Sinanovic brothers use booming trucking business to assist fellow Bosnian immigrants
Brothers Nick and Irfan Sinanovic at the Lemay headquarters of their trucking business, Vega Transport. photo by Diana Linsley.
October 05, 2018
If you are of a certain generation, your idea of an over-the-road "trucker" may have been shaped by the 1970s and '80s cultural images of film and country song. But while Irfan and Nick Sinanovic appreciate "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Convoy," their contribution to the regional trucking industry is overriding that nostalgia with broad strokes of diversity.
The brothers, who emigrated from war-torn Bosnia in 1992, have built Vega Transport – a Lemay-headquartered trucking company – into a 90-vehicle, nationwide freight hauling business that continues to provide the area's Bosnian community and others an opportunity to make good money as professional drivers.
"We're family-oriented people and a family-oriented company," said Nick Sinanovic. "We structure our routes in a way that gives our drivers good home time to spend with their kids. Almost all our routes are point-to-point, not bouncing around the country for weeks before they can get back to their domicile terminal."
Some might remember the popular compact Chevrolet of the 1970s when they hear the word "Vega." But Nick Sinanovic is
From front to back: Mark Kosinski, brothers Nick and Irfan Sinanovic, and Michelle Creaghan in the Vega Transport dispatch center. photo by Diana Linsley.
quick to point out that "Vega is the name of the fifth-brightest star that can be seen from Earth."
The brothers chose the name because it was the one their father chose for a manufacturing business he was planning in Bosnia. When war broke out, that dream went unfulfilled.
The Sinanovics, who live in and send their children to Mehlville public schools, had no background in the trucking business nor were they especially interested in it when they attended the University of Missouri-St. Louis in the late 1990s.
Irfan Sinanovic was an electrical engineering major; Nick Sinanovic majored in computer science. It was Nick Sinanovic's part-time job as a student that nudged them toward their careers.
"In my college days, I was working part time for the International Institute, which provides language services," Nick Sinanovic said. "My assignment was to translate into Bosnian the CDL (commercial driver's license) test and the process of adding endorsements to licenses."
During that process, the brothers got to meet Bosnian immigrants who worked as truck drivers and who were dissatisfied with various aspects of the local trucking industry.
"Some of them were struggling. So we decided we needed to start a business, which we did in 2005," Nick Sinanovic said.
An underlying philosophy at Vega Transport is to seek out newly arriving refuges and to give them a chance to work and network. The brothers initially located in the complex that is now St. Louis Venture Works on Lemay Ferry Road with one truck and trailer that they trained drivers to operate.
By 2008, they operated a fleet of more than 20 rigs. They rented – and still rent – a large lot on North Broadway at Hall Street to park the trucks, which number 90 today.
"We purchased our current lot (at 400 Lemay Ferry) right across the street from our first location in 2010. It was a vacant lot at the time," said Irfan Sinanovic. "We are now starting to outgrow it, but we will always be part of the South St. Louis County community."
Unlike the past, today's over-the-road truck driver is more likely to be college educated, a minority or female, the Sinanovic brothers said. And the gear jamming and trails of black smoke associated with the job are also fading in the industry's rear-view mirror.
"The trucks themselves are more like airplanes as far as features. They are much easier to drive with collision avoidance systems and other technological amenities, Nick Sinanovic said. "Even when we started, we would send drivers out with an atlas. Now it's all GPS (global-positioning systems)."
Irfan Sinanovic said St. Louis is an ideal intermodal transportation hub, with good access to the interstate highway system, railroads, the Mississippi River and St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
"St. Louis may not be as huge a hub as Chicago, but we have it all here," he said. "You couldn't have a more central location."
Irfan Sinanovic is a Lemay Chamber of Commerce board member, a member of YPO (a national organization previously known as Young Presidents Organization) and a youth soccer coach. Nick Sinanovic is a member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.
"We also participate whenever we can in various humanitarian drives and activities," Irfan said.