5 Black Leaders That Disrupted the Logistics Industry.

5 Black Leaders That Disrupted the Logistics Industry.

Veho's on a mission to disrupt the logistics industry but we couldn't have made it this far without some inspiring people who were at the forefront of making the logistics industry what it is today. Throughout history, remarkable black leaders have disrupted the status quo and introduced new innovations to the world of logistics. In celebration of Black History Month, we're shining a light on their achievements and how they've forged the path for companies like ours today.

Frederick McKinley Jones

In 1940, Jones would patent a mobile refrigeration system that would change the logistics industry forever. Born in 1893, Fredrick McKinley Jones invented mobile refrigeration units to be attached to trucks and survive long, rough journeys.

Before his invention, the industry standard consisted of using ice and salt to ensure perishables stayed fresh while being transported across long distances. This system, of course, was not sustainable and massively inefficient. His invention revolutionized the transport of food and other perishables, paving the way for a new age of logistics and supply chain management. His contribution was recognized with an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

On the back of his invention, Jones and a business partner founded Thermo King Corporation to produce and sell mobile refrigeration units, with the company becoming a commercial success. By 1949, it reported an annual revenues of $3 million, and later in 1997, Thermo King controlled approximately half of the global transport refrigeration market, prior to being acquired for $2.56bn by Ingersol Rand. The impact of Jones' legacy continues to live on, as Thermo King Corporation remains the world's leader in transport refrigeration and heating solutions for trucks, trailers, shipping containers, and buses.

Edwina Justus

Born in 1943, Justus is a pioneer who became the first African American woman train engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad. She paved the way for a new generation of Black professionals to revolutionize the railway logistics industry.

Once she finished her education, Justus' first application to Union Pacific was rejected on account of her race and gender. Despite adversity, Justus made her way into the company as a traction motor clerk then applied for an engineering position a few years later, which she received! After retiring in 1998, Justus' achievements were further recognized by Pacific Union at the Pacific Union Museum in an exhibition opened in 2016 titled - “Move Over, Sir: Women Working on the Railroad.”

Andrew Beard

After spending the first 15 years of his life in slavery, Andrew Beard became an influential investor with multiple patents under his belt throughout his life - all without any formal education. His primary invention was the first automatic railroad car coupler, which considerably reduced injuries to railroad workers while also maximizing speed and efficiency in railway transportation.

The coupler is the system that enables railway vehicles such as locomotives and passenger coaches to be connected. Before his invention, this system was operated manually, meaning that railroad workers would have to get into dangerous positions, often losing fingers and limbs when attempting to hook railway vehicles together. Beard himself lost a leg this way.

His achievements got him a spot in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The invention was so successful that legislation was passed in 1887, making it illegal to operate without it.

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy was an illustrious inventor and mechanical engineer whose innovations helped make railway transportation more efficient. In 1872, he created the first engine lubrication device, which eradicated the need for trains to stop on long journeys. This made the transport of goods more efficient and less costly.

He was born in Canada to parents that had been slaves before fleeing north. Despite receiving world-class training in mechanical engineering in Scotland, McCoy struggled to find work in the United States due to racial barriers. Many roles were still not available for Black people, which led McCoy to take a position as a fireman in Michigan. However, he continued to innovate throughout his career.

Later on, transatlantic ships and factory machinery also started using his remarkable automatic lubrication system. McCoy and his achievements are also recognized by the National Inventions Hall of Fame. Interestingly, the saying ‘the real McCoy' comes from Elijah. Many companies grew weary of cheap alternatives and would instead ask for ‘the real McCoy.'

Mary Fields

Mary was the first Black woman to become a U.S. Postal Service star route mail carrier. Star routes were contracts hired out privately as part of new legislation back in 1845 to deliver mail in areas too sparsely populated to warrant an official mail route. They were called star routes because these mail carriers would have to commit to delivering mail quickly and safely.

Delivering mail on these remote routes was dangerous due to highwaymen and thieves. This, of course, didn't stop Mary Fields. She received a contract in 1895 to deliver mail between Cascade and St. Peter's Mission in Montana, a famously dangerous and challenging route. Over the years, she grew physically stronger and developed her defense skills to deliver mail safely for eight years. Her dedication and professionalism made her famous. For instance, she is known to be the only woman to be authorized to drink in local bars in Cascade at the time.

There are many accounts and legends surrounding Mary Fields, including fending off a pack of wolves from getting to a food shipment. Her achievements paved the way for more Black Americans to take on more contracts and contribute to mail distribution across the country. Star routes have now been disbanded due to corruption at a higher level, but nevertheless Mary Fields opened doors for black mail carriers that has landed her in history books.

Veho Celebrates Black History Month

At Veho, we're proud to celebrate Black History Month. We're committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce where people feel like they belong and are celebrated at work.


Frederik Jones: National Inventors Hall of Fame | USDA

Edwina Justus: Blackpast.org | Smart-Union

Andrew Beard: Invent | Thoughtco

Elijah McCoy: Invent | Biography

Mary Fields: History.com | Britannica

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