05 April 2019 16:37 Edited
Every day car transporters pull up at the Mercedes-Benz dealership Autohaus Lorinser in Waiblingen near Stuttgart to deliver or pick up new and used vehicles. The fact that most of them are Actros trucks goes without saying. Like today: part of the Lorinser Classic collection of precious classic cars is to be transported to a buyer on the Côte d’Azur.
And, as is always the case with genuine classic vehicles, the valuable freight is carried inside closed and specially secured trailers. But Thomas Hähnel, the manager of Lorinser Classic who commissioned Böpple Automotive GmbH, a specialist for closed car transport runs, notices that there is something different about the prime mover: “Hey! The outside rear-view mirrors are missing!”
He is only half right, though: the Actros 1846 does have rear-view mirrors, only they are of the new digital variety. The truck is a pre-series vehicle of the latest generation and comes equipped with the MirrorCam system instead of conventional rear-view and wide-angle mirrors. Compact, aerodynamically shaped cameras monitor the traffic to the rear and feed the images they capture to two large displays that are mounted on the A-pillars inside the driver’s cab. Hähnel is perplexed: “It does look great, and it should make quite a difference to the truck’s aerodynamics.”
His transport services provider Böpple is one of the few companies selected by Mercedes-Benz Trucks to trial the new Actros using its own drivers before it goes into assembly-line production. This advance has resulted in many additional functionalities, such as those used by the MirrorCam that right now is helping Böpple driver Torsten Reinholz manoeuvre his truck in Lorinser’s yard. Not to mention the more than 60 other innovations that are now on board the new flagship from Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
But before the journey can begin, the specialists from Lorinser Classic first have to carefully load the classic cars that have been sold onto the Kässbohrer custom trailer. The elegant whitewall tyres of a 1966 Mercedes-Benz 300 SE/C are the first to make it up the inclined aluminium ramp of the trailer, which cost over 200000 euros, accompanied by the sumptuously burbling sound of the 8-cylinder engine. Other collectors’ items follow, and all are competently positioned and secured by Böpple driver Torsten Reinholz. The two-level trailer can accommodate up to six vehicles.
Customers ordering a closed car transporter from Böpple usually want to ship particularly rare or very valuable vehicles. In addition to classic cars, these can also be exhibition vehicles destined for trade fairs, prototypes for vehicle testing, racing cars for various motor sports series, or luxury cars for especially discerning customers.
“For safety reasons and to avoid transport damage as much as possible, such vehicles should not be carried in conventional car transporters,” advises Dominik Böpple. Instead they travel, well secured and sealed off behind panels and doors, inside the silver heavy-duty trucks from Böpple.
In addition to dealerships like Lorinser, one of Böpple’s most important customers is Daimler AG itself. The two companies cooperate closely, for example in the transportation of test vehicles and delivery of super sports cars. “We call at a wide variety of destinations throughout Europe on behalf of Daimler,” says Dominik Böpple. “One week we may be delivering Mercedes-AMG GTs from the Sindelfingen plant to a dealer in Norway. The following week we take test vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Cars to altitude trials in the south of Spain.”
It was precisely the great variety of routes travelled by Böpple trucks that had drawn the attention of the customer driver trialling team at Mercedes-Benz Trucks. “The many different types of routes make it ideal for us to conduct real-world testing of the innovations in the new Actros once more before the truck goes into serial production,” says Michael Hintze, the Mercedes-Benz man in charge of on-road trials at Böpple.
And Böpple driver Torsten Reinholz is the man who will be providing the most important feedback during these trials. This is because it is he who will be taking the new Actros on the road for several months to come. He will be supported by his fleet manager Alfred Böpple, who will be evaluating the technical aspects of the new Actros. And finally his son, the company’s founder Dominik Böpple, will be analysing how economical the vehicle will be to operate.
“On motorways and dual carriageways, the new Actros uses up to three per cent less fuel than its predecessor, and up to five per cent less on overland roads,” says Dominik Böpple. If we were to realise these savings potentials across the entire fleet in the medium term, this would represent a sustained improvement in our competitiveness.
The main reason for the considerable reduction in fuel consumption is the further optimisation of the cruise control, transmission and brake control systems Predictive Powertrain Control and the much improved aerodynamics, thanks to the new edge flaps and the streamlined MirrorCam.
Dominik Böpple puts great store in innovation. This is why he is currently installing a new IT infrastructure in his company, why he is investing in the latest trailers, and why he is busy building a new logistics centre in Ebersbach, east of the company head office in Esslingen. “I want to build something,” he says. “These days, that can only be done if you keep an open mind regarding new developments.” This corporate philosophy is one of the main reasons why the company’s founder took an interest in the road trials for the new Actros. “In truck design and engineering, we are about to take great leaps forward in terms of digitisation, networking and automation. The first major steps have already been taken with this new Actros.”
Indeed, the new Active Drive Assist in the new Actros allows for semi-automated driving across all speed ranges. The system is capable of steering, accelerating and braking independently. This results in less stress for the driver, as well as increasing safety, especially on long and monotonous motorway trips.
“The importance of safety simply cannot be overstated. It is what we owe the general public, as well as our customers, of course; they are the ones who entrust us with their valuable cars,” he adds. This is another reason why the company will order new Actros trucks to join its fleet in the coming years with the new, further improved Active Brake Assist 5 emergency brake assistant.
90% Mercedes-Benz Trucks are part of the Böpple Automotive GmbH fleet.
The entrepreneur also plans to use the opportunities opened up by networking for the benefit of his company. In this area, too, the new Actros has a great deal to offer. The Truck Data Centre on board the truck provides a permanent link to the Cloud, and this forms the basis for all the connectivity solutions, including the real-time monitoring of the truck by the preventive service product Mercedes-Benz Uptime, which Böpple Automotive has already been using for some time.
Torsten Reinholz has had a front row seat for witnessing the transition from the analogue to the digital world on board the new Actros, and from the driver’s point of view. In the new Multimedia Cockpit with its two large digital monitors, all basic information relevant to the driver as well as information regarding the new assist systems is displayed in optimal visual form. “I can control all the truck’s functions as if I was using a smartphone. It is a great improvement compared with the previous version of the Cockpit,” says Reinholz.
Securing the load and departure checks have now been completed, and the trailer’s alarm system has been activated. Reinholz puts his smartphone connected to the Multimedia Cockpit via Android Auto into the recess provided in the dashboard where it will be charged inductively. Now he pushes the Start-Stop button to start the engine. “So – let’s take these beautiful old automobiles safely and reliably to the south of France in this beautiful new truck!”
Photos: Matthias Aletsee
Video: Martin Schneider-Lau