Celadon Trucking announces new driver training school, 500 jobs

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Indianapolis is getting another school. Celadon Trucking announced plans Tuesday to open a new Quality Drivers School. The logistics company is hoping to employ 500 of its own graduates by the 2022.

Robert Lewis, 47, is going back to school to learn how to drive an eighteen-wheeler. We talked to him as he navigated his big rig in Indianapolis.

"A decent living. A stable living. A good life. I mean, truckers make decent money. There is a future in it," he said.

There certainly seems to be a future at Celadon. Monte Horst serves as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the trucking company, which ranks as one of North America's largest truckload carriers with annual revenue over $600 million.

"Our goal is to add 500 new Indiana jobs to the local economy by 2022," said Horst.

The Indianapolis logistics company started by 73-year-old Steve Russell in 1985 broke ground Tuesday on a new $5.7 million driver training facility to be completed by the fall. The 61,000 square-foot training facility will be located at 9050 E. 33rd St. near Celadon's Indianapolis headquarters.

It is designed to get more drivers on the road to address the major shortage in the industry and, just as importantly, to keep them there.

Scott Vogel is the Quality Drivers Manager at Celadon.

"It's just a tough time. The standards the government makes is hard and it's a career where people don't say, 'I want to grow up and do that,'" said Vogel.

Robert Lewis didn't. In fact, he is in the middle of a career change.

"I am currently employed now but not happy with my employment. I am not happy with my employment at all. It's nowhere basically," said Lewis.

So Lewis has opted for a career change, but there are more hurdles to getting behind the wheel than just driving.

Vogel says those other hurdles are just as crucial.

"We always drug test the guys the first week. We don't have as many failures as we thought we would. It's not an issue. Criminal checks is an issue," he said.

With millions of dollars invested in the rig and the load, having someone with a felony behind the wheel - according to Vogel - is not an option.

Those who clear the hurdles are in the driver's seat of an expanding company and industry.

Governor Mike Pence recognized the importance of the trucking industry to Indiana.

"Logistics is today, has been and will remain, a key to prosperity and jobs and opportunity for Hoosiers," said Pence.

That can mean good things if you happen to be in the right place. Sitting behind the wheel, Robert Lewis believes he is in a very good place.

"It's a good living. Going over the road and seeing the country," Lewis said.

Celadon Chairman of the Board Steve Russell believes to be successful you have to turn your liabilities into assets. He says he was told years ago that the best way to do that is lean into the pain. He says today's announcement is another example of that.

About the school

The driver's school will also have dorm rooms, a cafeteria, workout room, basketball/racquet court, Wi-Fi and a driver training road course.

The first class of driver training school candidates began last October. Based on the individual driver, the program offers a three- to five-week training curriculum, both in the classroom on the road. Celadon plans to bring in overlapping classes of driver trainees every two weeks.

Apply here.

Quick facts about Celadon Trucking:

The company has been recognized as one of the safest truckload carriers with multiple first-place finishes in the Truckload Carriers Association's National Fleet Safety Awards among carriers annually hauling more than 100 million miles. Employing more than 650 Hoosiers, Celadon has approximately 4,000 associates nationwide and operates roughly 3,000 tractors and 8,700 trailers. Its customer base includes many Fortune 500 shippers, including most major retailers and manufacturers.