Travelling all over Germany for a week in the new Actros
From early Monday morning to Friday afternoon in a truck: that's normal for René Brömelhus. He likes living on the road – and even more since he started driving a new Actros.
Shoulders hunched, footprints ankle-deep. René Brömelhus plods across the haulage company's sparkling white courtyard. The wind blows snowflakes into his face and on to his cap. It has been snowing all night. "My working week could have started off a bit more pleasantly," he says, forcing a smile. The biting cold slows down his face muscles. Whether it's below zero or in sizzling heat: René drives long-distance all across Germany for Brun Spedition from Heiden in Münsterland, north-west Germany. He is usually on the road all week long.
Half an hour later, it is just past eight in the morning. Twenty-seven-year-old René and his new Actros join the A31 motorway, heading south. It is still snowing. The traffic and travel updates last longer than the news bulletins. Stop-start traffic near Bottrop. It's in the same direction as René's route, but he doesn't need to drive that far. His first stop, in the northern part of the Ruhr region, is a company that recycles used tyres. His load: huge white bags from the haulage company's storage warehouse with a total of 20 tonnes of granulate for recycling.
Once at the recycling firm, a gate slides open. René drives through the grey slush at walking pace, past an area with stacked-up shipping containers that the tyres come in – an impressive backdrop. He reverses the 40-tonner down the ramp to the loading dock and opens the trailer. In the warehouse a man in a forklift truck is already approaching. He swiftly unloads the bags and replaces them with others. These contain ready-mixed granulate for the running track of a sports ground in Herzberg am Harz. It's 300 kilometres to this small town. René drives the truck along the A2 and A44 motorways, heading east. The snowflakes have changed to drizzle.
René, who comes from Gladbeck, has been working for Brun since 2011. He is one of a team of about 60 drivers who transport huge quantities of loose and bulk materials – the transport company is a certified waste disposal specialist. Another speciality is a wide range of deliveries in Tautliner trailers. Something which often means taking their own forklift trucks so that they can load and unload their cargo on the customers' premises.
"If it fits under the tarpaulin or in the walking-floor trailer, I'll drive it. I'm always travelling new routes," says René. And since 2013 he's been doing this from behind the wheel of a new Actros 1842 with Euro VI engine and an array of different safety systems. René's boss, Stefan Böcker, bought 15 of new trucks. All in all, the company's fleet comprises 50 vehicles. "The new version has great road-holding and is really quiet on the road," says René. "You can call up an amazing amount of information in the display just by using the buttons on the steering wheel, yet it's still very simple. The air suspension on the rear axle is also a good example. Or PPC." PPC or Predictive Powertrain Control is the cruise control system which looks ahead, thanks to GPS and 3D maps. It reduces the fuel consumption of the new Actros – which is already very low – by a further three percent. Reason enough for the decision-makers at Brun to have all the new trucks fitted with it.
Near Kassel, René switches to the A7 motorway heading for Göttingen, and a few kilometres later he drives onto a parking area. The first four and a half hours for today have been clocked up on his driver card, so now it is time for a 45-minute break. He opts for a quick stretch of his legs and a cigarette before removing any snow from the headlamps. A good thing it's not drizzling or snowing. The sun even makes an appearance for the first time today – rather weak, but better than nothing.
The BigSpace cab is a much more liveable place than the previous one. "They really did the interior well at Mercedes-Benz!" René looks around the interior. "With the pale beige surfaces, the new Actros has been given a new character." But he finds practical things good too, such as his comfort suspension seat. "And between the seats I've got a nice big fridge," says René, opening it with his right hand. Bread, ham and cheese, chocolate, drinks bottles that can even be stored upright – all the things you need to when you're on the road the whole week. "And I've got a gas stove, pots, pans and a water canister in the storage compartment outside. And tins of stew, spaghetti and Chinese noodles. Quick to prepare and cheaper than eating at the services."
Time to carry on. At Göttingen, René switches to the B27. The traffic is congested. An estate is lying in the drainage ditch and a rescue vehicle is blocking one lane. After an hour and a half he reaches Herzberg. There is more snow there than in the Münsterland. So there isn't much going on at the sports ground where René unloads the granulate directly. A quick chat with the forklift operator, the bags are offloaded.
"You have to get on well with the people you're dealing with. Then everything runs smoothly," says René, back on the motorway. He got his truck driving licence when during his military service. Even then, he drove Mercedes-Benz trucks: a 1017, then later an Axor. Thanks to this experience, he enjoyed working behind the wheel. Before the end of his four years serving as a soldier, he had decided to move to a haulage company.
A good 120 kilometres travelling back on the same route, he reaches the logistics centre of a supermarket chain in Breuna near Kassel. Once more, René takes on a full load for the Tautliner: pallets with groceries. The goods are for two smaller logistics centres in the west of the Ruhr area. But René won't manage to get that far today. If the roads are clear, he'll spend the night at a motorway rest area near Soest. "I can only do as much as the traffic conditions and rules allow. But I don't mind that." That goes for the many nights in the truck, too. He's been used to that since his time in the army. "Also, in the new Actros I've got a really comfortable bed."
René does not yet know what his other destinations for this week are. The next morning he will find out: first he'll go to the Brun depot in Heiden, then to Schwarzenbach an der Saale – with filters and other material for a foundry. That's more than 600 kilometres. "Usually I inform the dispatcher as soon as I've got rid of a load, and then I'm given my next route. That keeps things exciting."
Also, looking forward to the weekends helps to keep him motivated. "On Saturdays I go out on my mountain bike, and of course I spend time with my wife and our dog." And he's got another hobby that really helps him to unwind: making scale models. "I need that, sitting down with the tweezers every so often." And what's he making? "What do you think?" says the truck driver with a laugh: "Trucks!"