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February 23, 2018 1:15 PM, EST
Celadon’s Dave Chesterman Named Transport Topics Recruiter of the Year
Dave Chesterman and Sue Hensley Chesterman (left) and Hensley by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Dave Chesterman, vice president of recruiting for Celadon Group Inc., was named Transport Topics’ Recruiting Professional of the Year at the 2018 Recruitment & Retention Conference Feb. 23.

Chesterman, who has been with Celadon since 2002, was chosen over Rob Hatchett of Covenant Transport and Nick Williams of Paul Transportation. Chesterman admitted that the award was a surprise.

Celadon Logo

“I think this is an award to all of Celadon,” said Chesterman, who was attending the conference for the eighth time. “Competition is at an all-time high, so we can’t just focus on recruiting. We have to recruit and retain. It’s not going to get easier, which makes these events even more important.”

Chesterman leads a team of 17 recruiters at Celadon, which has experienced a decrease in driver turnover over the past year. In January 2017, the company had a 174% turnover rate. By January 2018, the rate had dropped to 86%.

In part, Chesterman credited Celadon’s improved retention to several executive changes that occurred in 2017. In October, the company named Thom Albrecht executive vice president and chief financial and strategy officer, promoted Chase Welsh to executive vice president of risk management and general counsel and hired Kathleen Ross to serve as an independent member of its board of directors.

Celadon’s leadership shuffles also included the naming of a new chairman as well as a new vice president of risk management and assistant general counsel. Chesterman said the new executive team has brought about a lot of good changes, including an increased focus on recruitment.

“Our past leadership didn’t have recruiting goals. We did a terrible job with retention,” Chesterman said. “Retention is our big focus.”

Another element in Celadon’s retention success is an attentiveness to new drivers, according to Chesterman. He said that, in the past, the company would hire new drivers and recruiting officers would never follow up with them once they hit the road. Now, recruiters stay connected to drivers for their first 90 days of service, making follow-up calls and inviting the hires to give feedback via surveys.

Chesterman stressed the importance of streamlining the process for young people to earn a commercial driver license. The trucking industry faces a shortage of 50,000 drivers. In addition to facing a dearth of drivers, the industry also is characterized by an aging workforce. Earlier at the conference, Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express Inc. and immediate past chairman of American Trucking Associations, said the median age of all U.S. workers is about 42 years, while the average age of private carrier workers is 52.

One solution to offsetting the shortage is creating a standardized CDL test for every state, Chesterman said.

“[We need to] have every state be on the same page, testing-wise,” Chesterman said. “[We need to] make it more convenient for people to get a CDL.”

Celadon ranks No. 33 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

Transport Topics Publisher Sue Hensley presented the award at the conference, which was co-hosted by Conversion Interactive Agency, American Trucking Associations and TT. This is the second year in which the award has been bestowed.