Roadway Express Inc., two years after it was spun off debt-free, finally has a chairman.

The board of the Akron, Ohio-based trucking company voted Michael W. Wickham chairman and chief executive to lead the venerable carrier into the next millennium.Mr. Wickham was president of Roadway prior to its spinoff into a stand-alone company in January 1996. Its former affiliate, Caliber System Inc., is being merged with Federal Express Corp.

He had been president from July 1990 until the spinoff. Mr. Wickham began his career with Roadway in South Kearny, N.J., in 1968. He was a terminal manager and district manager before being promoted to vice president for the Northeast division.

He next served as vice president of Roadway's Western division, then was promoted to vice president, rising to executive vice president for finance and administration. He remains chairman of the Motor Freight Carrier Association, which represents unionized long-haul trucking companies.

James D. Staley is succeeding Mr. Wickham as president and chief operating officer. He has been vice president of operations.

The change was long expected. Nearly all corporations have a chairman who is responsible for financial and strategic planning.

Day-to-day operations are usually handled by the company's president and Mr. Staley is from the operations side.

Also, J. Dawson Cunningham was elected executive vice president, chief financial officer and Treasurer while John D. Bronneck replaces Mr. Staley as vice president of operations.

Terry M. Gilbert replaces Mr. Bronneck as vice president for Roadway's Northeast division in Harrisburg, Pa., and Thomas V. Lopienski was named vice president for human resources.