In 1964 people could do business on their word and seal the deal with a handshake. It was then that a young Danny Herman bought a 1946 needle nose Kenworth with a butterfly hood, and with the help of his wife Barbara, they started Danny Herman Trucking (DHT). Danny worked hard to build a reputation as a reliable carrier for his customers, always doing what he said he would, and his efforts paid off. The company still operates today on the same core values he started it with, including transparency, integrity, and honesty.
Taking care of that old Kenworth truck and his business, in 1967 Danny was able to buy a brand-new cabover Kenworth to run the 11 western states. In 1972 he bought a shorter wheelbase truck and started hauling out of Film Salvage in Burbank, CA to Film Salvage in Mountain City, TN. He took film that had been used to Tennessee to be “washed” so they could reuse it again on the next movie. And here I always thought what ended up on the “cutting room floor” got thrown away.
Danny fell in love with Tennessee, so he and Barbara bought some land in Mountain City in 1973 but didn’t move the family there until 1979. There were 15 trucks in the company when they made the move. Danny and Barbara had two kids – Joe and Kristy. Joe went in the truck with his dad a lot when he was very young, until it was time for him to start kindergarten, and then he would still go in the summer. He loved riding along with dad, and when he was just 13 years old, he started working in the shop.
After graduating from high school, Joe went to college but didn’t like it much. After college he got his license and drove team for about a year before going into the office. Joe moved to El Paso, TX in January 1991. He met his wife Lucia in Nogales, AZ and they were married on October 12, 1991. They have three children – Danny who is in the seminary, Priscilla who works in the administration side of their business, along with her husband Zach, who began working in the operations side of things in July 2021, and their youngest son Josh who is a student at East Tennessee State University. All the kids got to spend a lot of time with their grandfather Danny learning many valuable lessons.
Danny Herman was the kind of man who, if you told him something couldn’t be done, he would show you how it could. DHT was the first company to allow their trailers to cross the border, hauling auto parts out of Mexico. Today, about 65% of their business crosses the border daily using trailer interchanges with Mexican carriers. Along with their large Mountain City, TN location, they also have terminals in Lebanon (TN), Laredo and El Paso (TX), Nogales (AZ), Phillipsburg (MO), and Calexico, Otay Mesa and Fontana (CA). DHT takes pride in door-to-door service in and out of Mexico. Allowing their trailers to go in and out of Mexico saves time and prevents loss or damage.
In 1999 Danny and Barbara sold the business to Joe and Kristy, and in 2006 Joe bought Kristy’s share. Doing a lot for the communities they are in is important. This year, on Thanksgiving Day, between delivering meals to people who couldn’t get out and providing drive-thru service to those who could, the company provided 1,125 meals for the residents of Mountain City, TN.
The mission statement of DHT is: “We will operate our business in a manner that brings glory to God in all we do and with everyone we come in contact with.” On the back of each DHT trailer is one of four bible verses: LOVE John 3:16, TRUST Isaiah 40:31, FAITH Philippians 4:13, and HOPE Romans 15:13. And these simple but powerful verses really do touch people lives.
Joe told me about two women who shared their stories of seeing a scripture on the back of a DHT trailer. One lady was on her way to her brother’s funeral. Her brother’s name was Danny and her father’s name was Herman. When she saw the TRUST message of Isaiah 40:31, she saw it as a sign and knew her brother was okay. Another woman in Indianapolis had been on her lunch hour at a city park and got behind a DHT trailer on her way back to work. The message she saw was HOPE, and when she looked up the verse it literally saved her life, as she had planned to commit suicide that night when she got home.
Having been drivers themselves at some point, a lot of the office operations and maintenance workers have sat “between the steering wheel and the seat” so they understand what drivers go through out on the road. Joe has kept his CDL current but doesn’t get many opportunities to get out and drive. But, when he does get to haul a load, he enjoys getting out of the office and back behind the wheel, which is an “office” with an ever-changing view. Joe’s daughter Priscilla works in the administration side of the operation and one day she will be the third generation to carry on the family’s faith-based way of doing business.
Elbert Powell from El Paso, TX has been with the company for over 32 years, and they have many drivers who have 5-15 years of seniority. There is a training program with 35 trainers who go out with the new drivers for 300-400 hours before putting them in a truck on their own. The company has defined lanes to help get their drivers home as often as possible. And with 460 power units and 1,250 trailers, drivers drop and hook instead of sitting at docks.
Recently, Nationwide Logistics presented Danny Herman Trucking with their “Carrier of the Year” award. Priscilla was at that meeting, and during the presentation, the company was referred to as an outfit that “does what they say they are going to do.” This made Joe think of his father, who used to say the same thing – “Do what you say you’re going to do.” Joe gives a lot of credit to his mom who has been there from day one. “She has been the glue helping keep the company together for 57 years, and it wouldn’t be what it is today without her.” Leading by example, she still comes to work every day.
On December 31, 2020, Priscilla gave birth to the Herman’s second great grandchild – a little boy named Carter. Danny passed away a few days later on January 13, 2021. With his passing, a man of principle who treated people the way he wanted to be treated was gone. And although Danny Herman is missed, he left his legacy in good hands.