. In April, Harris assumed the new role at the fifth largest transportation company in the U.S. and the second-largest “less than truckload” (LTL) company in the U.S.
Throughout his 25-year career in the industry, Harris has held many jobs within the industry and is also proof that formal education isn’t the route for everyone.
“I didn’t go to college, so I tell people I went to trucker university,” he continued. “Everything I’ve learned was through mentors in the business, but also I was fortunate enough to start with a company that believed in formal education within the organization. I really took advantage of that and just worked to get on every shift I possibly could to learn every angle of the trucking business by working it and learning from others.”
Now that he is in the position to pull others up as he continues to climb, Harris is continuing Yellow’s mission as a leader of diversity in the industry. The company recently expanded its Board of Directors to be reflective of more diverse talent and 42 percent of its frontline supervisors are both minority and female employees.
“As I was coming up in the ranks, the higher up I got, the less I saw of other people that looked like me,” said Harris. “It was something that I felt was a challenge and now that I’m in this role at Yellow, I’m very committed to utilizing my platform to ensure that our company continues to grow in the area of diversity because I believe in it, I’m a personal success story and I believe there’s a lot of others like me that deserve to be in positions like this.”
Headquartered in Kansas, Yellow is home to 30,000 employees and operates in 50 states as well as Canada and Mexico. The trucking company also has 200,000 customers that range from Walmart to Target and even small businesses.