16 September 2018 09:28
17 September 2018 12:53
Exclusive driving safety training for members with the blue steering wheel: the RoadStars community comes together to practise safe reactions in hazardous situations.
On this particular Saturday morning at the Driving Safety Center in Baden, there's no need to switch on the facility's own sprinkler system – it's already bucketing down on the track. "Ideal conditions because it's in weather just like this that most accidents happen," explains Harald, the instructor. "I just wished I'd packed my waterproof trousers."
Just 30 metres or so away, an Actros semitrailer combination roars through the narrow lane of traffic cones at 60 km/h. As the outfit thunders past Harald, he transmits a wireless signal to brake. In the cockpit, driver Inout from Romania brakes hard. Co-driver Adrian is pressed into his seat belt. The brake lights and hazard warning lights illuminate brightly, indicating that the emergency braking procedure has been carried out correctly. "You need to be full on the brakes – don't just stroke the pedal. He did well," says Harald, impressed.
Undergoing training alongside Inout and Adrian today are 22 other RoadStars members with the blue steering wheel. Their goal: to learn how to respond correctly and safely in extreme driving situations. The drivers come from the Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland, Romania and Germany. They had applied to RoadStars for the chance to take part in the initiative and were selected from hundreds of hopefuls. It forms part of the Driving Safety PLUS training carried out by the Mercedes-Benz TruckTraining team. And the best thing of all is that the 8-hour live training session is recognised as advanced driver training under German professional driver qualification law!
Once all 24 participants have mastered the braking manoeuvre from different final speeds, they return to the classroom for the next lesson. Back in the warmth of the training centre, instructor Thomas gives the RoadStars a refresher course on the physics behind the next driving exercise.
The entire training day is divided into several units. In addition to covering the basics, such as correct seating position, observation and steering techniques, there are also units on recognising and avoiding hazardous situations, braking and evasive actions in constant and varying road conditions, correct cornering and optimum braking. There are also sessions in a specially converted trailer.
“To experience the vehicle and myself so close to the limit – that's just awesome!”
Inout, RoadStar from Romania with the blue steering wheel
After the theory lesson, Paul from the UK can hardly wait. Grinning, he climbs into the cab: "Now's my chance to get the truck to oversteer without feeling bad about it. I've been looking forward to this session all morning." He and the other RoadStars head out to the dynamic handling area, as it's known. Its inner circuit has a diameter of 55 metres and a very slippery surface when wet.
"We'll do the first lap with the safety and driving assistance systems activated" explains Hubert, the instructor. "From the second lap onwards, we'll then deliberately switch off the systems and slowly feel our way to the limits". No sooner said than done! After the introductory lap, Paul and his fellow UK colleagues were soon drifting their Actros across the circuit. Through sensitive use of the accelerator pedal, combined with skilful countersteering, the truck slides almost balletically around the circle. "The boys have talent!", admits Hubert.
A clear head and a real feel for controlled acceleration and steering are required for the RoadStars' next challenge: the slalom course. "It's absolutely astonishing how quickly you progress here", admits Inout from Romania. "Yesterday's tour of the Mercedes-Benz truck plant in Wörth was pretty amazing, but the training today was really the crowning glory. To experience the vehicle – and myself – so close to the limit is just awesome!" The 24-year old usually delivers timed freight throughout Europe in his Actros 1845.
After lunch, the RoadStars await their next spectacular challenge. Instructor Harald, together with Inout and Adrian, climb into the cockpit of a very special Actros tractor/trailer outfit. The trailer is equipped with additional support wheels to prevent overturning when cornering at too high a speed. "Let's see if we can get it to tilt on a wet road. Normally, it's easier to do when the road surface is dry." Inout and Adrian listen intently to Harald's words. Outside, behind the crash barriers at the corner, the other RoadStars are already waiting with mobiles at the ready. The tractor/trailer combination thunders into the corner - and the trailer tilts! There's amazement all round. "That's just crazy", cries one participant.
After eight hours of intensive training, the day finishes convivially over cold drinks and a hearty meal. The training course has, ultimately, not just improved the driving skills of each individual. The shared experience has also brought the RoadStars team a little closer together.
Were you there with us and now want to share your pictures with everyone else? Then get yourself over to the driving safety training wall right away!
Photos and video: Alex Kraus
Editing: Alexander Tempel