From left NPTC President and CEO Gary Petty 2016 top CTP graduate Joe Sponseller Fleet Owner Senior Editor Aaron Marsh and Mari Roberts board chairman of the NPTC Institute Photo courtesy NPTCDan Ledbetter

From left: NPTC President and CEO Gary Petty, 2016 top CTP graduate Joe Sponseller, Fleet Owner Senior Editor Aaron Marsh, and Mari Roberts, board chairman of the NPTC Institute. (Photo courtesy NPTC/Dan Ledbetter)

Example to note: Dean Foods' Joe Sponseller is NPTC's top CTP grad

As we at Fleet Owner have done for years, we're proud once again to recognize the top graduate of the National Private Truck Council's Certified Transportation Professional (CTP) program. This year's top grad, Joe Sponseller of Dean Foods, presents a notable example for the trucking, transportation and logistics industries.

Because it's talked about all the time across these industries: there's an ongoing discussion of how to attract young talent and the younger generations — and keep them. One of the things that's suggested is to use technology more and be more data-driven, because that will appeal to young professionals who've grown up with technology. Some have suggested trying to expose students to transportation and logistics earlier on so they're more familiar with it, and also offering a strong path for career development.

This year's top grad is something of a confirmation: Yes, all those things can work, and the CTP program can be part of that. Joe is 26 and graduated four years ago from St. Ambrose University in Iowa. He played volleyball through college and back when he was growing up in Gurnee, IL, just north of Chicago.

But at St. Ambrose, he worked over the summers and during some breaks for a beverage distribution company, loading trucks at night and riding along as an assistant with drivers on their routes. That gave him a better understanding of the distribution business, and when he finished college as a general business graduate, he applied and got a job working for a dairy foods producer and distributor, Dean Foods and Dean Transportation, working in the company's Franklin Park, IL, office just outside Chicago.

And he's been with Dean ever since. A coworker of his had gone through the CTP program and had good things to say about it, and his bosses asked Joe if he'd like to take the course as well. Joe says he's very glad he took the opportunity.

He says it opened his eyes to the many business facets of transportation, trucking, fleet and logistics. He got a chance to network with and learn from others taking the program, many with more experience in these industries, and from all kinds of different businesses. Joe notes that he's realized transportation and logistics have changed significantly in recent years through the use of technology, but also how much more they could change in the years to come by utilizing that technology to its fullest potential.

And what's the goal of all that? To make business more efficient and make the drivers' lives easier, Joe says. He explains that that's what it comes down to: "How can we make their day more efficient, and how can we make their lives easier?" Working in data and logistics support, Joe is now involved in a large project at Dean as the company is upgrading telematics systems across its 4,800 trucks.

As we often hear with the top grads of this program, Joe didn't expect to be at the head of the class; he remembers telling people back at Dean that he just was hoping to pass, maybe do okay. He did a little better than that — congratulations to NPTC's 2016 top CTP graduate, Joe Sponseller.

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