Apex Transit credits growth to a focus on drivers and a commitment to safety
The American Dream is no cliché for the Ivanov family. It’s playing out every day at Apex Transit where Stan Ivanov, his wife Marina and brother Serge have built a thriving freight company in Charlotte, NC. With nearly 100 employees and contractors, Apex keeps 65 trucks rolling across the central and eastern part of the country hauling auto parts and other general freight.
Stan and Serge, sons of Ukrainian immigrants, moved to the U.S. more than two decades ago. Similarly, Marina followed with her family from Ukraine a few years after. Her father became an owner-operator, a decision that would end up being the spark for Apex in 2009.
“I was in the construction industry around the time of the 2008 crash, I saw what my father-in-law was doing, and I became drawn to trucking,” says Stan, who now serves as Apex’s president. “I spent some time driving with my father-in-law, until I decided to purchase my own truck. We chose Volvo then. It’s been Volvo from the beginning.”
“My father owned a purple 2000 VNL and I can still remember the road trip I would take with him in the summer,” recalls Marina Ivanov, Apex’s operation manager. “When we thought about creating Apex, he said it was a difficult industry. I know he didn’t want us to go through the challenges that he did, but he did give us his blessing. And it’s worked, this industry has helped us live the American dream. We don't take this opportunity lightly.”
Focused from the beginning
The Ivanov’s have been intentional in every aspect of Apex Transit’s development since day one. In 2013 their attention to detail was already apparent, as they were branding the company.
“We're all sitting there trying to come up with a name,” remembers Marina. “There was something about Apex that kept bringing us back. Stan had already envisioned the logo being very clean. We ultimately decided we loved Apex Transit. We wanted the name to represent and reflect our vision for the company. Apex strives to set itself apart from all the other trucking companies. We want to be the best in the industry and bring our family values to every customer we service.”
"We wanted the name to represent and reflect our vision for the company. Apex strives to set itself apart from all the other trucking companies. We want to be the best in the industry and bring our family values to every customer we service."
MARINA IVANOV – CO-FOUNDER/COO APEX TRANSIT
They also recognized that the equipment they chose would be a representation of their new company. Their first truck purchase was a used Volvo VNL sleeper.
“From the first day we’ve been very big on image,” says Stan. “These trucks show that we care about our equipment and that's going to show our customers that we care about them as well.”
Safety first, driver focused
The Ivanov’s and the rest of the Apex management team pride themselves on prioritizing the needs of the drivers. Their own recent history in the driver’s seat makes them keenly aware of how important the men and women behind the wheel are to the company.
“I’m the one that makes the final decision on truck specs. I’m always going to spec the units with safety being the first priority, but they are also specced for the driver’s comfort…because I was a driver myself,” Stan Ivanov says.
“I’m the one that makes the final decision on truck specs. I’m always going to spec the units with safety being the first priority, but they are also specced for the driver’s comfort…because I was a driver myself.”
STAN IVANOV – PRESIDENT/CO-FOUNDER, APEX TRANSIT
“It’s the little things, like the addition of heated and cooled seats. So, whether the drivers are up north or down in Texas, they are comfortable and they love it,” adds Marina. “They appreciate those little perks. Stan knows what it's like to sit in a truck for 11 hours to drive. He knows that if he can make the driver more comfortable, he or she will be safer and more well-rested on the road.”
Safety is the core value at Apex. Before onboarding all drivers must qualify based on a safety review. Once they are onboarded, they have an opportunity to participate in the company’s weekly safety bonus program. The safety bonus program makes the drivers accountable for their own behaviors and rewards them for safe driving. The commitment to driver satisfaction and safety has virtually eliminated turnover.
“The culture here is phenomenal. Everybody is easy to work with, easy to get along with. We have a lot of fun,” shares Apex Transit driver Vindal Ogletree. “They believe in safety and family first. Getting the driver what he needs out here on the road.”
Ogletree joined Apex Transit nearly two years ago and says he’s never worked for a better operation. As a 20-year veteran trucker he’s operated nearly all makes and models, but his new VNL 760 has quickly become his favorite.
“I've been in a Volvo for so long now, that's what I'm used to,” says Ogletree. “Me trying to go into another truck right now is just virtually impossible, especially if it doesn't have dynamic steering.”
"I've been in a Volvo for so long now, that's what I'm used to. Me trying to go into another truck right now is just virtually impossible, especially if it doesn't have dynamic steering."
VINDAL OGLETREE – DRIVER, APEX TRANSIT
A difference maker
Volvo Dynamic Steering (VDS) has become standard in all new truck orders at Apex Transit. The company is sold on VDS for its ability to reduce strain on drivers and make them safer in everyday situations as well as emergencies.
“Our drivers love Volvo Dynamic Steering. They actually are able to concentrate on the environment around them instead of fighting the steering wheel all the time,” says Caroline Eggert, safety director at Apex Transit.
"Our drivers love Volvo Dynamic Steering. They actually are able to concentrate on the environment around them instead of fighting the steering wheel all the time."
CAROLINE EGGERT –SAFETY DIRECTOR, APEX TRANSIT
“We’ve had two blowouts on units equipped with dynamic steering. These units were also equipped with inward and outward facing cameras. When those events happened, we could watch the drivers’ reactions. In both cases the driver-maintained control of the unit beautifully and moved off to the side of the road without any type of incident.”
In addition to VDS, Apex values the additional safety features that come standard in their VNL sleepers. From the lane departure warning system down to the convenient control placements on the wraparound dash, Apex and its drivers recognize Volvo’s commitment to safety.
“We cannot take shortcuts to safety because it's everything. It's our livelihood and it's the lives of people on the road. I want to go to sleep knowing that I've done everything I can if anything happens. That internal peace, that's what Volvo gives us,” notes Marina. “We feel comfortable when we spec our trucks with Volvo Dynamic Steering, with blind side detection, and all of the other features that go into making it the safest truck, we believe, on the road.”
Making an impact
A decade of building a solid operation at Apex provided many lessons for Marina Ivanov. Seeing her role continue to expand and watching the contributions of safety director Caroline Eggert, convinced Marina that it was time to get involved in the broader issues facing the trucking industry.
“I know what diversity can do for a company. We started off with just myself, my husband and his brother. I got to see how important my perspective and my ideas could be in helping this company become what it is. Diversity of opinions and voices are crucial,” says Marina. “Having more women in the industry would thrill me. We have daughters and they should be able to see themselves running this company one day and thriving. My advice to young women considering the trucking industry would be to stay strong and know your power. You have a lot to add. Just because this is traditionally a man's world, doesn't mean that you are not valuable in it. Be bold, the world needs your voice.”
“My advice to young women considering the trucking industry would be to stay strong and know your power. You have a lot to add. Just because this is traditionally a man's world, doesn't mean that you are not valuable in it. Be bold, the world needs your voice.”
MARINA IVANOV – COO/CO-FOUNDER, APEX TRANSIT
In their home state, Marina sits on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Trucking Association and is on the advisory board of the North Carolina’s Women-in-Trucking Council.
Nationally she’s also very active with the American Trucking Association. Recently her efforts have been focused on getting new legislation passed to create more truck parking. Currently there are eleven trucks on the road for every available overnight parking slot and truck drivers spend an average of 45 minutes per day looking for a parking space. The proposed bill is meant to be an important starting point in addressing the need.
The bill also aims to create safer overnight parking. Marina sees this as a way to help attract more women to the trucking industry. “Women currently make up 6.3% of the trucking industry, however if we can increase that number to 8.9%, it can eliminate the driver shortage. If all female drivers feel safe when they have to park for their hours-of-service requirements they’ll be more likely to choose driving as a career. We strongly believe that this can be accomplished through this parking bill.”
Looking to the future
The growing fleet and responsibilities offer a very different set of challenges than the ones they began with more than 10 years ago. Walking across the lot on a Monday morning watching drivers prepare to head out for the week, Stan Ivanov takes a moment to reflect, “I definitely have a sense of pride. It’s hard to see it when you are in the day-to-day operations, but occasionally we can step back for a moment to reflect on all the hard work and sacrifices that have been made. Together we’ve built an incredible company, and I am grateful to everyone who has been part of this journey.”
Marina Ivanov agrees and sees a bright future ahead for the team at Apex Transit, “For us, this is our dream. Plan B is not an option.”
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