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FreightWaves Haul of Fame: CX Roberson was sold to Celadon

From frying pan into fire when purchased

A CX Roberson patch. (Dale Branch Collection)

CX Roberson was the dry van division of Roberson Transportation Companies, which was located in Mahomet, Illinois. CX Roberson was founded in 1984, but the Roberson family of companies began in 1946, when Pre-Fab Transit was established by Roy Roberson and Stanley Albert. The company transported prefabricated houses, then extended the business to hauling building materials, such as ceiling tiles.

Roy Roberson’s son Roger purchased half of the company in 1975, then completed the purchase of the remainder of the company in 1981. He formed a holding company the same year. The holding company, Roberson Transportation Companies, was the umbrella company for CX Roberson, the dry van division; PFT, the flatbed division; and Worldwide Logistics Solutions. 

For its first half-century, Roberson Transportation was based in Farmer City, Illinois, but in 1995, Roger Roberson announced the headquarters would move to Mahomet. The new office opened in March 1997.

CX Roberson had a number of dedicated contract customers, including Deere & Company, Trane,  Ingersoll Rand, Carrier Corp., York International and Caterpillar. The company did well and had several profitable years. Unfortunately, in the late 1990s/early 2000s rising costs began to plague the mid-sized carrier and it struggled to stay afloat. Equipment costs rose, as did insurance premiums. Fuel costs and driver compensation also rose. The cost increases, coupled with a slowing economy in the early 2000s, made selling an attractive option. 

According to Roberson Transportation, its dry van division generated $45 million in gross revenue in 2004.

A CX Roberson tractor-trailer.
A CX Roberson tractor-trailer.

In mid-January 2005, it was announced that Celadon Group had acquired CX Roberson for $22.7 million. Celadon gained 370 tractors and 670 dry van trailers in the acquisition. At that time, CX Roberson employed approximately 450 drivers, and of these, approximately 320 were offered employment at Celadon. However, drivers had no warning of the acquisition, and many were left stranded at truck stops with no access to funds for fuel. (Similarly, when Celadon declared bankruptcy in December 2019, many of its drivers were also left stranded.) 

Shortly after the CX Roberson sale to Celadon, Annett Holdings Inc. of Des Moines, Iowa, acquired Roberson’s PFT flatbed trucking division and Worldwide Logistics Solutions division. At the time of the purchase Annett Holdings was the nation’s largest privately held flatbed carrier.

Impact on employees

At the time the pieces of Roberson Transportation were bought, Griffin said the 98 people who worked for the PFT and Worldwide Logistics Solutions divisions in Mahomet would be retained by Annett. “All those functions will continue to operate here,” he said at the time.

He also announced that the 13 employees who worked for the CX division would be retained by Celadon for the time being, but that they might be offered positions in Indianapolis (where Celadon was headquarters) during the next 60 to 90 days. He also said that those not offered positions by Celadon might be hired by Annett in Mahomet. However, 19 other employees who worked in administrative functions for PFT and CX Roberson were told they would not be retained.

A joint statement from Roberson and Annett Holdings said Griffin would continue as president of Worldwide Logistics Solutions at the Mahomet office.

Roberson Transportation Companies was a major employer in Mahomet. In July 2005, company officials said Roberson employed 163. Additionally, the company had about 1,150 drivers; about 330 of the drivers were owner-operators and the remainder were company drivers.

In 2004 Roberson Transportation Companies had cut 31 non-driving jobs, citing insufficient revenue. At the time, Griffin said the trucking industry was dealing with increased fuel costs and new hours-of-service regulations for drivers.

Commenting on the sale at the time, Griffin said the timing seemed right for a sale. “[Annett Holdings President] Tim Annett and I had talked several years ago about this opportunity, and since then, this marketplace has seen significant consolidation,” Griffin said. “About 14,000 carriers have either been acquired or gone out of business the last three years.”

A TMC Transportation flatbed. TMC is one of Annett Holdings' companies. (Photo: TMC Transportation)
A TMC Transportation flatbed. TMC is one of Annett Holdings’ companies. (Photo: TMC Transportation)

Annett Holdings

Annett Holdings, which was founded in 1972, has several divisions, including Des Moines-based TMC Transportation, which hauls freight through the eastern two-thirds of the United States.

Annett also owned four flatbed truckload carriers that specialized in hauling steel and building materials at the time of the acquisitions. It expanded its business with the purchase of PFT Roberson and WLS Roberson, a subsidiary that provided supply chain consulting, freight brokerage, dedicated contract carriage and warehousing services. More than 16 years after the acquisitions, PFT Roberson, Inc. is a key subsidiary of Annett Holdings.

Celedon shuttered operations one year ago.
A Celadon truck sits after the company’s shutdown. (Photo: Jonathan Smith/FreightWaves)


Celadon Group, which was based in Indianapolis, was one of the top 10 truckload carriers in North America when it purchased CX Roberson. 

As reported in great deal by FreightWaves, Celadon declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2019. A recent FreightWaves Haul of Fame article reviewed the bankruptcy and its consequences.  

Scott Mall

Scott Mall serves as Managing Editor of FreightWaves Classics. He writes articles for the website, edits the SONAR Daily Watch series, marketing material for FreightWaves and a variety of FreightWaves special projects. Mall’s career spans 45 years in public relations, marketing and communications for Fortune 500 corporations, international non-profits, public relations agencies and government agencies.