26 June 2020 23:24
Extraordinary driving lesson: on the road with Daniel Wichmann and Klaus Voß
At Münsterland Traffic Academy, Daniel Wichmann works as a driver and Klaus Voß as an instructor. Accompanied by the RoadStars team, the two went out on a training drive – and gave quite a lot of insights into their passion for truck driving along the way.
“This arrow indicates the distance to the vehicle behind us,” says Klaus Voß, as he points with his index finger past Daniel Wichmann, who is listening intently, to the display on the left A-pillar. Introduction to MirrorCam. Daniel is about to take his first drive in the new Actros under the supervision of his colleague Klaus – an instructor at Münsterland Traffic Academy (VAM) in Ibbenbüren – in the passenger seat But Daniel is not your typical driving student – and Klaus isn’t the kind of instructor you meet every day.
“I’ve wanted to be a truck driver since I was a kid,” says Daniel. The 25-year-old Daniel caught the bug from his father, who was also a trucker, but especially from his older cousin, who often took Daniel with him on hauls. So it was just logical that Daniel, once he was finished with school, began training to become a professional driver with his current employer VAM.
Driving school haulage operations.
A trucker at a driving school? Yes, because the 40-person operation not only offers lessons in all vehicles classes and many advanced training courses, but it also operates a small transport business. A majority of those behind the wheel of the six Mercedes-Benz trucks are trainees on their way to become professional drivers. Most of them are employed with local trucking companies which, in turn, work together with VAM. The goal of this partnership is to create the next generation of qualified drivers for the industry.
Daniel is among the trained staff on the team of drivers – his truck is an Actros 1843 with a dumper body. But now he’s taking his first trip with Klaus and the new Actros – the first one produced for use in driving schools, by the way – a drive around Ibbenbüren. Daniel is supposed to turn right at an intersection. A pedestrian would like to cross the street, and the Sideguard Assist lets the driver know with a triangle-shaped warning signal on the right display of the MirrorCam.
Then a coach driver, now an instructor.
“Teaching beginners about these new assistance systems is quite a challenge,” says Klaus, “but most of them learn really quickly how to use them as a true assistance.” The 53-year-old learned the truck-driving trade in the German army, and also worked as a coach driver on the side. “I was done working by 1 p.m. on Friday, and I was behind the wheel of a bus no more than an hour later. I made my way all around Europe and I was even able to take my wife and kids with me one time,” he reminisces.
With brief interruptions, Klaus has been working as a driving instructor for nearly three decades, and for VAM since 2013. His protégés’ understanding of technical connections has declined over the years, he admits: “Find me someone today who can fix a bike!” says Klaus with a laugh. This is offset, however, by their high level of enthusiasm for the truck-driving trade. “That’s one of the reasons I still love my job as much as ever.”
“Teaching beginners about these new assistance systems is quite a challenge, but most of them learn really quickly how to use them as a true assistance.”
– Klaus Voß
Additional tasks after the daily journey.
Daniel can second that. Every day, he transports bulk solids such as gravel, sand and crushed rock to construction sites, DIY stores or craft businesses, usually for customers from Ibbenbüren. His transport radius is a maximum of 200 kilometres, which is ideal for this father with a young daughter: “I like routes on country roads – you get to see a lot and it’s not always just a straight shot. And I get to go home to my family in the evenings.”
And there’s also time for all the additional tasks that Daniel has taken on as part of the VAM trucking operations. He’s responsible for processing the hauls from customers and allocating the trucks and drivers to them. “I’m also responsible for the workshop,” he explains, “I do the little things myself, and often let the trainees watch me so they get an understanding for the technology.” But he seeks the help of a specialist shop when it comes to work on the engine or the brakes.
It’s all about trucking – even after hours.
Klaus, too, is much more than just a driving instructor. He has four children and likes to spend time gardening, and he heads up several advanced training courses and specialises in particular in load safety. “For these courses, I always come up with new tasks and, for example, put together boxes that the participants have to load in accordance with the regulations.” Advanced training courses for transport managers of trucking companies are another one of his hobbies.
There’s something else that unites 25-year-old Daniel and Klaus, twice his senior, as they explain during a break shortly before the end of the practice journey: even in the evenings and at weekends, both are often unable to really get away from their work, which is also their passion. Whenever Klaus isn’t gardening in his raised flower bed, he’s likely working on his long-term project: a textbook for training transport managers. “After work,” Daniel says, “you can probably find me fiddling around with a truck or polishing a wheel.”
Photos and video: Alexander Tempel