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Celadon keeps on truckin’ despite driver shortage

June 20, 2015

Since Paul Will joined Celadon Group Inc. in 1993 as controller, the Indianapolis-based trucking company has grown its revenue from $60 million to a projected $1 billion this year. Will, a 48-year-old Hoosier native and 1988 Indiana University graduate, took over for CEO Steve Russell in 2012 and has steered the company to double-digit-percentage annual revenue growth. But Will continues to combat driver shortage and turnover, an issue common to the industry.

will-rop-celadon02-15col.jpg Will (IBJ file photo)

IBJ: How many drivers does Celadon have?

WILL: 5,000—and growing.

IBJ: What’s the turnover rate?

WILL: With over-the-road drivers, it’s typically 100 percent, which is kind of daunting. Half the fleet has 200-percent turnover, and that makes it really tough. And the turnover and driver shortage is only going to get worse, because, as the population grows, there is more need to move more products. And you have an aging driver population with a lot of baby boomer drivers.

IBJ: What’s the average annual salary of a Celadon driver?

WILL: It depends on how hard they want to work. They can make a pretty good living, typically between $40,000 and $42,000, but on up to $50,000.

IBJ: How big of an issue is the driver shortage?

WILL: It’s a big concern, but we’re also concerned about regulatory constraints, highway infrastructure issues, fuel prices and the cost of business increases, mechanical reliability of the trucks, and on and on.

IBJ: What is Celadon doing to attack the driver shortage?

WILL: We’ve invested $7.5 million in a school on the east side of Indianapolis to offer better training, and we only have 40-percent turnover among drivers in that program. We’ve put a real focus on health and wellness, bringing in people to talk to our drivers about things like diet and exercise. Twenty-six times around a truck and trailer is a mile, and we let our drivers know that getting some exercise like walking or jogging around the truck is a good thing.

We’ve opened a medical center at our Indianapolis campus that allows drivers to come in and get a wide range of medical care at no charge. That helps them get the care they need without a disruption to their productivity. We’ve started Weight Watchers, smoking cessation and other wellness programs.

We’ve also tried to make the truck [cabs] as comfortable as possible and outfit them so they encourage healthy lifestyles. They’re outfitted with mini-fridges and an inverter which allows a microwave, coffeepot and TV to be used inside. We teach, for instance, that going to Walmart and buying fresh fruits and vegetables is healthier and cheaper than eating fast food. It also gives our drivers some of the creature comforts they may otherwise miss when they’re on the road.•

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