Swint Logistics Group, Inc. CEO Cherri I. Harris.
Cherri I. Harris doesn’t waste time when she is pursuing her destiny and dreams.
As the CEO of Detroit-based Swint Logistics Group, Inc., Harris, who started as a truck driver, told the Michigan Chronicle that she had a goal of becoming an owner-operator, which she never was — bigger things were in her path instead.
Now in business for the past six years, Harris – who described her journey as “challenging” and “rewarding” all at once, said that her company has branched out from trucking to add commercial construction, training, consulting and specialty services like asphalt paving and underground camera operations for mainline sewers.
Swint Logistics Group, Inc., an award-winning (minority certified woman-owned firm) has numerous certifications through Wayne County and federally, among others coming down the line.
“These certifications are extremely beneficial. Our Wayne County certification has paved the way for us to be able to bid,“ she said.
“Having a great reputation is more valuable than money. The relationships that you build in business will help you to expand your business, meet new people, learn new things and make some money along the way,” she said. “Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to me to be responsive, to be productive, and most importantly, to be accountable. I highly recommend that any Black female in the trucking industry have a mentor. Your mentor should be someone that is very successful in the industry and willing to reach back and lend a hand to help you be a better business owner.”
Starting in this industry for Black women is becoming more and more of a commonplace event even though, according to https://www.11alive.com/, 94 percent of truckers are men.
The trucking industry workforce, typically a male profession, is getting a batch of new coworkers nationwide with Black women who are looking toward this option as a career path.
The current truckers are “aging out.” Over 3 million truckers who drive 18-wheelers and big dump trucks are enveloping Black women who are taking the road by storm with these trucks, and there is plenty to go around. According to the article, there will be 175,000 by 2025. Presently, about six percent of all truck drivers are on the road.
“The average age of the American truck driver now is between 53 and 56 years old, so we have a generation that is going into retirement and we really have to focus on how we are going to recruit the next generation,” said Kevin Reid, CEO of National Minority Trucking Association, as quoted in the article.
Reid said that there are 458,729 minority-owned transportation firms and 44 percent are Hispanic.
Harris added that breaking the mold in a male-dominated field has been an “amazing journey.”
“As with anything in life it has been good, bad and ugly. I am very thankful for every experience that I have been through. Having a mentor has definitely helped me to deal with the stresses of being a business owner in this industry,” said Harris, adding that most of the men that she has worked with in the industry have been very supportive, helpful and kind. “I have found that most men are very willing to help women in the trucking business because they know how challenging this business can be… I feel as though I get the ultimate respect from my peers, even though I don’t look like them.”
Harris said in the article that one thing surprising about the trucking industry is that the insurance company gets to dictate who one can hire.
“As the owner of a trucking company, you have to call the insurance company and basically get permission to hire a new driver,” she said, adding that they will run the drivers MVR (Motor Vehicle Record) and based on their driving record and experience, they approve or deny hiring the new driver. “I had an insurance agent tell me once that I can hire the driver if I was willing to add an additional $15,000 to my policy premium per year. Needless to say, I was not able to hire that particular driver.”
Harris added that having a seat at the table to her means being “prepared to sit at that table.”
“You have to earn that seat at the table. It is very important to get to the table and it comes with a lot of work and determination,” she said, adding that her company is currently at the table with Barton Malow, Wayne County, and Bedrock for one of the biggest contracts in their company history. “It takes a lot of work, time and money.”
She added that “it takes a lot to get to the table” and not everyone may win.
“However, Swint Logistics Group is just happy to have made it to the table, whether we win or not. It’s the know-how, the experience and the journey of getting to the table that makes it all worth it,” she said.
Photo provided by Cherri I. Harris