For Kavkaz Express, culture is the key to hard-driving success
When trucking company leaders speak of excellence, they never fail to mention their firm’s ability to keep their customers satisfied, as well they should. Brokers and shippers keep long haul trucking companies on the road and deserve to get great results from the ones they hire. When Ross Shamanov founded Kavkaz Express in 2012, he did so because there were customers that other companies weren’t satisfying: their drivers.
“He created the company based on the understanding that drivers were not getting the quality of services that he believed they needed,” company COO Nermin Bedak told BOSS. “So he built a company based on the core principle that the driver is our client before the shipper or the broker.”
At the time, KE consisted of one truck. Today, KE employs 650+ owner-operators and company drivers, 150 dispatchers and office staff, and operates six locations across the country. They offer a complete suite of expedited freight and trucking solutions, and handle both dry and temperature-controlled cargo. In addition to their full truckload, expedited, and drop and hook freight capabilities, they offer third party logistics services.
In the past two years alone they’ve grown about 300%. “We’re here to make sure that everyone that deals with Kavkaz — internally and externally — is satisfied, whether it's from a service perspective or the pay our workers rightly deserve to receive,” Bedak said. That ethic helped to build KE into a $200 million enterprise, and there’s more growth ahead.
KE’s management structure is designed to be interactive and approachable. “As leadership we understand that we have to be coached on a daily basis, and sometimes the best way to do that is to be entrenched with your drivers,” he explained. “You're learning from their experiences, which you then absorb and apply to a bigger picture where it benefits the company as a whole.”
Low pay and tough working conditions have plagued the long-haul sector of the industry for decades. With turnover rates exceeding 90%, the challenge of keeping good, well-qualified drivers can be immense. But while there’s lots of concern about a current driver shortage, Bedak sees no evidence of that at KE. “In my opinion there's no lack of drivers. There’s a lack of respect toward them,” he said.
The first step in establishing that respect is to offer good wages in an organization that listens and attends to their drivers’ needs. “We have been fortunate enough to gain drivers at an unprecedented rate because we pay top dollar. We don't sugarcoat things and we’re extremely transparent with the contracts we sign.”
Drivers get an upfront look at the contracts and the available lanes (regularly scheduled routes) so they can understand the behind-the-scenes costs per mile, whether they are owner-operators or company drivers. Owner-operators are paid based on gross receipts rather than net, and KE openly shares rate confirmations with them. And when they need to find new equipment, KE’s fleet managers are there to help.
For company drivers, KE’s pledge to provide respectable working conditions includes a fleet of safe, new equipment. “When it comes to equipment, we refuse to have anything more than three years of age in our fleet,” Bedak stressed. That’s backed up by a benefits package that covers 50% of health insurance costs, including vision and dental. All drivers are strongly urged to get a biannual physical checkup, too.
“As far as drivers go, if you take care of them, they will come,” he said, adding he makes sure his truckers are paid before anybody else in the company. “We want to make sure that they're taken care of and then everything else will come accordingly. The industry stigma that truckers sometimes get shortchanged, underpaid, or not paid on time is not something that is practiced or allowed in our company.”
Because they hire the best drivers on the road, brokers and shippers are comfortable keeping them busy with top-paying loads; KE’s demonstrated success rate, 24/7 dispatch team, robust safety and compliance team, and detailed reporting and real-time satellite tracking keep them at the top of everyone’s go-to lists. Their warehousing solutions range from providing space to complete solutions to improve inventory efficiency and keep pace with changing customer demands.
Because premium service should call down premium rates, KE’s rates are higher than their competition. The way Bedak sees it, customers are willing to pay not just for moving cargo, but for KE’s transparency. “They know where their loads are, who is driving, and we even give the driver’s phone number when it’s requested. They get their information right off the bat, and they trust us with more loads.”
According to Bedak, their maintenance and repair organization is one of the strictest in the long-haul space. In addition to rigorously maintaining their fleet, KE puts owner-operators’ feet to the fire with a 250-point inspection of their truck and trailer before they agree to hire them. Every owner-operator and company truck is inspected quarterly in addition to routine pre-trip inspections. Certified professional mechanics and bodywork specialists sign off on every inspection before any truck hits the road.
Organizationally, KE prides itself on maintaining what Bedak calls an “immigrant culture,” that is undeniably the key to their success. “My family came here with $25 in their pocket. We had to roll our sleeves up, work hard, work with like-minded individuals, dedicate ourselves to the craft, get educated, get accustomed to a new culture,” he said. “We’re building a platform for new generations to come in and have an opportunity that may not exist elsewhere.”
Giving back is central to KE’s corporate values. When COVID arrived, drivers had to stay on the road, but the services they depend on during the long trips were shuttered. KE reached out to industry contacts to keep truck stops open, and distributed meals to truckers and frontline healthcare workers across the country. “That’s how Kavkaz Cares started,” Bedak recalled. From supporting Make-A-Wish to sponsoring charity soccer tournaments and supporting scholarships, an important part of their identity is giving back.
“The American Dream still exists. We are a byproduct of that dream, with hard work and extreme determination,” he said. “We want to make sure we can bring up the people around us, and to support the community as proactively as possible. We want to have open doors to any multiethnic, multicultural individual or community to use their skills to grow a career with us.”
Good pay, honesty, and caring — on top of delivering excellent performance for their clientele — keeps Kavkaz Express at the top of the field. “God bless these individuals on the roads three and a half weeks out of a four-week month, on the road without seeing their families, sacrificing a lot — and probably their health for the next 20 years — to bring the goods to the tables of everyday Americans,” Bedak said. Amen to that.
Today Kavkaz Express is recognized as a successful and fast-growing transportation company that serves customers within the USA and Canada.
Founded in 2012 with a single truck on the fleet, Kavkaz Express LLC has expanded and became one of the leaders in the industry operating with over 400 units, three locations and multiple warehouses.
From day one Kavkaz Express LLC has prioritized the success of its partners and employees and therefore, has embraced one fundamental rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself.
Core values and principles of our company are based on this foundation.
Reefer, DryVan or Stepdeck, we got you covered. Being a truck driver for five years himself, the founder of Kavkaz Express, LLC knows the business inside-out.
With dedication, hard work and compassion, he managed to build a strong and trustworthy name.
1400 S Wolf Road, Bldg 100
Wheeling, IL 60090