Born and raised in Bloomingdale, a suburb of Savannah, GA, Brandie Fuller says she never envisioned a career in the trucking industry. Yet her family had deep ties to Great Dane Trailers, with two uncles at one time employed by the trailer manufacturer’s then main assembly plant located almost right alongside the Savannah River.
But following her graduation from Georgia Southern University, she received a job offer to work in Great Dane’s advertising department, headed up by Charles Henry—an industry legend in his own right.
“I was trying to get my feet wet in the business world, so I said ‘sure, I’ll do this,’” Fuller explains. “It was just Charles and I at the time, so for two years I learned everything I could about trailers with Charles as my mentor.”
When Henry retired, Great Dane named Fuller the head of the advertising department and later made her the company’s first female vice president as well as one of its youngest, at age 31. “That was a big moment for me. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifice,” she says.
Today, with nearly 20 years at Great Dane under her belt, Fuller credits her willingness to “dive in and get my hands dirty” for success.
“There wasn’t a book to teach me about trailers; I had to go out on the factory floor and into the engineering department to learn about them,” she says. “I had to build relationships in both manufacturing and sales and really prove myself as the only female among all male bosses.”
Fuller emphasizes that she stayed long term at Great Dane because of what she calls its “family environment,” where everyone—from production worker to vice president—knows one another and their kids. “It’s like a second family,” she notes. “The mantra I live by is that if you dread going to work, you need to find something else to do.”
Fuller adds that the constant challenges posed by the trailer business allowed her to grow her skill set. “I’ve never been stuck doing the same thing,” she points out. “I recognized early on that I wouldn’t get that freedom, the flexibility to move around different areas of the operation, and family-type environment at a traditional Fortune 500 company.”
As to lessons learned from her career in the trailer industry, Fuller offers this advice: Never be afraid to get your hands dirty, and don’t stop focusing on self-development.
“You need to be passionate about what you do,” she stresses. “I love the transportation industry and what we [Great Dane] do within it; we bring the world to everyone—from food, to clothes, to building materials.”
Fuller also emphasizes that women in transportation need to be confident in their skills, too, and be ready to stand their ground. “We’re more than capable of success in this industry,” she says. “But it’s also important in this business to remember no level is better than any other. I’ve got the easy part: I’m not building the trailers, repairing them, or hauling them cross-country. So I take great interest in what they do and never think I’m better than they are. That’s the best way to approach this industry.”