October 11, 2018 4:45 PM, EDT

Spanish Trucking, Logistics Firm Builds North American Hub in Chattanooga

Grupo SeseGrupo Sesé

Grupo Sesé, a major Spanish trucking and logistics company that handles the freight of many major European companies including Volkswagen, came to Chattanooga, Tenn., in late 2012 to serve VW’s U.S. assembly plant.

But from Chattanooga’s growing logistics hub, Sese is building a North American hub to become a much bigger player in the U.S. logistics market.

After modest growth in its first four years, Sesé has targeted North America for growth in its trucking, warehousing and freight-forwarding business. The company hired Charles Oeleis, a 25-year industry veteran who previously was director of global accounts for UPS and head of business development for Carlile Transportation Systems, as the first North American CEO for Sesé.

Oeleis has brought a veteran team of former UPS managers to build the business from its office and warehouses in Chattanooga and San Antonio.

Grupo Sesé

“My goal as an organization is to get the right leadership with the right skill sets and the right personalities to run the organization,” Oeleis said. “I’m a big believer in growing an organization behind peope and the culture you build for people, and I believe I have the best global leadership team in the industry.”

Already, Sesé Logistics has doubled its North American business over the past year, growing the U.S. staff to about 110 employees. Oeleis expects to again double the business in the next few years. The company recently moved into its new 60,000-square-foot office and warehouse in Ooltewah, Tenn.

“Our goal is the grow-out in Chattanooga, not only for our transportation piece of the business but also with our distribution and warehouse,” Oeleis said during a grand opening celebration last weekend of the company’s facility on Production Lane, just off Interstate 75 in Ooltewah. “We will continue to grow here locally.”

Sesé is growing at a time when the industry’s main trade federation, American Trucking Associations, estimates there is nationwide shortage of at least 50,000 drivers. So far this year, the turnover rate of large truckload carriers has grown to nearly 98%, meaning most companies have to hire as many drivers every year as what they currently have on staff.

But unlike most trucking companies, Sesé has more drivers than trucks. Under the leadership of Randy Leach, another former UPS executive for 39 years who is chief operating officer for Sesé Logistics in North America, the company has recruited female drivers to make up more than 20% of its driving workforce — double the industry average. The company has established a special women’s area of its Chattanooga facility, and Leach said the company has added more female recruiters and worked to promote a more inclusive and supporting culture for drivers.

As a relatively small player in the U.S. trucking market of more than 3 million drivers, Sesé also is offering various mileage, pay, benefit and scheduling options to attract different longhaul drivers.

“Our benefits package, we believe, is one of the best in the industry,” Leach said. “We’ve worked hard to create a culture where people are comfortable and feel valued.”

One Sesé driver, Sharae Moore, has started S.H.E. Trucking Apparel, a clothing brand for women in trucking, and Moore has helped to recruit more female drivers through both that business and her work with groups such as Girls Inc. in Chattanooga.

Through its early work with Volkswagen and the automotive industry, much of Sesé shipping has been across the Mexican and Canadian border so the new trade agreement among the United States, Mexico and Canada that replaces NAFTA is key for the growing international business. But Jim Thibault, a 30-year UPS veteran hired at Sesé as chief technology and innovation officer, said the company is growing across all industry sectors and expanding into more warehousing, freight brokerage, distribution and other logistics sectors beyond just longhaul trucking.

“We have the advantages of being part of a global company, but we’re still fairly small and able to adapt to consumer and market needs here in North America,” Thibault said. “This is a huge industry with a lot of players, and we see real opportunities for growth.”

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