CCJ Innovator of the Year: Customer service leads the way for Indianapolis-based Celadon

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Updated Feb 9, 2017


In many respects, Celadon’s office performs the same functions as all other transportation companies, just on the major carrier’s larger scale. The company’s East Indianapolis campus has the familiar trappings for safety, information systems, human resources and more.

Step inside the large open room that belongs to the customer service department, however, and Celadon (CCJ Top 250, No. 39) looks more like a large investment bank than a trucking operation. The sights, sounds and activities that take place here resemble a Wall Street trading floor.

Highly trained college-educated analysts are seated in long rows of desks and using advanced software to make complex split-second decisions. Computer monitors span overhead, displaying scorecards and other important metrics.

Occasionally a bell rings, and applause quickly follows. The sound means that someone has received a good scorecard or solicited and won a load from a customer, among other successes, says Lauren Howard, vice president of customer service.

The analysts are not grouped traditionally by geographic region or equipment types like dry van, refrigerated or flatbed. Rather, they are organized into specialized teams for freight commodities that include food and beverage, automotive, manufacturing, home goods and retail.

“You have to reflect back and be really proud of what has been accomplished.”
– Paul Will, president and CEO

Each team has specialists in customer relationships, freight analysis, service, and utilization. They frequently engage in team discussions on the floor and participate in weekly training meetings to learn how to drive better results.

Analysts can advance from junior analysts to senior analysts, assistant managers, managers and directors. This is not how a customer service department in transportation is supposed to work – at least not by conventional wisdom. Celadon started to break this mold five years ago by developing new software tools and changing job responsibilities to achieve its vision for a new culture of service.

CCJ selected Celadon as its 2015 Innovator of the Year for these efforts. The company has improved its performance significantly in key areas such as operating ratio, revenue and utilization. Perhaps just as importantly, Celadon is able to recruit and retain talented young workers for trucking careers.

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About the award

Commercial Carrier Journal’s editors recognize innovators throughout the year and select one for special recognition as Innovator of the Year. Innovators considered for the current award were those recognized in the magazine in 2014.

Innovation in any aspect of the operation is eligible for recognition. To qualify, the carrier must operate at least 10 power units in Classes 3-8 and maintain a satisfactory safety rating, if rated. Selection of innovators for recognition is at the sole discretion of CCJ’s editors.

This year’s award was announced and presented at the CCJ Innovators Summit, a networking event for current and previously recognized innovators held Feb. 4-6 at the Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. Representatives of innovative trucking operations updated one another on their initiatives.

The CCJ Innovators program is sponsored by Freightliner Trucks, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, PeopleNet and Shell Lubricants. For more information on the program and links to previously recognized innovators or to fill out the online nomination form, go to or contact Jeff Crissey, CCJ editor, at 800-633-5953.