Spanish trucking, logistics firm builds North American hub in Chattanooga

Spanish trucking, logistics firm builds North American hub in Chattanooga

October 7th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Sese Logistics displayed its truck fleet during a recent celebration of the company's new Chattanooga complex in Ooltewah.

Photo by Dave Flessner /Times Free Press.

Grupo Sese, a major Spanish trucking and logistics company that handles the freight of many major European companies including Volkswagen, came to Chattanooga 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, Sese has targeted North America for growth in its trucking, warehousing and freight forwarding business. The company hired Charles Oeleis, a 25-year trucking 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 chief executive for Sese.

Company at a glance

Parent company: Grupo Sese

U.S. company: Sese’ Logistics US

Headquarters: Zaragoza, Spain

Founded: 1965

Ownership: Private

Staff: Over 8,000 employees in 15 countries

Services: Transport, warehousing and logistics

Vehicles: More than 2,000 vehicles

U.S. facilities: Chattanooga and San Antonio, Texas

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

"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, Sese 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.

"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 new facility on Production Lane, just off Interstate 75 in Ooltewah. "We will continue to grow here locally."

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

But unlike most trucking companies, Sese currently has more drivers than trucks. Under the leadership of Randy Leach, another former UPS executive for 39 years who is now chief operating officer for Sese Logistics in North America, the company has recruited female drivers to comprise more than 20 percent 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.

From right, Charles Oeleis, chief executive officer, Randy Leach, chief operating officer and Jim Thibault, chief technology officer for Sese Logistics.

From right, Charles Oeleis, chief executive officer, Randy...

Photo by Dave Flessner /Times Free Press.

As a relatively small player in the U.S. trucking market of over 3 million drivers, Sese also is offering various mileage, pay, benefit and scheduling options to attract different long-haul 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 of Sese's drivers, 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 the Sese's shipping has been across the Mexican and Canadian border so the new U.S. trade agreement between 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 Sese as its chief technology and innovation officer, said the company is growing across all industry sectors and is expanding into more warehousing, freight brokerage, distribution and other logistics sectors beyond just long-haul 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."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.